FULL DISCLOSURE: Turnbull moves to sort out the citizenship mess

View of Parliament House from Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Photo: iStock.

All Australian MPs will be forced to disclose their citizenship status to Federal Parliament.

The new rules were announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday afternoon as the dual citizenship controversy continues to beset Parliament, with Liberal Senate President Stephen Parry resigning suddenly last week after discovering he was a UK citizen by descent.

Turnbull has resisted calls for an audit of sitting MPs, saying today’s changes are “the right step of transparency”.

“This is not an audit. The obligation is on each member and each senator to make a full disclosure as I have repeatedly said in recent times,” he said.

Under the new rules, once both houses agree, all MPs and Senators must provide a declaration of their citizenship and details of any former and renounced citizenship within 21 days of election.

As part of this they will need to provide a set of documentation and declarations to prove they are not dual nationals.

Providing false documents will be considered contempt of Parliament.

“The way we see this operating is along the same lines as the members interest disclosure,” he said.

“Most members, as you would imagine, in the future would fill this in after they become elected and no need to look at it again.”

Turnbull stressed that the new measure ensured it became the “personal responsibility for every member and senator” to disclose any other citizenships they may hold.

Here are the proposed requirements:

The House resolves that one, not later than 21 days from the date of the resolution and in subsequent parliaments being sworn in as a member, each member shall provide to the registrar of members interests a statement containing the following columns:
a) declaration by the member that at that time the member nominated for election to the House of Representatives he or she was not, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, a citizen of any country other than Australia;
b) the declaration that the member, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, is not a citizen of any other country apart from Australia;
c) so far as the member is aware, the place and date of the members both and citizenship, which the member held at a time of both;
d) so far as the member is aware, the place and date of the birth of the member’s parents;
e) whether, to the best of the member’s knowledgeable, the member has ever been a citizen of another country, and if so, which country or countries; and
f) if the member has entered the previous questions in the affirmative, then provide details and evidence of the time and manner in which the member’s citizenship of the other country was renounced or otherwise came to an end that.

Parry wasn’t the only minister caught up in the debacle last week. Cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg’s eligibility also faces speculation as he seeks to clarify whether he holds Hungarian citizenship by descent.

Frydenburg’s situation is a little more complex than others in that his mother arrived to Australia as a “stateless” person.

Last week he said, “it is absurd to think that I could involuntarily acquire citizenship of a foreign country from a stateless mother”.

Turnbull briefly discussed the extraordinary instances where a member may not be able to relinquish their dual citizenship, in which case the High Court ruled that if the candidate “had taken reasonable steps to renounce that nationality” before he or she nominated it would be enough.

He use Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who applied three times to renounce his Iranian citizenship yet still failed, as an example of such acceptable situations.

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