Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Parliamentary Representation

Gallagher, Senator Katy; Qualifications of Senators

9:50 am

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I wasn't planning on addressing this issue, but the speech just then from Senator Brandis has compelled me to make a contribution to this debate. Firstly, we will be supporting this referral. I want to acknowledge the steps taken by Senator Gallagher to come forward and the Labor Party for referring Senator Gallagher. We think that's appropriate. But let's just name what's going on here. We've got two classes of politicians. We've got some members of the Labor Party who took steps, took legal advice, and at the time were satisfied that that was enough to disqualify themselves as dual citizens and to mean that they were eligible to stand. Then we've got members of the government who took no steps—who sat in this chamber, knowing they were dual citizens, and took no steps. In fact, they were forced, after the High Court decision, to come clean, like the former President of the Senate and like Minister Nash. She came here at a minute to midnight, as we were about to go home, to put her version of history on the table. It is now clear that she was sitting here, knowing she was ineligible, and did nothing about it. The rank hypocrisy from the Attorney-General is remarkable here. We have members of the government who took no steps, and they've now given the middle finger to the parliament by not disclosing the relevant information in the disclosure form.

I accept that the High Court needs to make a determination about those Labor members who sought advice and were told that initiating the renunciation process was enough to make sure that they weren't dual citizens. That was based on precedent. I understand that we do need to get some clarity on that. It's important not just for this parliament but for future parliaments to know at what point the test for reasonable steps applies. And that's why we're going to support this referral. That's why we would support referrals in the lower house.

But don't come in here, Senator Brandis, and lecture this Senate about your role in this, as though somehow the Labor Party have put themselves in the same category as your ministers. They haven't, because what we've seen in this Senate is one party where members have been dual citizens, have taken no steps, have been ineligible and have continued to sit in this chamber and in cabinet. When this first occurred, we had Minister Canavan standing up and saying, 'Given the circumstances, I can no longer sit as a minister.' When it occurred to Minister Nash and, indeed, Minister Joyce, a completely different test was applied. For some reason, they were able to continue in their roles as ministers. We had the President of the Senate issuing orders to the High Court, knowing that he himself was ineligible. The reality is that this government has shown itself to be without integrity and decency and to be hypocritical. To be standing up there and lecturing the opposition as somehow having behaved in a way that is comparable with this government is appalling.

I make the exception, of course, for former Senator Feeney. Former Senator Feeney is in a category of his own and is now a member of the lower house. The questions about Mr Feeney are: when did he know about what had occurred and when did he know that he didn't have documentation to certify that he was not a dual citizen? Clearly, if it's taken him five months to arrive at this position—and he has been dragged kicking and screaming—I think Mr Feeney is a special case. I think most people would recognise he's a very, very special case, and I think the people of Batman will make it very, very clear that they think he's a very special case.

Mr Feeney has shown himself to be completely lacking in integrity by sitting on information for five months, but members of the government have applied a completely different standard to members of their own team, to ministers, who have been dual citizens, who have taken no steps and have now, through this disclosure process, effectively said, 'We're not going to provide you with the information that you need to have some certainty that we're not dual citizens.' I wasn't planning on making a contribution. I do acknowledge it's been a difficult time for Senator Gallagher. Again, I want to congratulate her on coming forward and the referral, but, please, Attorney-General, next time spare us the sanctimonious hypocrisy that you've just provided the Senate with.


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