ACT Labor Senator Katy Gallagher’s political fate now lies with the High Court after the Senate referred her there at her own request to settle doubts surrounding her citizenship.
She is but the latest casualty of the dual citizenship fiasco that has hit all sides of Federal politics and is now a virtual test case for other members of the Opposition caught up in the controversy.
Senator Gallagher believes that she does not have a case to answer but decided to refer herself after political attacks continued despite her contention that she had taken all reasonable attempts to renounce her British citizenship by descent.
The Opposition attempted on Wednesday to have the House of Representatives refer nine MPs – including Senator Gallagher, three Labor, four Liberal and one cross-bencher – to the High Court to settle the matter once and for all but the vote tied at 73-all, with the Speaker’s casting vote going with the Government.
Senator Gallagher is not commenting after her speech to the Senate on Wednesday when she said that it took UK authorities 118 days to confirm her renunciation of citizenship in April 2016, while also contradicting previous advice that she was not a British citizen.
“Whilst I wish the matter of my renunciation had been dealt with more expeditiously in the UK, the delay had no bearing on the declaration of renunciation I made in April last year. I renounced prior to nomination and was eligible to stand at the 2016 election,” she told the Senate.
Senator Gallagher said subsequent legal advice confirmed this. ” The legal advice that I received from Dr Collins QC also draws on the expert opinion of Mr Berry from the London Bar. Dr Collins’s opinion is that ‘Senator Gallagher had, prior to the date for nominations for the 2016 election, taken all of the steps that were required to be taken by her (not just the reasonable steps required) under British law in order to renounce her British citizenship’.”
She said that while she remained convinced of her legitimacy to sit in the Senate, continued hostile Government threats to refer her to the High Court had forced her hand.
“In light of this, and conscious that the attacks on my legitimacy to sit as a senator will continue to be used by my political opponents, I have formed the view that my situation should be considered by the High Court, despite the lack of any legal advice indicating I have a problem that warrants referral. This is a decision I have taken individually and is based on my own individual circumstances,” Senator Gallagher said.
“… In conclusion, while I do not agree with the need for this referral, I do not resent it. The success and standing of the Australian Senate is bigger than all of us and should be focused solely on what we are able to deliver together for the Australian people.”
Senator Gallagher is standing aside from her portfolio responsibilities within the shadow cabinet, as well as from the role of Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, until the High Court decides the matter.
If Senator Gallagher is disqualified it could set in train a super Saturday of by-elections for the Labor lower house MPs, Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson.
The accident-prone Labor Member for Batman David Feeney has already been referred to the High Court.