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Labor senator referred to High Court and others could follow


Labor senator Katy Gallagher has been referred by the Senate to the High Court over her dual citizenship despite insisting she is eligible to sit in parliament.

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The former ACT chief minister is the first Labor figure to face a court test since the citizenship fiasco began mid-year.

Under section 44 of the constitution, dual citizens are ineligible to sit in parliament.

According to paperwork lodged under new parliamentary rules for citizenship disclosure, Gallagher completed a British citizenship renunciation form, with payment, on April 20, 2016.

But the UK Home Office wrote back on July 1, almost a month after election nominations closed, requesting original copies of her birth certificate and parents’ marriage certificate.

Gallagher, whose father was born in the UK in 1939, did not receive the formal renunciation document until August 16, just over two months past the nomination date for the election.

She told parliament today she stood by her advice that she was eligible to sit in parliament as she had taken all steps required to renounce her British ties.

“It is, however, clear to me that the government has decided that I should be referred, despite having full access to all of my legal advice and expert reports for the past two days,” Gallagher said.

“In light of this, and conscious the attacks on my legitimacy to sit as a senator will continue to be used by my opponents, I have formed the view that my situation be considered by the High Court, despite the lack of any legal advice indicating I have a problem that warrants referral.”

Labor Senate leader Penny Wong moved the court referral, saying Coalition attacks on her colleague “will not stop”.

Gallagher stood aside from her frontbench portfolios and as manager of opposition business in the Senate.

Attorney-General George Brandis told parliament the government did not reflect on the integrity of Gallagher.

“We do, of course, reflect upon the integrity of the leader of the opposition, Mr Shorten.”

The Coalition and Labor are in backroom talks on how to deal with a number of lower house MPs whose eligibility is in doubt.

The Coalition has at least four lower house Labor MPs in its sights: David Feeney, Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson.

Brandis said a “showdown” would not be needed on Thursday if Shorten did the “right thing”.

The UK Home Office processes have been called into question because it took four months to process some MPs’ renunciations and three days for others.

“We can’t have a situation where … the decision about whether or not they’re eligible is driven by a junior public servant in Great Britain,” Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said.

Feeney will ask to be referred to the High Court on Thursday if documents relating to his UK citizenship renunciation can’t be found in time, potentially triggering a by-election in his Victorian seat of Batman.

Brandis believes no more Coalition MPs have citizenship issues despite Labor casting doubt on Jason Falinski, Ross Vasta, Nola Marino, Julia Banks, Alex Hawke, Michael McCormack and potentially cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg and Senator Arthur Sinodinos.

Nick Xenophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie’s eligibility is also in doubt.


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