Australian politician facing disqualification from office - because father is Scottish

The Prime Minister of Australia and the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove shake hands at Government House in Canberra. Picture: Michael Masters/Getty Images
The Prime Minister of Australia and the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove shake hands at Government House in Canberra. Picture: Michael Masters/Getty Images
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An Australian senator is the latest high profile politician in the country to face the axe - after it was discovered her father was born in Scotland.

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie, who claimed she was Aboriginal in her maiden speech in 2014, strongly denies any claims she may hold British citizenship as a result of her father’s birthplace.

However, in recent weeks, five members of Australia’s 226-member parliament, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, have been forced to step down after admitting that they may have unwittingly held dual citizenship - a condition that, under Australia’s 1900 constitution, disqualifies them from political office in Canberra - in what has been dubbed the “world’s most ridiculous constitutional crisis”.

Fiona Nash was the first Australian politician to be forced to step down for being discovered to have a Scottish-born father after the High Court ruling upheld a strict reading of the constitutional disqualification of foreign citizens from standing for office.

Senator Lambie yesterday tweeted a mocked-up picture of herself dressed in a kilt, with the word “Freeddommm!!!” - referencing Hollywood film Braveheart - emblazoned across it.

She admitted she only found out about her father, Thomas’s Scottish birthplace when researching her autobiography, which is to be published next year. Mr Lambie was brought to Australia from Larkhall, Scotland as a toddler in the 1950s and her grandfather subsequently served in the Australian Army.

She said: “I’m happy to put on record that I’m satisfied that my parents are both Australian citizens and I have no concerns about me being a dual citizen because of where they were born or came from, in the case of my father, as an infant.

“I am proud of my Scottish ancestry and my father is, too. His father, my grandfather, came to Australia to enlist in the Army in fact. As far as I’m concerned all their affairs are in order as are mine.”

She added that she was in favour of a full citizenship audit of all politicians.

She said: “A citizenship audit of all parliamentarians will clear the air once and for all which is why I’m supporting such a move 100 per cent.”

Just two days ago, she posted a tweet calling for retired politicians to be checked out for dual citizenship. She wrote: “How many ex-pollies on a pension are a dual citizen? Share if you think they should be audited.”

In the ruling against other politicians in October, the judges said that while it may be harsh to disqualify Australian-born candidates who had no reasons to believe they were not exclusively Australian, “those facts must always have been knowable”.

The judges also pointed to the “difficulties of proving or disproving a person’s state of mind” if ignorance of dual citizenship was recognised as an excuse.