Labor won’t consider a High Court ruling on Katy Gallagher’s eligibility as a precedent for MPs under a cloud over dual citizenship claims, despite Malcolm Turnbull’s view that other opposition MPs should resign if the ACT senator is disqualified.
The High Court said on Friday evening Senator Gallagher’s case would go before the Court of Disputed Returns for the first time on January 19, asking for evidence and submissions in the case, and that of Labor lower house MP David Feeney, to be received before December 21.
Gallagher going to the High Court
Labor senator Katy Gallagher becomes the 12th to be referred to the High Court, over her dual British citizenship.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said on Sunday that even if Senator Gallagher was found to be ineligible to sit in Parliament, the opposition could seek further rulings to determine the cases of lower house MPs Susan Lamb, Justine Keay and Josh Wilson.
The Labor members were all dual British citizens on the day they nominated for the 2016 federal election, but believe they are not ineligible because they had taken all reasonable steps to renounce overseas citizenship.
Mr Turnbull said last week the fate of Ms Keay and Mr Wilson should be determined by Senator Gallagher’s case, “because the facts are essentially the same”.
“If Katy Gallagher is successful then they will rest easy. If she is unsuccessful then they will have to resign,” the Prime Minister said.
But Mr Dreyfus disputed the stance on ABC’s Insiders, arguing Labor wouldn’t view the Gallagher ruling as a precedent.
“Not really,” he said. “Each case has to be determined on the particular circumstances of the candidate or member concerned.”
“We think that Katy Gallagher took the reasonable steps that the High Court has spoken of in repeated decisions.
“She, like the rest of us in Labor, care about the constitutional legitimacy of the Australian Parliament. We want this cleared up, we want this mess to end.
“As you heard Katy say in the Senate, she believes that she’s got a clear case that she was eligible to stand for Parliament but she wants it cleared up.”
He said the government’s refusal to refer a group of its own MPs, as well as the Labor members facing questions, means the citizenship chaos would continue through the summer months.
“We say there is no case against the people who have been identified on the Labor side. Mr Feeney is in a different category … he’s dealt with his Irish citizenship but he can’t find the papers for his British citizenship,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“But the other three, we say say they took reasonable steps and there’s a disagreement on the law between the government and the opposition.”
In heated debate in the final sitting week of Parliament, a Labor motion to refer Ms Lamb, Ms Keay, Mr Wilson, Xenophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie and Liberals Nola Marino, Jason Falinski, Alex Hawke, Julia Banks failed.
Last week Senator Gallagher stepped aside from her Labor frontbench roles after documents provided to the Senate showed she was “at the date of her nomination for the 2016 election, a British citizen by descent” and that her moves to renounce in April 2016 were only finalised a month after the July election by the UK Home Office.
Constitutional expert George Williams said Senator Gallagher could survive the challenge, but the question of what constituted reasonable steps needed to be decided by the High Court.