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