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Politicians To Disclose Citizenship Details By December 1 Under New Emergency Plan

It's a rushed fix for the section 44 citizenship fiasco engulfing parliament.
Rules around citizenship are expected to pass the Senate
Rules around citizenship are expected to pass the Senate

The Coalition and Labor have agreed on a quick fix for the section 44 fiasco engulfing federal politics, coming together on a plan for members of parliament to disclose details of their citizenship and the background of their family in a bid to flush out any more potential dual citizens.

Labor leader Bill Shorten and Government leader in the Senate Mathias Cormann -- sitting in negotiations while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is overseas -- came to agreement on Monday morning on a plan which would compel all senators to submit family history details by December 1. A similar deal is currently being worked on for the House of Representatives, which is not sitting this week.

The plan, to be introduced in the Senate for a vote on Monday, will compel senators to provide information to the Registrar of Senators' Interests including:

  • A declaration they were an Australian citizen at the time of their nomination;
  • A declaration the senator is not a citizen of any country other than Australia;
  • Their place and date of birth, and the citizenship they held at the time of their birth;
  • The place and date of birth of the senator's parents and grandparents;
  • Whether the Senator has ever been a citizen of another country;
  • What steps they have taken to ensure they have not inherited citizenship of another country from a parent or grandparent;
  • Evidence of the date and manner in which any foreign citizenship was renounced.

The plan closely mirrors the plan Shorten had outlined, which faced opposition from some in the government last week. Turnbull himself had originally wanted the disclosures to be registered by a later date, and for grandparents not to be included in the disclosure, despite the fact grandparents can confer citizenship by descent. Other Coalition MPs also reportedly objected to details of parents and grandparents being registered and held by the parliament.

Government minister and leader in the House of Representatives, Christopher Pyne, said the plan was "a good development and a sensible way forward."

"I hope that, in the House of Representatives, a similar approach will be taken now," he said on Monday.

"We are in that process. I hope that, by the time the parliament resumes, we will have an agreement with Labor for a process. Of course, that will include members who've already indicated they were dual citizens on the days of closing to the last election, satisfying the parliament that they are not ineligible to quit, including the two Labor members."

Acting PM Julie Bishop called Shorten "utterly devious" on the issue, claiming he had been "hiding the evidence about his own Members of Parliament who have serious questions to answer about their citizenship".

"The Government has a plan and we expect a similar motion to be introduced to the House of Representatives," she said at a press conference on Monday.

"Mr Shorten must show honesty and courage to give us the details, confirm the eligibility of his Members of Parliament, some of whom have admitted they were British citizens at the time they took up a position in the Parliament."

In contrast, however, Labor's Senate leader Penny Wong claimed the government had been "dragged kicking and screaming to having any disclosure" and had "picked up the Labor Party's proposal."

"It's a good deal because it's what Labor proposed and the government has signed off to that," she said in a speech to the Senate.

"The reality is that this would not have occurred if Labor had not proposed a universal disclosure regime."

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