The High Court’s decision in the case of Katy Gallagher has changed the way the law is understood and interpreted in relation to eligibility under s.44 of the Constitution. Until today’s decision the ‘reasonable steps’ test had been accepted for more than 25 years.
It continues to be the basis of the Australian Electoral Commission’s advice to candidates (in the current Candidate’s Handbook), and was the guidance I followed when I nominated in 2016.
The new interpretation of the law means the question of whether a person took all ‘reasonable steps’ to renounce foreign citizenship simply doesn’t exist for dual Australian-British citizens, irrespective of the administrative delay in the process (which is generally 2-4 months). Under the new interpretation any prospective candidate must have their British citizenship deregistered before the close of nominations. In my case that was effectively impossible.
I was endorsed as a late replacement Labor candidate in Fremantle on 12 May 2016 and completed the requisite UK Home Office paperwork to renounce my British citizenship on that day. I mailed the renunciation form and attached documents on Friday, 13 May, using express registered post. I received confirmation that the documents had been received by the UK Home Office on Monday, 16 May. The processing fee for renunciation was withdrawn from my bank on 6 June. I nominated the following day, two days before the close of nominations. I received a letter from the UK Home Office dated 24 June saying that my British citizenship had been deregistered, with a copy of the renunciation form stamped 29 June 2016.
I was elected on 2 July 2016. I have not served a single day as anything other than an Australian citizen.
I was born in London when my parents were on a working holiday. My mum was expecting me when they travelled to the UK, and I returned home with them at the age of one after we’d travelled in Europe for 6 months in a Kombi van. Both my parents were born in Australia. My great-great-grandfather came to Fremantle as a convict in the 1860s. I have never lived in the UK, and have only visited there twice, in 1998 and 2012, for a few weeks each time.
In any case, the High Court’s interpretation of the law has changed and I respect that ruling. That means I must resign as the Member for Fremantle and contest the forthcoming by-election.
As I said in my first speech, I can’t imagine a more meaningful kind of work than to represent the community where I’ve lived virtually all my life. Every opportunity I am given to ask the people of Fremantle to trust me with the responsibility of being their representative in the national parliament is an opportunity I will relish.
I am looking forward to once again seeking that trust and responsibility in the weeks to come, and I am happy to be considered by voters in the Fremantle electorate on the basis of my character, principles, work-ethic, and record.