ABC News Radio

SUBJECT/S: Citizenship






SUBJECT/S: Citizenship

SANDY ALOISI, PRESENTER: Mark Dreyfus welcome to the program. 


ALOISI: Can I begin by asking – where were you born?

DREYFUS: I was born in Perth.

ALOISI: And where were your parents born?

DREYFUS: My parents were born in Melbourne – my mother – and my father in Germany. He arrived as a stateless person, as a refugee from Nazi Germany in 1939. And he’s a naturalised Australian.

ALOISI: So there’s no question mark hanging over the fact that you might be a dual citizen?


ALOISI: What about the Prime Minister saying that five Labor MPs should have their citizenship status challenged?

DREYFUS: This is just throwing dust into the eyes of those who can plainly see that the coalition has a problem here. Labor is very, very satisfied Sandy in the rigour of our processes. We have a questionnaire for candidates, we interview candidates, and we take the necessary steps when we discover there might be an issue with dual citizenship. And it was extraordinary to hear Christopher Pyne yesterday inventing, and the coalition has been trying to do this for a while now, just inventing problems where there are in fact no problems.

ALOISI: Is there documentation to prove that these five MPs are in fact not dual citizens?


ALOISI: Well why do you not release it then?

DREYFUS: Because nothing has been said other than, “your father was born in such and such a place, or your mother was born in such and such a place”. We have taken all the necessary steps. It’s nonsense for the coalition to seek to divert attention from the problem, the self-inflicted problem that has now been discovered for the Deputy Prime Minister, who should absolutely stand aside from cabinet just as Senator Canavan was made to stand aside. And he shouldn’t be voting in the Parliament. The government has referred its own Deputy Prime Minister to the High Court of Australia.

ALOISI: But Mr Dreyfus wouldn’t it shut down the nonsense, as you’ve described it, just by releasing the documentation that would shut the door on it immediately?

DREYFUS: If the coalition’s got some point, it should make it. It hasn’t, so that’s the end of the matter. That’s why our national secretary put out a statement yesterday, to make it as clear as we possibly can – Labor is very confident in the rigour of the processes that we have used for many, many years now to make sure that everyone who stands for the Australian Labor Party, for the Federal Parliament, is qualified to do so.

ALOISI: I suppose the question that arises in many minds might be that Barnaby Joyce was confident as well before the revelations yesterday.

DREYFUS: Well, you’ve got some questions there about Barnaby Joyce. Did he simply turn a blind eye? He knew that his father had been born in Dunedin, New Zealand. Did he not care about his eligibility to stand for the Federal Parliament? He’s certainly used the Prime Minister’s description of the Greens party Senators being very, very careless. And that’s just not good enough.

ALOISI: He may have been simply unaware given that I think he just last month said “no no, I can’t be a dual citizen because of descent”.

DREYFUS: Well he also said that he needed to apply and he hadn’t applied. Well that at the very least shows gross negligence on his part in not inquiring into his own citizenship status. It’s not as if this question hasn’t come up before. It came up in the case of Sykes and Cleary, some 20 years ago. The High Court looked very closely at this provision then. Because there was a question about the eligibility of not one but two of the candidates for election in that seat, the seat of Wills in Melbourne. And the law has been really clear on this ever since. You’ve got to take reasonable steps to make sure that you are not a citizen of another country. This has been part of our constitution since we became a nation in 1901. And why it is that someone as senior as the Deputy Prime Minister has simply failed to check his own citizenship status is a question only he can answer. But on the law as it stands at the moment, he didn’t take the reasonable steps and was on the law – as the High Court has explained it up until now – ineligible to be in the Australian Parliament.

ALOISI: Mark Dreyfus you say the Labor Party has rigorous procedures which ensures there are no dual citizens in the Parliament. Are Labor MPs re-checking their status to make sure that’s the case?

DREYFUS: I can’t speak for individual MPs, but I can speak for the very vigorous process that Labor uses before people are even permitted to run for office. And it involves asking them where they were born, where their parents were born, where their grandparents were born. And then if anything is thrown up by those questions, we check. We get lawyers to check and we go through the necessary processes to make sure that every candidate is eligible and not disqualified by Section 44(i) of the Constitution.

ALOISI: Mark Dreyfus thank you for speaking with us.

DREYFUS: Thanks very much.