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Wednesday, 7 February 2018
Page: 571

Ms LAMB (Longman) (15:18): There've been attacks on me by a number of ministers, including yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister, during question time and on social media. These attacks go to whether I took reasonable steps to renounce my UK citizenship prior to nominating for office. I can only answer by providing the House and the Australian people a deeply personal part of my story. I'm proud to be the member for Longman. I'm also proud to be a member of the Labor Party. After I put up my hand to be a candidate at the 2016 election, I received a call letting me know that I may hold entitlement of citizenship to another country. I asked for my party's assistance, and I received it. I received it immediately. I completed the forms required by the UK Home Office and I paid the required fee. I posted this by registered post with the required supporting documents. I waited for the fee to be processed, and my payment was accepted. Then I was nominated.

The administrative process that followed requested I provide some additional documents. One request was if I had ever held a British passport. For the record, I have never held a British passport. In fact I've never been to the UK in my life. Another request was for a copy of my parents' marriage certificate. I was advised that I did not have a legal right to obtain a copy of my parents' marriage certificate. My mother has that legal entitlement, as would my dad if he were still alive, but sadly he left us far too early in life.

I want to explain to the House why I can't obtain a copy of my parents' marriage certificate. It's a complex and traumatic story—a story that I don't usually share. One day, when I was around six years old, my mum dropped me off at school and she never came back to pick me up. I don't remember every detail of what happened afterwards. I remember lots of tears. I remember lots of confusion. I remember my dad trying to explain. I remember, some time later, dad taking me to the train station late one evening to collect my mother. I thought she was going to come home. The train came, the train went and there was no sign of her. So we went home.

I remember one day going outside the front of the mill gates. We lived on the mill grounds in Mackay in North Queensland. I remember there being a small store and a petrol bowser out the front. A car turned up. I think it was a Torana. It's funny how these little things stick in your mind, isn't it? I remember that part. My mother got out, words were exchanged and then my mother drove away. My dad was now a single parent—an amazing man, whose example I try to live up to every day of my life.

My mother wasn't at my seventh birthday or the birthday after that. She wasn't there to help when I brought my fourth son home from hospital to meet his brothers. She wasn't there for my school graduation. She wasn't there last year for my youngest son's graduation when he was 17—in fact, they have never met. She wasn't there to help me campaign. She wasn't there to celebrate when we won. She wasn't there to support me when I needed it. Many years ago, we made an attempt to build a relationship, but, regrettably, that failed. I don't know what was going on in my mum's life back then. I don't know what was going on when she dropped me off and never came back. I don't know what's going on in her life now—I have no idea. The fact is that we don't have a relationship. I imagine she carries her share of pain and trauma—and, if it is anything like mine, I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

I don't speak about this trauma. So, when people ask me why I couldn't just call my mother, well, this is why, and I hope this story gives you the answer. I would rather not share this story with my closest friends, let alone the Parliament of Australia. But telling people it was deeply personal circumstances wasn't enough for the political attacks to back off. So now it's been said, and the good people of my electorate of Longman need to hear it. The fact is that my mum is not around to grant me access to her marriage certificate, and my dad passed away nearly 20 years ago and spent the decade before that unable to care for himself and needing 24-hour care.

These are not things I find easy to re-live. This is not a story to gain sympathy. I don't speak out of hatred for my mother. I carry hurt, I carry disappointment and, it would be fair to say, I still carry a fair bit of anger. This story is about explaining, as simply as I can, that that extra document that the UK Home Office requested after they received my renunciation, my parents' marriage certificate, is a document I was advised I do not have a legal entitlement to obtain.

I would simply ask those opposite: take a moment and think about the circumstances. Think about the consequences of attacks like this on my family: my family, who like so many other families are studying, who are working—working weekends and nights; my family, who work hard, pay their fair share of tax—they're single parents; my family, who are tradies and hospitality workers. My family, like every other family in my community, are good people. They are good people, and they do not deserve to have the media digging through their lives or turning up on their doorsteps. Yes, I put my hand up for public life, but they didn't.

These attacks have caused pain and opened up wounds that have never healed—wounds inflicted on a very confused six-year-old little girl. I've fought that pain my whole life, but I can tell you now that there are bigger fights I care about, and that's why I'm here, and that's the fight I want to continue on behalf of the people of Longman.

In December last year I voted yes to end uncertainty this parliament had over a number of members in this House. I did this, confident in more than 40 pages of evidence of reasonable and necessary steps I took, knowing that a letter from the UK HO advising they could not be satisfied that I'm a British citizen has been disclosed, and knowing that three independent barristers, including a retired justice of the Federal Court of Australia, have resoundingly agreed that I took all reasonable steps to renounce my citizenship and that I was validly elected to parliament and am eligible to sit in this House. I remain confident I took all reasonable steps to renounce my citizenship, and nothing will change. Everything to see has been shown, except now I've been forced to rip that bandaid off a very painful story—painful to me and painful to my family.

The simple fact is that not all families look like the Australian version of Little House on the Prairie, let me tell you. In fact, most don't. Families are complex, they face challenges and sometimes, just sometimes, for whatever reason they're just like mine. Thank you.