Another Turnbull government minister has dual citizenship - but won't stand aside

A profound political crisis engulfing the Australian government and the entire parliament has continued to spiral out of control this week.

Fiona Nash, deputy leader of the Nationals revealed to the senate on Thursday afternoon that she may in fact be a dual British citizen.

The Nationals' Matt Canavan and Barnaby Joyce, along with One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, have also been referred but have chose to remain in the parliament, pending the court's decision.

She has represented the Nationals in the Senate since 2005, and has served as deputy leader of the party since February 2016. Presumably Ms Nash will join the other five cases once Parliament resumes.

However, Nash indicated she would not step down from her portfolio responsibilities. Travel records show the elder Xenophou travelled to Australia in 1951 as a British citizen, the ABC reports.

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So now, the court must rule individually on each Senator.

"I want an audit", Mr Xenophon told FIVEaa's Leon Byner on Friday.

But unlike the deputy PM, who holds a lower house seat, Nash sits in the upper house Senate. This includes another National Party minister, David Gillespie, who has been accused of a financial conflict of interest, in violation of section 44 (v) of the Constitution.

The dual citizen MPs will get their first hearing before the High Court next Thursday. In effect, the seven judges will determine the future of the government and the make-up of the parliament. She joins her Nationals colleagues after two Greens senators - Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam - resigned and One Nation's Malcolm Roberts was referred to the High Court over his status. The Greens quit their seats immediately last month, without a fight, after it was revealed that they were dual citizens, inadvertently, from birth.

The meaning of section 44 (i) has not been read by the High Court as an absolute bar on a candidate being a foreign citizen.

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Crossbench senator Nick Xenophon is making enquiries with the British Home Office after questions were raised about whether he picked up British citizenship by descent through his father.

Australia's constitution bans dual citizens from parliament on the basis that lawmakers should be loyal exclusively to the country in which they were elected.

This led to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop claiming she would find it hard to build trust with a New Zealand Labour-led government.

The turmoil could worsen. Both Labor and the Coalition have so far rejected the move. In particular, any ministerial action that Joyce and Nash take from now on, having acknowledged their possible disqualifications, could be illegal.

The Prime Minister can ask the Governor-General to discontinue the session of Parliament, but at this point it's unlikely he'd want to do that.

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If Joyce is deemed ineligible for office, the government might fall. Nevertheless, the government's desperate actions are a warning of the political establishment's readiness to resort to vicious nationalism, branding opponents as treasonous, as its political crisis deepens.



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