News National MP’s Greek heritage had Liberals running scared – for good reason

MP’s Greek heritage had Liberals running scared – for good reason

Julia Banks
Senior Liberal MPs have reportedly speculated Julia Banks could be a dual Greek-Australian citizen Photo: AAP
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Speculation Victorian Liberal MP Julie Banks could be a dual Greek-Australian citizen and put Malcolm Turnbull’s majority government in peril has eased now that the Greek embassy has confirmed federal government backbencher Julia Banks is not a citizen.

“We have received confirmation from the Greek Embassy that according to records, Julia Banks is not registered as a Greek citizen and also is not entitled as a Greek citizen,” a party spokesman said in a statement late on Friday afternoon.

Ms Banks late father, Phil Lolatgis, migrated from Piraeus, Greece, in 1949 as a 15-year-old, while her mother, Helen, was born in Australia.

“I have never taken up Greek citizenship,” Ms Banks said in a text message to media outlets on Friday.

The Herald Sun and The Age both reported that senior Liberals expressed doubts over Ms Banks’ citizenship status, while a senior Victorian Liberal source was quoted as saying that the proper vetting process did not appear to have been followed before the election.

A spokesperson for the first-term MP, who is overseas, rejected those reports to The New Daily.

“She was born an Australian citizen. At the time of her birth, both her parents were Australian citizens,” the spokesperson said.

“She has never taken up Greek citizenship.”

If she had been found ineligible to stand at the last election, the Prime Minister’s majority could be destabilised. The government holds just a one-seat majority in the Lower House.

Ms Banks was narrowly elected to the marginal seat of Chisholm at the 2016 federal election, taking the seat held previously by Labor. She won the poll by just 2154 votes, making Chisholm the only seat the Liberal Party took off Labor in the federal election.

On a two-party-preferred basis, Ms Banks took the seat by just 1.2 per cent, giving Labor a reasonable shot at winning the seat back should it be declared vacant.

While Ms Banks appears to be off the hook, the controversy brings into sharp focus the danger the Turnbull government is in should a Coalition member in the lower house be found to be ineligible.

In that event, Mr Turnbull would lose his majority and be dependent on cross-benchers to pass legislation.

The speculation over Ms Banks’ eligibility came after two Greens Senators, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, resigned after learning they were dual citizens and, therefore, in breach of Section 44 of the Constitution.

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan stood down from Cabinet when he discovered he might also hold dual-citizenship, insisting his mother applied for his Italian citizenship in 2006 but never bothered to tell him. He is contesting the issue and will take the fight to the High Court.

Question marks also continue to cloud One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts’ eligibility.

He maintains he is not a UK citizen, but has refused to release documents proving he does not hold dual citizenship.

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