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Nationals Senator Fiona Nash Reveals Possible Dual Citizenship

The Nationals deputy leader believes she may be a British citizen.
Stefan Postles via Getty Images

Nationals deputy leader and senator Fiona Nash has taken to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to announce she believes she may be a dual British citizen by descent, will refer herself to the Australian High Court and will not be stepping down from her parliamentary responsibilities.

In her address, Nash confirmed she sought advice of the UK home office on Monday in regards to her UK citizenship status and was made aware that she may be a British citizen by descent through her Scottish-born father.

Nash's announcement came minutes before parliament was scheduled to rise for a two-week recess, but she said legal advice from the Australian Solicitor General was only received before she got up to speak.

"On Monday, following the Deputy Prime Minister's statement regarding his citizenship, I sought advice of the UK home office on my citizenship status," she said.

"By Monday evening I was advised that a case worker at the UK home office was of the view that, on the basis of the limited facts that I had provided, I was a British citizen by descent through my Scottish-born father.

"Growing up my parents always told me that I was not a dual citizen. My understanding since early childhood was that, in order to be a dual British citizen, I would need to apply for it."

Nash, who was born in Australia, told the Senate her mother was also Australian-born and raised her alone after her parents divorced when she was eight-years-old, however her father was born in Scotland in 1927.

The senator from New South Wales also said she had advised the Federal government and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of the situation, who then sought legal advice on the matter from the UK and the Australian Solicitor-General.

"I have just met with the Prime Minister and am taking this opportunity to make the Senate aware at the earliest possible opportunity of the position. I understand that the Attorney General will provide further information to the chamber," she said.

Nash confirmed that Turnbull indicated there is no reason for her to stand down from her Senate responsibilities and that she will continue as the deputy leader of the National Party pending a motion to be presented to parliament on September 4 to refer her to the High Court.

ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher was quick to respond to Nash's announcement on behalf of the Federal opposition by criticising her for leaving her address for three days, labelling it as "simply not good enough."

"Senator Nash's statement means the entire National Party leadership is now facing disqualification from the parliament," she said in a statement.

"As Senator Nash admitted, she has known since Monday that she was a dual citizen, yet waited until one minute before the Senate rose for a two week break to inform the parliament. This is simply not good enough.

"Malcolm Turnbull needs to explain why he is holding Mr Joyce and now Senator Nash to a lesser standard than Matt Canavan and not requiring them to stand down."

The announcement comes as another hit for the National Party under Section 44 of the Constitution, after Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was confirmed as a dual New Zealand citizen earlier this week.

Section 44 of the Constitution prohibits dual citizens from entering the Federal Parliament.

While as a senator, Nash's citizenship concerns do not have a direct effect on the Coalition's majority in the House of Representatives, if Joyce's doubts are further confirmed by the Australian High Court, the Nationals leader -- and second most senior politician in Australia -- would be ineligible to hold a seat in parliament by breaching the same section of the Constitution that's caused the resignation of several senators and has put other political careers in doubt.

The update on Thursday night also throws the Nationals leadership team in doubt and the party into disarry now that both the party leader and deputy leader are facing citizenship doubts.

It also follows the move by another National Party senator, Matt Canavan, who resigned from Malcom Turnbull's Cabinet in July after discovering he apparently holds dual Italian citizenship.

Nash's address comes after a spate of politicians from multiple parties within the parliament have all acknowledged citizenship issues, including resigned Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters and One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts.

In a separate matter, Queensland Nationals senator and government backbencher Barry O'Sullivan also came under fire on Thursday for a possible breach of Section 44, based on pecuniary interests.

O'Sullivan's family construction company, Newlands Civil Construction, manages demolition work, sewerage diversion, water mains and site access gates and is understood to be subcontracted to work on a Toowoomba project that is 80 percent funded by the Federal government.

In addition to citizenship concerns, Section 44 of the Constitution also states politicians can be disqualified from parliament where there is "any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the public service of the Commonwealth".

O'Sullivan denied the claims and said he believes the company has no commercial agreement with any company or entity connected to the public service of the Commonwealth.

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