NATIONALS leader Barnaby Joyce says there may be more members of federal parliament including in Labor, hiding dual citizenship and making them constitutionally ineligible.
Mr Joyce told media about his sneaking suspicions following revelations this week that Liberal Senate President Stephen Parry held dual UK citizenship while three Nationals and four other members faced the High Court generating intense public interest and disillusionment towards Canberra, over recent months.
Mr Parry has now resigned from the Senate paving the way for former Tasmanian Liberal Senator and Assistant Agriculture Minister and Assistant Trade Minister Richard Colbeck’s return to politics after his upset exit at last year’s election.
Mr Joyce has spent his first week of campaigning in the New England by-election following his disqualification last week for breaching Section 44 of the constitution over his dual NZ citizenship status, due to his father’s birthrights, which he’s now renounced.
His former deputy leader and Regional Development and Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash is expected to join him on the campaign trail later this week after she was also disqualified under Section 44 for her dual UK citizenship.
Mr Joyce’s Agriculture and Water Resources ministry portfolio is currently being held by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull until after the New England by-election is held, on December 2.
His claims are related to Labor SA Senator Penny Wong and Tasmanian MP Justine Keay for not having tabled documentation proving they’ve denounced dual citizenship.
Mr Joyce told Sky News the Nationals’ three members “fessed up” and “did the right thing” over their citizenship issues with their cases subsequently referred to the High Court for a ruling.
Unlike his two party leaders, Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan was cleared by the court over his dual Italian citizenship case when judgement was handed down last week.
Party sources believe Mr Parry and others - who may have dual citizenship concerns - have looked on at proceedings while the Nationals took the heat and paid for the costs of defending themselves in court, where a clear ruling was made, which led to the former Senate President resigning, rather than waiting for a High Court referral and judgment.
“We are the fall guys and I’d bet there are more to come,” a source said.
Mr Joyce said on Sky News it was “incumbent on others” to declare their hand on the dual citizenship issue.
“You’ve seen the decision of the High Court – if you’ve got a problem, say so,” he said.
“I don’t think for one second there are others and they’re in the Labor Party as well.”
Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale has sent a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urging him to support an audit of the citizenship status of every member of the Australian parliament in light of the ongoing citizenship crisis where two of his party members were also disqualified by last week’s High Court ruling.
Mr Turnbull was asked about the allegations raised by Mr Joyce that there could be more dual citizens in the parliament, saying “the obligation is a personal one on each member and Senator”.
“It is very important to remember that every member and Senator has an obligation to comply with the constitution,” he said.
“Now, any member or Senator who believes that they are not in compliance with the constitution, who believes they may be a dual citizen, should take steps to confirm that and if they believe that is the case, then they can take steps to ensure that it is referred to the High Court.
“The only body that can declare somebody disqualified from the parliament for this reason is the High Court of Australia and, of course, ultimately it's the only body that can resolve disputes about it.
“When you run for Parliament, you sign, you tick a box on the form which says you're not in breach of Section 44.”
Mr Turnbull said he was disappointed Mr Parry didn't make the issue of his dual citizenship public “quite some time ago” and he only learnt about it on Tuesday, yesterday.
“He chose to delay his reporting of it, he should have reported it much earlier and it could have been referred to the High Court together with the other matters that were dealt with, the other citizenship by descent cases,” he said.
Mr Turnbull also disagreed that an audit of all members on citizenship was needed.
“What is an audit?” he said.
“Does that mean that somebody is going to undertake extensive genealogical research on every member of parliament and Senator?
“Undertake extensive research into foreign laws?
“The fact is every member and every Senator has a personal responsibility and an obligation to comply with the constitution.
“And so everyone should ensure that they are in compliance and if they're not, they should say so and if there is a question of doubt, then, of course, it can be referred to the High Court.
“You have got to remember these issues are not without some complexity.
“It is not just a question of where your parents were born or were your grandparents were born.
“The reality is about half of all Australians were either born overseas or have a parent born overseas so the High Court's decision is of great significance and huge impact on millions of Australians, potentially.”
Ms Keay has previously said via a spokesperson that her citizenship renunciation was received by the UK Home Office before the close of nominations and she was cleared by the party to stand, for election.
But she has refused to provide a copy of the declaration of renunciation despite calls to do so by media and other members of parliament.
Senator Wong when asked about speculation of more dual citizenship cases being in the pipeline said “I can’t speak for the Liberal and National Parties or for One Nation”.
“We did see an extraordinary series of explanations from former Senator Malcolm Roberts about whether he was or wasn’t or whether he could choose to believe he wasn’t a British citizen,” she said.
“What I can speak for is the Labor Party and I can say we have very thorough processes before people are nominated.
“I’ve been through those processes, every candidate has been through those processes and we are confident we have no concerns.
“I understand people are concerned about this, and Australians are right to be concerned.
“Ultimately the only body under our Constitution that can determine if an MP or a Senator has dual citizenship and is not entitled to stand is the High Court.
“That is why we have a process of self-referral.
“That is also why the Labor Party – given a number of our candidates are born overseas or are second-generation migrants – we have made sure we have processes in place whereby before nominations Labor candidates have been vetted to ensure these matters are dealt with.
“It is disappointing that other parties have not taken the same approach.”
Senator Wong said it was “more than disappointing” that Mr Parry took so long to make the appropriate inquiries.
“It really is implausible to believe that he could sit there referring people to the High Court, as we all did in a very serious, considered way,” she said.
“People stood forward in the Senate and said ‘I need to be referred because of my potential citizenship by descent’ (how could he sit) there referring people and not consider his own circumstances?
“It really is an abrogation of his responsibility and frankly Malcolm Turnbull’s responsibility as the leader of the party.
“The Liberal Party should’ve been checking this, as the Labor Party has.”
Mr Joyce has also rejected claims that decisions made while he remained in cabinet during the High Court’s deliberations on his citizenship status and Ms Nash, may now be invalid and subject to legal challenges.