Sky News AM Agenda

Subject: citizenship












SUBJECT/S: Citizenship


KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: With me is the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. It looks like the reassurances given to Bill Shorten on these MPs were misplaced – you’d concede that, would you now?


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I don’t think that’s right Kieran. We’ve got a very, very clear process, it’s a rigorous process. And that process has been complied with in every case. We’ve got one MP who can’t locate documents. And he has very properly in the House yesterday said that he will refer himself if he can’t locate those documents.


GILBERT: But under the black-letter ruling of the High Court, these MPs – four of them at least – are now in doubt. As a QC yourself you would agree with that wouldn’t you?


DREYFUS: I don’t accept that Kieran and that’s not the correct view of the law. The government is putting about a false view of the law. Let’s be clear about this. The High Court has said at all times that what you have to do is take reasonable steps before you nominate. And that’s what every single one of our MPs has done. By contrast, in the Liberal Party they seem to have had practically no vetting process at all and there is now up to seven Liberal MPs who are covering up their dual citizenship. And that’s the extraordinary and disgraceful thing that was disclosed yesterday.


GILBERT: You’re asserting that is your view of the High Court ruling. Others disagree with you. Eminent constitutional lawyers and academics disagree with you. Some agree, some disagree don’t they?


DREYFUS: They need to point to where the High Court has said that you need to have actually renounced before you nominate. Nowhere has the High Court said this. This is very clear, and for good reason Kieran – what the High Court said is you have to take all reasonable steps and that’s sufficient. Because otherwise Australian democracy is going to be hostage to the bureaucracies of other countries. And we can’t have that.


GILBERT: But you saw also that element of the ruling that set that date, in June of last year, which is the closing of nominations, and after that point if you’re a dual citizen that’s how they are deemed….


DREYFUS: That’s not what they said. In six of the cases that went to the High Court, the MPs concerned had done nothing. They had taken no steps. And the reason why the results were as they were is either, they were foreign citizens or in the case of Nick Xenophon….


GILBERT: So you’re 100 per cent sure, if reasonable steps are taken, even if it happens three months after the closure of nominations that the renunciation comes through, that they’ll be fine.


DREYFUS: That’s what the law is as stated.


GILBERT: OK then let’s have a discussion then, is it reasonable for Katy Gallagher to wait 12 months before she starts the process? Because maybe that’s not a reasonable effort?


DREYFUS: The Court is going to look at what was done. At the steps that were taken. And we are confident that according to British law, Katy Gallagher and the other Labor MPs took the steps they were required to take and that they were eligible to nominate. Because they had already taken those steps. And that’s clear law, and no-one has pointed to anywhere in any of the High Court decisions where the High Court has ever said anything different. The government is putting a false view of the law and government is covering up. This is the important thing here. We’ve got seven MPs who have failed in this disclosure process.


GILBERT: Among those, you’re talking about Jason Falinski and Josh Frydenberg whose ancestors fled the Nazis and arrived here stateless.


DREYFUS: Yes, and it’s not a matter of the reason why people have got particular citizenships Kieran. This is the problem, and that’s why the High Court made it clear. It’s a matter of foreign law. It’s a matter of what the law of Hungary said. It’s a matter of what the law of Poland said.


GILBERT: But as Josh Frydenberg says the government of Hungary at the time would have pushed his family into the gas chamber, and they arrived here stateless…


DREYFUS: And mine too. It’s a matter of the law of Hungary in the case of his family and it’s a matter of the law of the Nazi regime in Germany and then the post-war German law in my family.


GILBERT: And that’s the point, and I think that’s why it’s raised a few eyebrows in the government and elsewhere that you’re making this point now. Against Falinski and against Frydenberg when Tanya Plibersek last month said “I think we’re actually getting into pretty disturbing territory, I mean these people like millions, fled the Holocaust and I really do think we’re going a bridge too far when we start to pursue people in these circumstances.” But yet you’re doing it this morning.


DREYFUS: It’s a matter of the constitution of Australia. I’m simply making the point that the High Court decisions need to be applied, the Constitution needs to be observed. The High Court has said it is a matter of foreign law, foreign citizenship law. It’s a matter of the law of Hungary, the law of Poland, the law of Germany, the law of Greece, the law of Italy. And these MPs need to do what the disclosure process called for. Not simply hide behind legal advice, not say I’ve got legal advice and that’s enough.


