‘Am I still a Brit?’: Roberts to face High Court grilling

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - ROSIE LEWIS

At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Ge­orge Bran­dis has ques­tioned why One Na­tion se­na­tor Mal­colm Roberts asked the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment if he was “still a Bri­tish cit­i­zen” de­spite in­sist­ing he had only ever been Aus­tralian.

Se­na­tor Roberts, who was born in India and has a Bri­tish fa­ther, will face a High Court grilling on Thurs­day af­ter Chief Jus­tice Su­san Kiefel agreed to a re­quest from Se­na­tor Bran­dis to “ur­gently” cross-ex­am­ine the Queens­lan­der and pos­si­bly his sis­ter Bar­bara Roberts.

In a sub­mis­sion filed yes­ter­day, Se­na­tor Bran­dis says Se­na­tor Roberts’s claim he had “never sus- pected” he was a Bri­tish cit­i­zen is “in­con­sis­tent” with ev­i­dence be­fore the court.

The At­tor­ney-Gen­eral notes Se­na­tor Roberts says in his af­fi­davit he has “al­ways been ex­tremely proud of be­ing an Aus­tralian and only an Aus­tralian”. How­ever, he notes, the sub­ject line for an email ap­par­ently sent to the Bri­tish con­sulate in Bris­bane on May 1 last year was: “Am I still a Bri­tish cit­i­zen?”

Se­na­tor Bran­dis gives two other ex­am­ples in which Se­na­tor Roberts con­tra­dicts claims he was only ever Aus­tralian and asks for him to be cross-ex­am­ined on his af­fi­davit to de­ter­mine his “knowl­edge of his Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship”.

A di­rec­tions hear­ing for the seven MPs caught up in the dual- cit­i­zen­ship fi­asco yes­ter­day heard there were con­tra­dic­tory “ex­pert” views on Se­na­tor Roberts’s case.

Richard Scheel­ings, ap­pear­ing for the One Na­tion MP, ar­gued that his client ap­peared to have met the nec­es­sary cri­te­ria to re­scind his Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship by send­ing the email to the Home Of­fice in May last year, sev­eral weeks be­fore can­di­date nom­i­na­tions closed.

Se­na­tor Roberts did not fill out the of­fi­cial re­nun­ci­a­tion dec­la­ra­tion form, which re­quires a pay­ment, un­til af­ter he was elected. The re­nun­ci­a­tion was reg­is­tered by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment in De­cem­ber, five months af­ter the July 2 poll. In dis­pute is whether the Queens­land MP needed to pay a fee to re­nounce Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship be­fore the elec­tion.

Mr Scheel­ings said Bri­tish bar­ris­ter Lau­rie Frans­man QC, whom the gov­ern­ment has asked to pro­vide rel­e­vant ad­vice about Se­na­tor Roberts’s mat­ter, should also be cross-ex­am­ined.

The com­mon­wealth ar­gued the dual-cit­i­zen­ship cases of Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce, Na­tion­als deputy leader Fiona Nash, Na­tion­als se­na­tor Matthew Cana­van and in­de­pen­dent se­na­tor Nick Xenophon were “ma­te­ri­ally in­dis­tin­guish­able”. It was “vir­tu­ally in­evitable” their cases would “stand or fall to­gether”.

The four MPs were born in Aus­tralia but gained cit­i­zen­ship by de­scent through a par­ent.

For­mer Greens se­na­tors Larissa Waters and Scott Lud­lam were born in Canada and New Zealand re­spec­tively and dis­cov­ered in July they were dual cit­i­zens of those coun­tries, but the com­mon­wealth will sub­mit Ms Waters is not dis­qual­i­fied un­der sec­tion 44 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The court has sched­uled hear­ings from Oc­to­ber 10 to 12.


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