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Labor slams Xenophon "spin job" over citizenship smear claim

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The State Labor Party has criticised Nick Xenophon for perpetrating “one of the biggest spin jobs” over his citizenship mea culpa, after the SA senator blamed political opponents for “exhuming” his status as a British citizen.

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Xenophon on Saturday confirmed he was a British Overseas Citizen because his father Theo – who migrated to Australia in 1951 – was born in Cyprus when it was under British occupation.

InDaily on Friday reported that it was likely Xenophon was a British citizen on that basis, after reading through publicly-available documents on the British Government’s own website.

But Xenophon noted on Saturday the information “appears to have been exhumed by my political opponents to try and render me not so much stateless and Senate-less”.

“To those politicians and their staff beavering away at this, presumably over many, many hours and days, I say: didn’t you have anything better to do with your time given the urgent and serious problems and challenges that South Australia and our nation faces?” he said in his weekend statement.

“No wonder so many Australians are disgusted by our current broken state of politics… no wonder so many Australians are repulsed by politicians and the political class.”

The swipe drew a blunt response in a rare tweet from Labor’s state secretary Reggie Martin, who posted on the social media platform: “This must go down as one of the biggest spin jobs… he’s told he’s a British Overseas Citizen and it’s the major parties’ fault.”

Xenophon today was less bullish about the alleged influence of the major parties, telling InDaily he was told “by two people in the Labor Party that their side is one that’s been doing all this work”, but insisting: “I’m not too fussed about it.”

“I don’t need to add anything more than what I said,” he said.

Xenophon, who will now join the long queue of federal MPs awaiting a High Court hearing to determine their eligibility to sit in parliament, was today “getting a barrister to settle a letter to the [British] High Commission to clarify a few points on the issue of renunciation”.

He said he had previously renounced any claim to Greek or Cypriot citizenship before entering the Senate.

Xenophon said his understanding had always been that his father was “an Australian citizen who came out from Cyprus”.

“It was never something that was given much consideration [because] I wasn’t aware of the [legal] peculiarity,” he said.

Asked about the controversy in Canberra today, Premier Jay Weatherill declined to continue his state secretary’s attack.

“Senator Xenophon’s obviously got to go off to the High Court and find out whether he should be a member of parliament or not, and I understand that that process is affecting quite a number of federal MPs at the moment, so that will run its course,” he said.

Asked about the broader issue, which had already seen two Greens senators resign and three Nationals and a One Nation senator referred to the High Court before Xenophon’s case became public, Weatherill said: “It’s beyond my pay grade, I’m just a humble state politician… but I notice both major parties haven’t been affected by this, it seems.”

“We [Labor] have rigorous processes in place to make sure our citizenship nominations are in order [and] I expect that’s also the case for the federal Liberal Party,” he said.

“[This issue] tends to have afflicted some of the smaller parties… perhaps their processes have been less robust.”

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