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Four parliamentarians dismiss allegations of holding dual citizenship.



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MARK COLVIN: Had One Nation made four phone calls, it appears they might have found the allegations were baseless. All four federal parliamentarians have told PM they are not dual citizens.

 

Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra that three renounced their foreign citizenship sometime ago, and the fourth says he's only ever been considered an Australian, having arrived in the country as a refugee after the Second World War.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Liberal MP, Alex Somlyay, was born in Hungary the year after the war ended and, as an infant, emigrated with his family to Australia. He says he arrived here with no citizenship and is angered by the One Nation allegation.

 

ALEX SOMLYAY: Well, I am offended by that statement and I find it defamatory as well. I have not got dual citizenship. I am an Australian citizen and I have been elected to parliament four times. I have, on each occasion, sworn allegiance to the Queen and that's the end of that.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   You came to Australia when you were two.

 

ALEX SOMLYAY:   Yes.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   So do you retain the citizenship of the country where you were born?

 

ALEX SOMLYAY:   No, no. My parents were refugees from Hungary, and refugees were stateless persons and I had no citizenship when I came to Australia as a two year old.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   So what do you put these latest claims down to, do you think?

 

ALEX SOMLYAY:   Oh, sour grapes on behalf of One Nation. Look, the Liberal Party has very strict rules concerning preselection and nomination to parliament, and all these issues are properly checked out and every candidate for election has to satisfy the requirements of section 44 of the Constitution before the Liberal Party will endorse them as candidates. And this was checked thoroughly, in my case, and with every other Liberal candidate. Maybe One Nation should have been a bit more careful when they endorsed their candidates.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   Labor Senator, Jim McKiernan retains a strong Irish accent but renounced his Irish citizenship more than a decade ago.

 

JIM McKIERNAN: I got Australian citizenship, regrettably, in the late eighties. I had to, on advice, relinquish my Irish citizenship. It was something I didn't particularly enjoy doing at the time but it was something I had to do in order to hang on to my seat, my job.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   So when you were elected did you have dual citizenship?

 

JIM McKIERNAN:   At that particular point in time I did and there was attention drawn to it at the 1987 election. We took advice from the then Attorney-General, and were advised that we should do all things to relinquish a second citizenship, if we had them, and I did at that time and actually relinquished.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   So having been an MP … or a Senator, at the time, and having dual citizenship, is that open then to legal challenge do you think?

 

JIM McKIERNAN:   I don't think it is now. There were a number of people in that same boat at the time of all political parties. I would doubt very much if the High Court would entertain a retrospective legal challenge.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   Senator McKiernan then went into the parliament to have esprit.

 

JIM McKIERNAN:   And I resent the fact, not only that she put out a press statement proving once and for all that she's a goose, but I really do resent the fact that she misspelt my name.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   Democrats senator, Andrew Murray, says he finds Ms Hanson's allegation offensive and says she should have checked her facts before making any public statement.

 

When did you renounce your citizenship?

 

ANDREW MURRAY: Sometime in early '96, I think.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   You had renounced your citizenship before you decided to stand for parliament?

 

ANDREW MURRAY:   Oh, well before. What's she doing wandering around the country making allegations against people? It's an astonishing thing to do.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK:   And last but not least, Liberal MP, Peter Nugent.

 

Do you have dual citizenship?

 

PETER NUGENT: Categorically, no. I got elected in 1990. I have been an Australian citizen since the early 1980s. At the time that I got elected, although we weren't aware at that time that you needed to specifically renounce one's overseas citizenship, I actually did it voluntarily, working on the basis that if you aspire to be a leader in the Australian community you should make it publicly clear that you only had one allegiance.

 

MARK COLVIN: Federal Liberal MP, Peter Nugent, ending that report from Alexandra Kirk in Canberra.