A University of Tasmania expert believes Labor’s Member for Braddon, Justine Keay, is not eligible to sit in the House of Representatives due to her dual citizenship at the time of candidate nominations.
This week Ms Keay acknowledged to Fairfax Media it had taken three months to act on advice that her British citizenship was required to be renounced.
The first-term politician said it was difficult to give up, knowing it was the last “tangible connection” with her father.
University of Tasmania constitutional law expert Brendan Gogarty said it was not likely Ms Keay was eligible for parliament due to her dual citizenship on election night.
“The High Court explicitly rejected that the words of the section allowed you to obtain such a certificate after you have been elected - the entire process needs to be conducted beforehand,” he said.
“If Ms Keay didn’t have that declaration of renunciation from the British Government before she was chosen for office then it is likely she was still under foreign allegiance.”
Since July, six politicians have resigned from the federal parliament for breaching Section 44 (i) of the Constitution of Australia.
The eligibility of Independent senator Jacqui Lambie – whose father was born in Scotland – is also under a cloud.
She promised to release her documents when called to do so by the parliament, and said she held “no concerns” about her status.
Mr Gogarty believes Section 44 is “one of the clearest provisions” in the constitution.
He noted the court’s October judgment – of the so-called citizenship seven – that reasonable steps to renounce dual citizenship must be taken prior to a person’s election.
The court found “a person who, at the time that he or she nominates for election, retains the status of subject or citizen of a foreign power will be disqualified”.
Mr Gogarty drew parallels with the case of former senator for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Malcolm Roberts.
“[Mr Roberts] claimed he had written to the British Consulate asking about his citizenship status but never received a response because he allegedly used the wrong address,” he said.
“The High Court found Mr Roberts had not met the requirements of the British law or received formal notification of his renunciation; he was thus ineligible to be a member of Parliament.”