Katy Gallagher Court Ruling Sparks Four Resignations

Three Labor MPs and one from the Centre Alliance resign from Parliament.

What you need to know
  • The High Court has ruled the election of ACT Senator Katy Gallagher invalid
  • The ruling sparked four further resignations
  • Five possible by-elections could be held as early as next month

There has been a spate of parliamentary resignations in the wake of a High Court ruling that found Labor Senator Katy Gallagher ineligible to serve in Federal Parliament.

Gallagher resigned on Wednesday morning after failing to show she took 'reasonable steps' to renounce her UK citizenship.

Now, Labor MPs Justin Keay, Josh Wilson, Susan Lamb and Centre Alliances' Rebekha Sharkie have resigned as they relied on the same defense Gallagher used to keep their seats in Parliament.

The total number of MPs forced to resign amid the citizenship saga now stands at 15.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that Lamb, Keay and Wilson will recontest their seats at by-elections.

"I'm pleased to announce today that all three candidates, members who have fallen into the section 44 problems which have taken many other people, they have all agreed to renominate," Shorten said.

Shorten also said the MPs did everything expected of them when resolving citizenship issues.

"They took all reasonable steps within their power. It's now said it's a stricter test. And so that is the law as it is now."

Gallagher said she was very disappointed by the High Court ruling, but said she respected it.

"To have my place in the Senate end like this today is very deeply disappointing but I believe that I have more to contribute to public life and I will take the time to talk with Labor Party members on how I can do this over the months ahead," she said in a statement.

"To the people of the ACT I’m very sorry that this disruption has occurred to one of your federal representatives."

South Australian MP Rebekha Sharkie also expressed her disappointment and said she would re-contest her seat of Mayo in a by-election, which can be held on June 16 at the earliest.

"I respect the decision of the court and understand the implications for me," Sharkie said. 

"The High Court ruling I believe is quite clear. Consequently, I will resign from the Australian Parliament today and seek re-election at the forthcoming by-election, which I believe the earliest can be June 16, and I would hope that it would be that date."

Former Member for Fremantle Josh Wilson told Parliament that he would resign, sighting administrative delays as part of the reason for this.

"The new interpretation of the law means that the question of whether a person took all reasonable steps to renounce foreign citizenship simply does not exist, at least for dual Australian-British citizens, irrespective of an administrative delay in the process," Wilson said. 

Susan Lamb also said she would recontest her Queensland seat of Longman, telling Parliament she is "not done yet."

What Makes This Ruling Different To Others?

This ruling by the High Court is especially significant because it sets a new precedent for MPs who have dual citizenship.

Members who are foreign citizens, even if they have Australian citizenship, must prove that they've taken 'reasonable steps' to renounce it.

Both Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash for example, had foreign citizenship, however didn’t make any attempt to renounce it prior to election so both were forced to resign. In the case of Gallagher and the other MPs, they did take steps to get rid of their dual citizenship, but these steps were considered insufficient.

Throughout the citizenship saga one thing has been made clear, even if you were born in Australia and you have dual citizenship by descent, you have to renounce it.

 On Wednesday morning the Coalition called on Labor Leader Bill Shorten to demand the resignations for the three ALP members in question.

"They must resign today," Attorney General Christian Porter said.

"Bill Shorten must require the  resignation of those three Labor members today, and that must occur before close of business today."

There will be by-elections but Labor hasn’t confirmed when they will be held.  This could see five by-elections be held across four states as early as next month.

Four of these will relate to citizenship issues and the fifth for the seat of Perth, where Labor's Tim Hammond resigned sighting family issues.