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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10022


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (10:46): I rise to indicate that the opposition will be supporting this motion for suspension, and we support it for very good reasons. One of the things that Senator Di Natale didn't refer to is the responsible and brave way in which, over the last 24 hours, the Australian Labor Party has dealt with the outcomes following this issue of releasing the details on citizenship. When Senator Gallagher's eligibility was raised because of her links with Britain, she very bravely yesterday, at the first opportunity that she had, got up and indicated that she was referring herself to the High Court. It is worth pointing out that the consequence of that action, to some extent, overcomes the total unwillingness of the Turnbull government to make a series of referrals in the lower house. Senator Gallagher knew that she had British citizenship, and she did exactly what she was expected to do—that is, to make an application through the appropriate sources to renounce that citizenship. She did all of that prior to her nomination at the last election to the Senate. But, because of a delay at the other end with the British government, her renunciation letter didn't come in until after her nomination. By referring herself, as she did, she will determine, I think, the issue in respect of a number of other members of parliament, and I think it's appropriate to describe that action as brave and sensible in the circumstances.

Yesterday, Senator Feeney—a former senator in this place and a very, very fine man—was honest enough to concede that, although he understood that, when he first ran for parliament in 2007, he had renounced both his Irish citizenship and his British citizenship, he's been unable to find the renunciation letter in respect of his British citizenship. Rather than raise questions about how this should be dealt with, he did the right thing and immediately referred himself to the High Court.

I ask you to note the sequence of events of yesterday afternoon. It was the aim of the Labor Party and all of the crossbenchers in the lower house to refer anybody with a question mark over their citizenship to the High Court. This matter has been dragging on and on and on. It's been like pulling teeth to get the government to do anything about this matter.

Senator Cormann: What about the Labor Party?

Senator FARRELL: I will take that interjection. If you wanted to act responsibly, there was a way to do it. I notice Senator Fifield is sitting next to you. What happened?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Williams ): You are directing your comments to the chair, I assume?

Senator FARRELL: Thank you for that helpful reminder. Mr Acting Deputy President, let's look at Senator Fifield's role in this. What happened? That very fine man who used to occupy that seat that you're now sitting in, Mr Acting Deputy President, came to Senator Fifield with some concerns about his own citizenship. What did Senator Fifield do about it? He is a minister of the Crown. He was made aware there were some issues regarding Senator Parry's citizenship—Senator Parry having referred off a whole range of people. What did Senator Fifield do about it? Did he tell his leader? Did he tell the Prime Minister, 'I think we've got a problem with the President of the Senate'? No, he didn't do that. Did he tell any other ministers? Perhaps he told the Attorney-General, who had been handling all this? Apparently he didn't do that. (Time expired)