Ross Greenwood speaks to Greens leader, Senator Richard Di Natale, about the latest dual citizenship crisis, which could see a number of Labor, Liberal and a Nick Xenophon MP referred to the High Court
Introduction: Should the PM call an election?
Ross Greenwood: I do want to play you something because it is absolutely vital to play this. This is Bill Shorten from August this year. When Greens members, when the Nationals members, when you had then even some government ministers being caught up in this situation. Bill Shorten and there was a doorstop here is what he said.
Bill Shorten: “This is not a cloud over any of that people. Let’s be straight here. What this is is the government’s stuffed up.”
Ross Greenwood: The government is stuffed up. Then we move forward to not that long ago November nine. My colleague on the Tonight Show did not ask the Opposition Leader a range of questions about exactly this point. Listen to her.
Interviewer: “Can you guarantee that no Labor MPs or Senators will be caught up in this?”
Bill Shorten: “I am more than satisfied that Labor MPs, through our vetting process-”
Interviewer: “Can you guarantee rather than more than satisfied?”
Bill Shorten: “Yes. I am. Yes.”
Interviewer: “Rolled gold.”
Bill Shorten: “Yes, I am very confident, and what’s more is when you have to look at the track record, it hasn’t been Labor and its ministers who’ve been the problem here.”
Ross Greenwood: Well, you might have to wait those words to have them replayed to you many many times. The reason for it, it would seem today that the Labor member for Batman. Remember that Batman won that seat David Feeney by just 1853 votes two parties preferred over the Greens candidate. David Feeney this afternoon came out and basically said that he has a problem here it is.
David: “I remain hopeful that continuing searches of UK records and archives will clarify this matter in my favor. Nonetheless, I accept that at this moment my status as a citizen in UK law remains unclear. On this basis, if the relevant documents have not been located by the time this issue is dealt with within the House of Representatives, I will be asking the manager of Opposition Business to refer this matter to the High Court.”
Ross Greenwood: Referred to the High Court. Interesting to watch that one, but you’ve also got situations where Susan Lamb the Labor MP said that the UK Home Office told her it can’t be satisfied. She held British citizenship. Remember she beat Wyatt Roy in that state by 1390 votes. In political terms, it was a sliver. That’s what it was the seat of Longman. The Labor MP Josh Wilson his British citizenship was renounced in late June 2016 after the close of nominations for the last election.
It should have been before. The Labor MP from Tasmania, Justine Keay did not receive confirmation of renunciation before the nominations closed. There’s others. Emma Husar, the Labor MP, grandparents born in Poland hasn’t provided information. Liberal MP Jason Falinski, father born in the USSR. Made inquiries but not received anything, but there’s others. One Nation’s Rebecca Shaki, British citizenship was renounced in late June 2016 after the close of nominations.
The Labor MP, Nick Champion attached the acknowledgment from the UK Home Office in 2007 after they received his application, but not the final stamp confirmation he had renounced. Let’s go to the Greens leader Senator, Richard Di Natale. Richard, you were sloppy apparently when your members resigned from Parliament. I have to say in hindsight, they did so with some honor.
Interview with: Richard Di Natale, Senator, Greens Leader
Richard Di Natale: Well, it’s interesting isn’t it? At the time the PM called it sloppy and negligent, but what happened then was we had two people who made a mistake. We copped it on the chin. I remember the phone calls very well. We engaged in legal advice. We got confirmation within a few days. We didn’t seek to blame anyone else. We didn’t seek to hide. We didn’t seek to delay. We took responsibility. We recognized that we had two people who were dual citizens and by virtue of that they should resign.
We didn’t try to forward it in the High Court. Both senators Ludlam and Senators Waters put forward the resignation to the Senate. It was dealt with with a great degree of integrity. They have shown up both the government and now the Labor Party really just completely lacking in integrity. I mean David Saney, these brought five months ago anybody in their right mind who was in the Parliament would have checked their paperwork and if they weren’t satisfied, they should have come clean straight away.
He has waited until the 11th hour to make a statement just before parliament goes on its Christmas break. To say all well, I can’t find the paperwork, and I might have to go to the High Court. That is pathetic not good enough. Indeed if he can’t provide any evidence that he’s renounced his dual citizenship then he’s got no choice but to resign and forget about the by-election.
Ross Greenwood: Would you be confident of winning that by-election? Given the fact that the margin was so slim in the last election?
Richard Di Natale: Would have to be a red-hot chance. I mean this is always a question that it’s up to voters to decide, and what they showed in the Northcote by-election was that they supported a party with a very strong platform to tackle climate change, to deal with the issue of affordable housing. The corrupting influence of political donations, and a rigged political system that has stacked the odds in favor of the rich and powerful over ordinary people.
