End the citizenship saga

November 08, 2017

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rejected calls for an audit of MPs citizenship status.

The citizenship saga, which appears to be engulfing Federal Parliament and proving more and more damaging to the government by the day, seems set to continue for some time.

More names and citizenship statuses are brought into question each week, daily even, with MPs John Alexander and Josh Frydenberg involved in the saga in recent days.

If the Australian electorate is getting increasingly tired about the episode dragging further, it would come as no surprise.

As the saga goes on, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had rejected calls for an audit of MPs citizenship status, saying only the High Court has the power to determine who is eligible for parliament.

The number of MPs who have resigned or been ruled ineligible to sit in Federal Parliament as a result of dual citizenships is growing, and may rise.

Mr Turnbull jumped to the defence of Mr Frydenberg amid questions about his citizenship status, accusing those pushing for a citizenship audit of MPs as engaging in ‘‘witch hunts’’.

Amid reports both major parties had been doing checks for a while, Greens leader Richard Di Natale said there was ‘‘no longer any excuse for the government not to commit unequivocally to a transparent, independent audit of every single member of parliament’’.

This week, Mr Turnbull has announced Federal MPs would be required to declare to parliament they were not citizens of another country, with the obligation being on each MP to make the disclosure.

The suggestion was almost immediately labelled a measure to continue to ‘‘kick the can down the road,’’ with the Greens leader arguing voluntary disclosure would not work.

Perhaps concerns do exist on the merits of an audit. But such a measure would surely be in the interests of the Australian electorate to make sure the saga, which has provided an unwelcome and lengthy distraction, draws to a close sooner rather than later.

And perhaps more importantly, make sure public confidence isn’t further eroded.

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