This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

The Government Is Threatening To Refer Labor MPs To The High Court

And Labor's hitting right back at them.
Justine Keay and Susan Lamb could be referred to the High Court by the Government.
Justine Keay and Susan Lamb could be referred to the High Court by the Government.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is pushing for Labor politicians who are potential dual citizens to be referred to the High Court, as both sides get ready for the upcoming by-election in John Alexander's former seat of Bennelong.

Turnbull is zeroing in on two Labor MPs in particular, Justine Keay and Susan Lamb, who have both admitted that they were UK citizens when they nominated for seats in the 2016 federal election.

Speaking from Hong Kong where he is attending the APEC summit, the Prime Minister said that the government intended to refer the Keay and Lamb to the High Court when parliament reconvenes.

"Bill Shorten wants to protect MPs that were and knew they were foreign citizens at the time they nominated," Turnbull said.

"I mean there is one law -- you know what the rule of law means? The rule of law means that it applies to everybody".

Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives Christopher Pyne accused Labor of running a "protection racket" for MPs that were in breach of the constitution.

"Susan Lamb and Justine Keay were both UK citizens when they nominated for Parliament for the 2016 election and the High Court has made it abundantly clear that means they're disqualified from standing for Parliament," Pyne told media on Sunday.

"What Bill Shorten should do right now is require Susan Lamb and Justine Keay, at least, to resign from Longman and Braddon and recontest those seats in a by-election to ensure that the Parliament is acting with complete integrity".

Because two Coalition MPs have resigned in recent weeks, the government will require the vote of a crossbencher to refer Labor politicians to the High Court. According to the ABC, The Greens' Adam Bandt is likely to support any such bill.

Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke has hit out at Turnbull's threat to refer Labor MPs to the High Court, saying that "every member of the Labor party took every step" required to fulfil section 44 of the constitution.

"Those who are in the spotlight for the Labor party took reasonable steps before the nomination date. Those who are in the focus from the the Liberal party took no steps at all before the nomination date," Burke said.

Speaking from Bennelong, Burke said that the Coalition's threat to refer Labor MPs was "desperate".

"Today they are embarking on a born to rule, desperate approach that only weeks ago George Brandis, the so-called first law officer in Australia, had described as being dangerous".

In August, George Brandis said that it would be "very dangerous" for parliament to refer politicians to the High Court, unless the evidence was clear that they were in fact dual citizens.

It is unclear how the High Court would rule on Lamb and Keay's individual cases -- while they may have taken reasonable steps to rescind their dual citizenship before nominating as candidates for federal parliament, the court's recent rulings indicate that this might not be enough to get them over the line.

Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact