Labor MP Anne Aly has released a letter asserting she renounced her Egyptian citizenship in time to run for parliament, potentially ending yet another political headache for Bill Shorten.
Yet the same letter from the Egyptian Embassy also mis-states Egyptian law while not definitively answering if the Labor member for Cowan was still an Egyptian citizen when she nominated for election, rather than when nominations officially closed.
The West Australian MP was sent scrambling on Friday after her party leader asked her to “reconfirm” earlier “advice from the Egyptian embassy”.
In a letter on Friday, the Egyptian Embassy wrote: “Dr Anne Aly renounced citizenship on 6 May 2016 having completed all the steps required and as of that date had completely renounced her Egyptian citizenship.
“Nothing further needed to be done to make her renunciation effective.
“In addition, according to Egyptian law … any Egyptian who obtains another nationality without permission will lose his/her Egyptian nationality by default.”
The correspondence likely saves the Cowan MP from fighting a by-election alongside several Labor colleagues who resigned earlier this week after a High Court ruling disqualified ACT senator Katy Gallagher from Parliament due to her dual-citizenship status at the time of the last election.
That ruling prompted swift resignations from Labor’s Josh Wilson (WA), Justine Keay (TAS) and Susan Lamb (QLD), plus Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie (SA), who were elected in similar circumstances.
Under Australian law, candidates for federal government may not hold citizenship to any other country.
A citizenship registry for Australian MPs was set up in December after a number of government MPs were forced into by-elections because of their status as dual citizens at the time of their election, including then-deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.
That registry showed Dr Aly requested the cancellation of her Egyptian citizenship on May 4, 2016, but did not show evidence that she had successfully rescinded her Egyptian citizenship.
The embassy letter, however, claimed Dr Aly successfully renounced Egyptian citizenship on the May 6, 2016, before her nomination on June 9 that same year.
A spokesperson for Dr Aly told The New Daily on Friday, “Anne’s Egyptian citizenship came to an end well before she nominated for election.”
When asked to specify a date, and if “well before” meant a month, months or a year, the spokesperson only repeated the statement.
Murdoch University constitutional law lecturer Lorraine Finlay told The New Daily the letter from the Egyptian embassy “bizarrely” misquoted Egyptian law.
She said ‘Article 16’ does not say citizenship is automatically forfeited, but that a minister’s council may issue a decree to strip nationality in those circumstances.
“If you look at the document, you can take it on the Embassy’s word, but then to fundamentally misstate the law is really strange and it raises more questions that answers,” Ms Finlay said.
Ms Finlay said she was not making judgements about Dr Aly’s eligibility, but said additional documents should be produced to put the matter beyond doubt.
– with AAP