POLITICS

Still No Audit, But Federal MPs Are To Be Compelled To Declare Citizenship

The PM says the obligation remains on each member and each senator.

06/11/2017 3:15 PM AEDT | Updated 06/11/2017 4:30 PM AEDT
Alex Ellinghausen/Fairfax
Malcolm Turnbull: "It's very important to stress, this is a personal responsibility for every member and senator."

CANBERRA -- Under growing pressure to conduct a full citizenship audit of federal parliamentarians, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a new citizenship disclosure process which he stresses is no audit, but compels personal disclosure.

Under the plan, approved by Cabinet on Monday, members of the House and Senate would be forced to provide a statement on personal citizenship circumstances to the Register of Members' Interests, the office that keeps track of politicians financial and pecuniary interests, within 21 days of a passed resolution.

Among the declarations, the member would state they, to the best of their knowledge and belief, was not a citizen of any country other than Australia at the time of nomination for election. The MP would also have to provide proof they had renounced any other citizenship.

There would also be a declaration for the place and date of the birth of the member's parents.

"I want to say that this is not an audit," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. "The obligation is on each member and each senator to make a full disclosure as I have repeatedly said in recent times."

'It's very important to stress, this is a personal responsibility for every member and senator.

"This is about transparency, it's about integrity."

Proposed citizenship declaration

The House resolves that one, not later than 21 days from the date of the resolution and in subsequent parliaments being sworn in as a member, each member shall provide to the registrar of members interests a statement containing the following columns:

a) declaration by the member that at that time the member nominated for election to the House of Representatives he or she was not, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, a citizen of any country other than Australia;

b) the declaration that the member, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, is not a citizen of any other country apart from Australia;

c) so far as the member is aware, the place and date of the members both and citizenship, which the member held at a time of both;

d) so far as the member is aware, the place and date of the birth of the member's parents;

e) whether, to the best of the member's knowledgeable, the member has ever been a citizen of another country, and if so, which country or countries; and

f) if the member has entered the previous questions in the affirmative, then provide details and evidence of the time and manner in which the member's citizenship of the other country was renounced or otherwise came to an end that.

Resolutions to carry out the declarations have to be passed by both houses and the Prime Minister said the penalty for a false declaration would be contempt of parliament.

The information required by the new system, such as registering the birthplaces of parents, may have raised earlier flags about some of the MPs who have been ruled ineligible by the High Court such as Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash who inherited foreign citizenship from their parents born overseas. Senator Stephen Parry, who last week resigned from the parliament over his dual citizenship, would also have had to register that his father was born in the United Kingdom.

The PM's plan seems similar to a model outlined by opposition leader Bill Shorten last week, calling for "universal declaration" of documents to the parliament.

Responding to the PM's plan on Monday, Shorten signalled that he was open to supporting it.

The Prime Minister has urged MPs and senators to start preparing their declarations now.

More to come.

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