Attorney-General George Brandis has accused some Labor MPs of hiding in plain sight amid questions over their eligibility to sit in parliament.
The federal government and opposition are in talks behind the scenes after disclosure documents tabled in parliament revealed more MPs who could be referred to the High Court over their citizenship status.
The coalition has at least four lower house Labor MPs in its sights – David Feeney, Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson – alongside Senator Katy Gallagher.
“Now we know that there are four of their MPs and one of their senators who basically have been trying to hide in plain sight over the last couple of months while this saga has been brewing,” Senator Brandis told Nine Network on Wednesday.
He called on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to agree to refer his own MPs to the High Court, adding parliament had the right to do so if he did not.
“It doesn’t have to be a showdown if Mr Shorten does the right thing,” Senator Brandis said.
Mr Feeney will ask to be referred to the High Court on Thursday if documents relating to his UK citizenship renunciation can’t be found in time, potentially triggering a by-election in his Victorian seat of Batman.
The MP has been in the spotlight before.
He last year famously forgot to declare his $2.3 million Melbourne investment property in the parliamentary register of interests.
Ms Keay, whose father was born in the UK, received confirmation she had renounced her citizenship on July 8, 2016, six days after the 2016 federal election.
Ms Lamb, whose father was born in Scotland, filled out her renunciation form on May 24, 2016.
However, on August 10, 2016, the British bureaucracy told her: “We cannot be satisfied from the documents available that you hold British citizenship. The application has therefore been refused.”
Mr Wilson, who was born in London, completed his renunciation form on May 12, 2016.
However, the date of the UK Home Office letter confirming renunciation was June 24, well after the close of nominations for the 2016 election.
Labor frontbencher Tony Burke insists Ms Keay and Ms Lamb could not have taken any additional steps to renounce their foreign citizenship.
“We can’t have a situation where the onus … is on the candidate to complete all their reasonable steps but the decision about whether or not their eligible is driven by a junior public servant in Great Britain,” he told ABC radio.
Senator Brandis dismissed that argument as “utter rubbish”, accusing Labor of throwing up a smokescreen around its MPs.
Ms Keay and Ms Lamb were pre-selected more than a year before the 2016 election and yet they didn’t initiate the renunciation process until after the election was called, he said.
Senator Brandis believes no more coalition MPs have citizenship issues, despite Labor casting doubt about Jason Falinski, Ross Vasta, Nola Marino, Julia Banks, Alex Hawke, Michael McCormack and potentially cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg and Senator Arthur Sinodinos.
Mr Falinski has sought further legal advice after being unable to ascertain whether his USSR-born father, Polish and British born grandfathers and Leningrad-born grandmother conferred foreign citizenship on him.
Nick Xenophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie’s eligibility is also in doubt.
Former senators Jacqui Lambie and Skye Kakoschke-Moore, and former Senate President Stephen Parry, already have dates with the High Court.