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September 17, 2021

Turnbull scolds Parry but rejects audit

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Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t told of Stephen Parry’s dual citizenship dilemma until it emerged in the media and has savaged the outgoing Senate president for not coming forward sooner.

The prime minister on Wednesday rejected calls for a citizenship audit of all members of federal parliament while admonishing the Liberal senator for delaying the disclosure of his British links.

He insisted it was up to MPs to dob themselves in if they were worried their citizenship status could rule them ineligible to sit in parliament.

“I’m disappointed Senator Parry didn’t make public this issue some time ago, quite some time ago,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Jerusalem.
”

He chose to delay his reporting of it, he should’ve reported it much earlier and it could’ve been referred to the High Court together with the other matters that were dealt with.”

Senator Parry will submit his resignation as Senate president and Senator for Tasmania on Thursday after receiving advice from the Home Office he held British citizenship through his UK-born father.

He is the first Liberal to be enmeshed in the citizenship saga following the disqualification of cabinet ministers and Nationals Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash.

The Greens and some Labor and coalition backbenchers are calling for an audit of all members’ citizenships to clear the air.

But Mr Turnbull dismissed the idea.

“What is an audit? Does that mean somebody is going to undertake extensive genealogical research on every member of parliament and senator? Undertake extensive research into foreign laws?” he said.

“I expect every member and senator to take their obligation very seriously. If they feel they’re not in compliance with the constitution to say so.”

Senator Parry is widely expected to be replaced by former minister Richard Colbeck, who fell just short of securing a Senate seat at the 2016 election.

“It is an opportunity I was not expecting so soon, obviously,” he told the Hobart Mercury.

“Now a door has opened which nobody anticipated – unfortunately Stephen’s circumstances have opened that.”

But Mr Turnbull may need to play umpire over who is elected Senate president.

Nationals MPs are lobbying hard for NSW senator John “Wacka” Williams to fill the role.

It seems unlikely, though, with the prime minister saying the role was typically filled by a Liberal.

“The Liberal party, as the larger party in the coalition, has always chosen from its senators the president when in government.”

Mr Turnbull will arrive in Perth on Thursday evening ahead of a regional trade conference and meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.


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