High Court kicks off MP citizenship cases

The High Court will give a clearer picture on how long it will take to consider the futures of five MPs when it holds a directions hearing in Brisbane.

It is also expected former independent MP Tony Windsor will seek to make submissions on Thursday in the case of his former rival, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he’s very confident the court will find in favour of MPs such as Mr Joyce, who recently discovered they are dual citizens by descent.

Attorney-General George Brandis has recommended to the court a hearing by the full court be held on September 13 and 14.

He said in a submission to the court there is a “compelling public interest” to determine the cases as soon as possible.

Under section 44 of the constitution a person is incapable of being elected to the parliament if they are a “citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power”.

Mr Joyce, the deputy prime minister, has been found to have been a New Zealand citizen by descent but the government has advice this isn’t enough to unseat him.

If the court finds him to be ineligible, it will trigger a by-election in his NSW seat of New England, and potentially put at risk the government’s one-seat majority in the lower house.

The court will also examine stood-aside cabinet minister Matt Canavan, whose mother over a decade ago signed him up to be an Italian resident abroad.

In the cases of One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts and former Greens senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, they were born overseas.

If any of the senators are disqualified from parliament their seat will go to the next person on their parties’ respective Senate tickets from the 2016 federal election.

Two other senators, Fiona Nash and Nick Xenophon, will soon also be referred by parliament to the court over their UK citizenship by descent.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson defended the fact that taxpayers were funding the cases.

“It’s a shame it has got to this and it’s being challenged,” she said, when asked about Senator Roberts’ situation.

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