Letter says Labor MP renounced her Egyptian nationality on 6 May 2016, two days before Malcolm Turnbull called the election
The Labor MP Anne Aly has produced a letter from the Egyptian embassy stating she renounced her dual-citizenship two days before the 2016 election was called, after fresh questions were raised about her eligibility to sit in parliament.
According to the letter, Aly only had Australian citizenship when she nominated for the election and was therefore validly elected to federal parliament.
Aly was forced to seek clarification from the Egyptian embassy on Friday after attention was drawn to her eligibility, with The Australian suggesting her individual situation bore similarities to Labor senator Katy Gallagher’s.
The high court ruled unanimously this week that Gallagher was ineligible to sit in parliament, which set off a chain of resignations from four MPs, including three from Labor.
Labor and the Coalition are now preparing for a “super Saturday” string of byelections in four states that will be crucial to the next federal election, including Queensland and Western Australia.
On Friday Aly produced a document dated 11 May 2018, from the Egyptian embassy declaring she renounced her citizenship on 6 May 2016, and that “nothing further needed to be done to make her renunciation effective.”
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“In addition, according to the Egyptian Law Article 16 of Law Number 26 issued (in) 1975, that any Egyptian who obtains another Nationality without permission will lose his/her Egyptian Nationality by default,” the letter said.
It meant Aly received confirmation of her renunciation two days before Malcolm Turnbull called the election on 8 May 2016.
Writs for the election were issued on 16 May, and nominations closed on 9 June.
Questions were raised about Aly’s eligibility because, according to the citizenship registry which was established in December, she sent an official request for cancellation of her Egyptian citizenship on 4 May 2016, a month before nominations closed, but she did not produce a letter confirming if or when that request was met.
Labor’s leader, Bill Shorten, asked Aly to reconfirm the advice she had received from the Egyptian embassy.
When asked if Labor would release that advice, Shorten said: “I think she’ll have to make that public.”
Malcolm Turnbull then called on Aly to provide proof she was not a citizen of Egypt when she nominated for the election.
He reminded voters, during a press conference in Sydney, that Shorten had repeatedly claimed last year that Labor’s vetting processes for its MPs were better than the Coalition’s but he had been proven wrong.
“Now we have Dr Aly ... who Mr Shorten has assured us is eligible to sit in the parliament,” Turnbull said on Friday.
“She has to provide proof that she was not a citizen of another country at the time she nominated for parliament.”
Aly told Sky News she attained Australian citizenship when she was a child, but she contacted the Egyptian embassy again on Friday to put voters’ minds at ease.
“I understand that the Australian people need clarity on this, particularly after the recent high court rulings, and I’m very happy to comply with that clarity,” she said.
“I think this lays [the issue] to rest once and for all.”
On Wednesday the high court unanimously held that Gallagher was ineligible to sit in parliament because she had failed to renounce her British citizenship by the nomination deadline for the 2016 election.
In Gallagher’s case, the court adopted a strict approach to the constitutional bar on foreign citizens sitting in parliament, clarifying that taking “all steps reasonably required” to renounce foreign citizenship was only a defence where foreign law “irremediably prevents” the Australian citizen from doing so.
That would require an “insurmountable obstacle” to renouncing foreign citizenship, five justices said in a joint decision. The court held there was no such irremediable impediment for Gallagher and found that the requirements of UK law could not be described as onerous.
Australia citizenship crisis reignites as senator and four MPs quit
Three Labor MPs – Josh Wilson (Fremantle, WA), Justine Keay (Braddon, Tasmania) and Susan Lamb (Longman, Queensland), as well as the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo, South Australia) resigned within hours, accepting the Gallagher case as a precedent because they had relied on the same defence.
All their electorates except Fremantle are marginal seats, setting Labor a task to hold Longman and Braddon and giving an opportunity to the Liberal party to retake Sharkie’s seat of Mayo. Shorten must also defend the seat of Perth after the frontbench MP Tim Hammond’s resignation, which comes into effect on Friday along with the other MPs.
Aly holds the WA seat of Cowan on a 0.7% margin. At the 2016 election she won the seat with a 5.2% swing.
Shorten said he was confident Labor would win every byelection coming up – the date has not been announced – and dared Malcolm Turnbull to run Liberal candidates against Labor.
“I’m curious if Mr Turnbull is even going to run candidates in every seat where there’s a byelection, he hasn’t actually told us that,” he said. “I’m going to see if he’s too chicken to turn and put his miserly tax cuts against my better tax cuts.”
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