We ran a very positive campaign in Northcote which overlaps with Batman, had a huge swing to it. We saw the candidate Lidia Thorpe elected with a significant swing to her, and it’s actually on a pretty healthy margin there. If we can repeat the same success in Batman and as I see those state and federal electorates overlap then you’d have to think we’re red-hot chance.
Ross Greenwood: I was just thinking about some of the suburbs of people. I was particularly Melbourne we’re talking, yes, you’ve got the Merri Creek which is a part of it. You’ve got-
Richard Di Natale: Northcote–
Ross Greenwood: -Northcote, Alphington, Clifton Hill, you have Preston reservoir. It pretty much almost goes even as far as to Thomastown. Parts of Vandura as well. It’s a pretty long electorate going through the north of Melbourne. It’s a key one. The other part also had any of these been known before the last election. Of course, it could very well tip the balance in the Greens five in that election.
Richard Di Natale: Of course, and I suspect that we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Right now we’d have a Greens MP elected to the Parliament. It was a very close election and a closely run thing. Of course, it comes on the back of David Feeney forgetting that he had a two million dollar investment property which], was negative. Again he had a pretty ordinary election campaign. It must be said.
Answer this I think would have swung it, but having said that it’s not just about Northcote. What we have now is a number of MPs on both sides with huge question marks. Rather than doing the right thing and the decent thing is, what should have been done when his first breaks something the Greens were calling for right from the outset, was let’s just have a comprehensive audit of all members of parliament.
Let’s get this issue dealt with once and for all. Let’s clean this mess up because it is a mess. It has been hanging over the parliament for months and months now. It’s going to drag well into next year. We should have had it sorted out a while ago and the Greens proposal for an audit was supported by the crossbench, and it was Labor and Liberal who voted against it. Now we know why. Now we know why because they had people who would had been caught up.
Ross Greenwood: Okay, you say that the members have not come forward. They’ve lie low and just waited for all this to be dragged up. Do you believe that that was the instruction of their administration, of their leadership?
Richard Di Natale: Well, their leadership didn’t support an audit. An audit would have dealt with it rapidly. Would have dealt with it months and months ago when it first broke. There’s no other explanation other than it was in both of their interests not to support an audit and not to have this issue dealt with quickly.
Ross Greenwood: What about you’ve heard what Bill shorten had to say, all our members were actually guaranteed? Bill Shorten met Maryhill with the Parliament while Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander have been out of it. You could argue that even the construct of the royal commission has been as a result of that and also what you’d have to call is a split that happened in the coalition.
Richard Di Natale: Well, it’s hard to know how much of this is contributing to the Coalition’s problems. That’s in part Malcolm Turnbull has shown himself to be a complete failure as Prime Minister. Who knows or understand what he stands for. Taking the job now for five years and look at Malcolm Turnbull over that time. I just don’t know what this Prime Minister stands for. That’s part of the problem. He’s obviously been trying to govern to appease the hard right of his party and not governing for ordinary people.
Ross Greenwood: What about Bill Shorten do you know what he stands for?
Richard Di Natale: No. I have to say the same criticism. I probably thought of approaching both directions. That’s why people are so fed up with politics at the moment. It’s why the Greens had a great result in Queensland. It looks like we’re on the verge of making our first breakthrough into the Queensland State Parliament. I expect we’ll have a victory there in a liberal electorate in May or that is yet to be confirmed, but we’re on the verge there.
We had a great result in Northcote. I think and our has increased. You’re seeing the growth of the Greens and other parties, other third parties. Because people have had a gutful of politics as usual. As I say these stuff play out. This citizenship stuff it’s– They say they’re partisanship. I don’t see anybody acting to try and just fix it. It’s a mess. It needs to be resolved. That’s why you’re seeing both sides being punished with dropping support.
Ross Greenwood: Just a final one for you. This parliament, given all of these, so you’ve got nine members today. You’ve got I think another seven or eight members that have already come with either by-elections or they’ve resigned from the parliament. Do you believe that people can have confidence such that the community can have confidence that this is a properly constituted parliament that it has the right to sit and make laws over Australia right now?
Richard Di Natale: No, I don’t believe that anyone can say that they have that confidence right now. I genuinely think this is a constitutional crisis. Where the government of the day does not know if it has the numbers to govern. It does not know whether it has a majority on the floor of the lower house of the Parliament.
Ross Greenwood: What is the answer?
Richard Di Natale: We don’t know. What is the response? What we’re failing to do is– What if they urgently clean up the citizenship courses? That needs to happen and happen quickly? Unfortunately, because the Prime Minister canceled parliament, this will drag out into February next year. The only way to resolve this is to have the High Court hear anyone with a question mark. Once we get to a point where it looks like there are a number of by-elections, then the Prime Minister has no choice but to call a general election.
Ross Greenwood: Senator Richard Di Natale Greens Leader, I appreciate your time here on the program tonight.
Richard Di Natale: Pleasure.
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