The political citizenship saga continues with Independent Senator Nick Xenophon announcing his British “overseas” citizenship status.
The South Australian crossbench senator has confirmed with the British Home Office he holds citizenship and is thus not entitled under the Constitution to sit in the Senate.
Xenophon’s father, Theodoros Xenophou, came to Australia in 1951 on a British passport from the then-British territory of Cyprus, making him a “British overseas citizen”.
“The circumstances of this are bizarre and rare,” Mr Xenophon said.
“I never contemplated that I could have been a British colonial citizen, and that is why I didn’t go through an act of renunciation with the UK.”
Mr Xenophon said the UK Home Office advised him that his form of citizenship is ‘useless’ and gave him little rights in the UK.
“This bizarre category of third-class British citizenship has its use in effect of allowing historical British empire colonial subjects to travel and not much else; just one notch above being stateless.”
Mr Xenophon said he will refer himself to the High Court over his British overseas citizenship status when Parliament resumes, joining a growing line of parliamentarians whose futures will depend on the bench’s ruling.
Senator Xenophon will stay in Parliament and continue to vote on legislation in the meantime.
The Senator choose not to nominate parliamentary opponents working to expose his citizenship status when he addressed a press conference outside the British Hotel in North Adelaide on Saturday afternoon.
“All’s fair in politics, I guess, but it’s interesting that they have the energy and the commitment to do this,” Mr Xenophon said.
“If only some of my political opponents put as much energy into issues that are of great concern to South Australia such as energy prices, substance abuse, jobs and job security as they did in trying to track down this very rare colonial peculiarity.”
Other federal parliamentarians to have been referred to the High Court include the Nationals’ Matt Canavan, Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts and the Greens’ Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters.
Mr Xenophon also said it could be “much tidier” if the Deputy Prime Minister stood aside.
A spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce told The New Daily, Mr Xenophon’s comments didn’t change what Mr Joyce had already said on public record.
“There is no constitutional reason to do so (step aside), and the legal advice we have received is very firm,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Joyce was born in Australia, but his father was a New Zealand citizen which automatically confers citizenship to the Deputy Prime Minister under New Zealand law.
The Deputy PM has refused to step aside from his ministerial duties or the Parliament and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backed him to stay.
If the High Court forced the resignation of Coalition members the government would lose its one seat majority.
In response to questions at the South Australian press conference, Mr Xenophon agreed there should be an audit of all politicians’ citizenship status.
“It’s getting a bit ridiculous. No wonder so many Australians hate politicians so much because they are too busy trying to fight amongst themselves and score points,” he said.
“They’re trying to use a technicality like this rather than getting on with the business of representing and solving the important problems that this country has.”