GILBERT: Is it hiding behind legal advice to show a document that says your mother is stateless? That’s what Josh Frydenberg did. And Anthony Albanese, he was asked by David Speers last month as well – “It’s stamped stateless, do you think there’s a problem for Josh Frydenberg?” And he says: “commonsense tells you that someone who comes with ‘stateless’ on their birth certificate to me very clearly is stateless.” And then you’ve got your other colleague Tanya Plibersek saying it’s going a bridge too far when you pursue people in these circumstances.


DREYFUS: I am not reaching a conclusion here Kieran. I am saying the disclosure has been inadequate. We seem to have a cover-up in the case of Jason Falinski, in the case of Nola Marino, in the case of Julia Banks, Alex Hawke, Michael McCormack, Arthur Sinodinos and possibly Josh Frydenberg. And it’s a matter of them making proper disclosure. That’s what we’re calling for Kieran. And if there is not proper disclosure then there needs to be a referral to the High Court.


GILBERT: OK let’s move beyond the Frydenberg matter to the Falinski matter. What proof have you got that he hasn’t provided all the detail?


DREYFUS: He said in his disclosure statement that he made enquiries with the Polish consulate. And that is not sufficient.


GILBERT: So you’re saying, you assert that he is of Polish heritage given his family fled Poland?


DREYFUS: Of course, and he’s disclosed that much at least, and that puts everyone on inquiry and it needs to be explained in every case. That was the purpose of this disclosure process. It’s extraordinary that the Prime Minister seems to have directed his MPs. Just like Mitch Fifield advised former President of the Senate Stephen Parry to conceal the fact that he had a problem.


GILBERT: But Tanya Plibersek just a month ago said it’s a bridge too far to be pursuing Frydenberg and Falinski, maybe they thought that Labor would keep to its word.


DREYFUS: It’s a matter of proper disclosure being made. Of course we feel sympathy. Of course there is tremendous sympathy that this process has caused people…


GILBERT: But I’ve seen the arrival documents, it says she was stateless, Frydenberg’s mum. How on earth could you suggest that she is of Hungarian heritage when it said stateless when his mother arrived?


DREYFUS: It’s a question of Hungarian law. And we need to see what is the effect of both the law in Hungary during the war and in Hungary after the war.


GILBERT: Just finally on Julia Banks, Michael McCormack, Alex Hawke, Arthur Sinodinos. You in your news release said they had an unconvincing letter from the Greek embassy and refused to provide legal advice. If you’ve got a letter from a foreign government, how is it unconvincing? The Greek embassy has given them a letter, saying they’re not citizens.


DREYFUS: The letter does not say that they’re not citizens.


GILBERT: So why is it unconvincing then?


DREYFUS: Because it’s the consulate saying that an enquiry has been made in a municipal ministry somewhere in Greece which is not a complete inquiry and the advice that we have about Greek citizenship law suggests that much fuller disclosure needs to be made. In the case of Julia Banks, to take an example. The registry relating to her mother’s family as well as the registry relating to her father’s citizenship. Because on both sides of her family, she has Greek citizenship.


GILBERT: But most people would see a letter from the Greek authorities…


DREYFUS: And her brother is a Greek citizen. So we’ve got a range of facts there. We’ve got some half-statements that have been made by the Liberal Party in Victoria saying at the time this first came up they were scrambling to make enquiries. She’s now trying to say that before she nominated she made the enquiries…


GILBERT: But most people would see a letter from the Greek authorities as enough evidence to say that they’re not Greek citizens.


DREYFUS: Well it’s not the letter from all of the actual Greek authorities, it’s a letter from the consulate in Melbourne. And she hasn’t completed.


GILBERT: It’s still the Greek authorities isn’t it? The consulate?


DREYFUS: It’s what the letter says, and she’s saying she’s got legal advice. She should disclose that legal advice. And that’s what all of them should do. If they’ve got legal advice they should disclose it so as to put….


GILBERT: You have made suggestions in your statement – is there legal advice in yours?


DREYFUS: I don’t need legal advice because I know what the law was in Germany during the war, and I know what the law is after the war in Germany. I do after all have some legal qualifications. And it’s very clear to me what happened in the case of my family.


GILBERT: Mr Dreyfus, thank you for your time.


DREYFUS: Thank you very much Kieran.