Labor Member for Batman David Feeney in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, December 6, 2017.
Labor Member for Batman David Feeney in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, December 6, 2017.

Ten MPs face High Court referrals

JASON Falinski looks set to face the High Court after producing legal advice that cast doubt over his eligibility to sit in parliament, while nine other federal politicians may join him as the citizenship saga deepens.

The ten referrals could trigger nine by-elections across the country early next year if all of the MPs are found to be ineligible.

Labor senator Katy Gallagher was referred to the court earlier today but, as a senator, she will simply lose her seat if found ineligible rather than being forced to contest a by-election.

Mr Falinski caved in to pressure today to produce his legal advice regarding after not including the document in his official statement on Tuesday.

The Liberal MP may be a dual citizen by descent through his USSR-born father, his Polish and British born grandfathers or his Leningrad-born grandmother.

In a letter to Mr Falinski, that he tabled this afternoon after pressure from Labor, legal firm Arnold Bloch Leibler has advised that it does not believe he holds British, Polish, Russian or Kyrgyz citizenship.

It also states: "We cannot conclusively advise on foreign law and recommend that you seek independent advice from foreign law experts."

In his statement, Mr Falinksi had only said he was not a dual citizen and had sought legal advice to confirm that.

It comes after Labor senator Katy Gallagher requested that she be referred to the High Court this morning.

Labor has named eight other federal politicians that should be sent to the High Court.

That includes four of its own - Josh Wilson, Susan Lamb, David Feeney and Justine Keay - along with crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie and Liberal MPs Nola Marino, Julia Banks, Jason Falinski and Alex Hawke.

Ms Marino also tabled a letter from Italian authorities today after pressure from Labor, which stated that she was not and had never been an Italian citizen.

Ms Banks and Mr Hawke produced letters from Greek authorities in their initial disclosures that they did not hold Greek citizenship but Labor has disputed its accuracy.

Barnaby Joyce, newly re-elected member for the federal seat of New England. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
Barnaby Joyce, newly re-elected member for the federal seat of New England. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

Meanwhile, Barnaby Joyce returned to Parliament today after being ousted in the citizenship saga.

The Deputy Prime Minister blasted Bill Shorten in Question Time for standing by three of his MPs whose eligibility is in doubt after insisting for months no Labor MP would be caught up in the fiasco.

"This is an Opposition that cannot be trusted led by a man who cannot be trusted," Mr Joyce said.

Rapidly turning red in the face, the National's leader continued: "He has shown he will turn his back on the Australian people and he will turn his back on proper process."

"The only excuse they say is they haven't got their paperwork back.

"How does that work? Do you drive on a highway without a licence because you believe it in the mail?

"I don't think so. I don't think so. Yet, these people will continue to vote."

Earlier, Mr Shorten had refused to refer Labor MPs, except Mr Feeney, to the High Court until three Liberal MPs produced further evidence that they were not dual citizens.

"We cannot end this circus until Mr Turnbull and his MPs actually submit to full disclosure," Mr Shorten told reporters in Canberra today.

Mr Feeney will be referred as he was unable to find documents proving he renounced British citizenship before the last election.

Labor insists there is no need to refer its MPs to even test their cases in the Court of Disputed Returns because the party has legal advice they will be fine given they took "all reasonable steps" necessary to renounce their citizenship.

Mr Shorten said Labor was up for ending the circus but called for the Liberal MPs to stop hiding behind "half-filled disclosures" and "inadequate explanations".

"Labor has conscientiously put forward its arguments, its propositions on why we

are eligible," Mr Shorten said.

"You could drive a Mack truck through some of the inadequate and scant disclosures of the Liberals."

Senator Gallagher insisted she did not believe she had a problem with her eligibility while asking to be referred to the High Court in the Senate this morning.

The senator said the only reason she asked to be referred was she believed the government would continue to use her case to attack the Labor Party.

"I have previously stated that I do not think there is a basis to refer my eligibility to the High Court for determination. I stand by that position," she said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Greens both stand to benefit from the worsening fiasco if the four Labor MPs with questions over their eligibility are referred to the High Court.

The embattled Prime Minister has a strong likelihood of picking up three seats out of a potential Super Saturday of by-elections early next year, given Ms Sharkie is also likely to be referred.

It will strengthen Mr Turnbull's precarious position in the lower house, where he holds a one-seat majority only if Liberal MP John Alexander is re-elected at the Bennelong by-election on December 16.

Attorney-General George Brandis called on Opposition leader Bill Shorten to "do the right thing" this morning.

"The government does expect that Mr Shorten will take the step that has been taken by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and refer those four members to the Court of Disputed Returns because if he fails to do so, that raises very serious questions about Bill Shorten's own credibility," Senator Brandis told the upper house after Senator Gallagher's statement.

Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said Senator Gallagher could not have done any more to renounce her British citizenship.

"Senator Gallagher has taken all the steps required under the Australian Constitution to qualify to stand for election as a member of this Parliament," Senator Wong said.

"But it is now clear that the attacks on her will not stop, that these attacks are undermining the dignity and standing of this parliament, and the only way to bring an end to the attacks and restore the standing and dignity of this Senate is to have the High Court settle this once and for all."

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