The Turnbull government has failed in its bid to get the High Court to expedite hearings involving several politicians with dual citizenship and the matter will now go before the court on October 10-12, a month later than attorney-general George Brandis wanted.
The matter first appeared before the court in Brisbane today where chief justice Susan Kiefel set down the hearing for Canberra in October.
Solicitor-general Stephen Donaghue has sought a September hearing for the four senators and one MP involved – deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, former minister and Nationals senator Matt Canavan, former Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, and One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts.
The cases of two more senators – deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash and NXT senator Nick Xenophon – are likely to be referred to the High Court by the Senate when it sits again next month.
Section 44 of the Australian Constitution says a person is ineligible to stand for election they are “a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power”.
The government conceded that Joyce was a New Zealander and Canavan is Italian in its submission on the issue.
Fairfax Media reports that the court was told it was not disputed that New Zealand-born Ludlam was disqualified, but solicitor-general Stephen Donaghue, appearing for Brandis will argue Australian-born Joyce and Canavan were not and Waters, who was born in Cananda and fell foul to laws changed after her birth “may well be in the same situation”.
While Joyce was unaware of his New Zealand citizenship, which he renounced within 48 hours of becoming aware of it a fortnight ago, by descent, the case against Roberts was different because he knew he’d been a British citizen and attempted to renounce it.
Canavan’s barrister, former solicitor-general David Bennett, QC, told the court citizenship by descent should be ignored under section 44 of the Constitution.
Canavan says his mother registered him as an Italian citizen without his knowledge a decade ago.
Meanwhile, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce will face a familiar foe in court with his former political rival, independent Tony Windsor, being granted permission to join the case against the deputy PM’s citizenship.
The fate of the Turnbull government hangs in the balance, with Joyce part of its one seat majority in the lower house.
Fairfax has more here.
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