News National Justice Minister Michael Keenan denies he is a UK citizen
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Justice Minister Michael Keenan denies he is a UK citizen

michael Keenan
Fresh claims accuse Justice Minister Michael Keenan of olding British citizenship. Photo: AAP
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Justice Minister Michael Keenen has denied claims he may be a British citizen in a series of angry tweets Thursday morning.

A Fairfax Media report earlier quoted experts as saying Mr Keenan may be a “citizen by descent” of the United Kingdom.

Mr Keenan has an English father who emigrated to Australia in 1943 and experts were quoted as saying that the Minister would hold dual citizenship unless he or his father underwent a formal renunciation process.

Australian-born Mr Keenan’s father, Peter, was born in the English town of Durham in 1943 and moved to Australia before the Justice Minister was born in 1972.

Fairfax Media said despite two days of questioning, Mr Keenan’s office refused to confirm whether he had undertaken formal reunification, saying only he was a “Australian citizen and does not hold citizenship of any other country”.

On Thursday morning Mr Keenan denied the claims saying he renounced his UK citizenship before being elected to Parliament.

The claims over Mr Keenan’s citizenship and eligibility to sit in Parliament came days after it was revealed that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is a New Zealand citizen by descent.

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan was last month forced to resign from Cabinet after he said he discovered his mother signed him up for Italian citizenship without his knowledge.

The High Court has set down a directions hearing next Thursday for Mr Joyce and Senator Canavan, as well as One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, who was born in India to an English father.

Greens Senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam stood down last month after they discovered they were ineligible to sit in parliament due to their citizenship.

Australian Conservatives Senator Cory Bernardi on Thursday called for Parliament to be prorogued, or discontinued, pending the High Court’s decision.

“There are great concerns about the health and wellbeing of our institutions,” Senator Bernardi said outside parliament.

“And so after some contemplation I believe there is only one way forward for this parliament, and that is for the Prime Minister to prorogue the parliament, and that is to effectively end this session, pending the outcome of the High Court, pending any by-elections that may be necessary.”

Senator Derryn Hinch called for an independent audit of citizenship.

He said the government and the ALP could get dual citizenship out of the headlines if they agreed with the Senate cross-bench and voted for independent auditor.

Philip Gamble, director of immigration and nationality at UK consultancy firm Sable International, was quoted by Fairfax as saying Mr Keenan’s father’s status as a UK citizen would not have been affected by becoming an Australian citizen.

Mr Gamble said under the British Nationality Act of 1948, the Justice Minister would have received the status of a citizen of “the UK and colonies” at birth and  would not have had to ‘activate’ it, through registration.

“Nothing in the later UK nationality legislation will have removed British citizenship from Peter and Michael,” Mr Gamble was quoted as saying.

“Peter and Michael  acquired their British nationality by operation of law and no action was required for them to ‘activate’ this status – Michael will be a British citizen ‘by descent’ unless he has taken the formal step to renounce British nationality”.

In order to cancel dual citizenship under the British Nationality Act of 1981, a formal application needs to be made and a fee paid.

Mr Keenan referred to his British heritage in his maiden speech to Parliament.

“My father and his family arrived in country New South Wales from Britain and opened a small clothing store. My mother is the daughter of a tram mechanic and she left school at 15.

“Together they built a family and a small business and were able to afford their children opportunities they could never have imagined,” he said.

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