Xenophon joins list, takes aim over citizenship furore

Nick Xenophon fell on his sword in the same folksy manner in which he ran for office, with a near-unforgivable visual pun during a media conference in the suburbs of Adelaide.

He gathered journalists around him outside the British Hotel in North Adelaide to confirm that he had been advised that he was indeed a dual British citizen and would be referring himself to the High Court. It'll be a busy time for the court, what with the six MPs whose citizenship status remains under a cloud...

Nick Xenophon at a press conference at the British Hotel in North Adelaide after finding out he's a British citizen.  Photo: Mark Brake

Nick Xenophon at a press conference at the British Hotel in North Adelaide after finding out he's a British citizen. Photo: Mark Brake

Xenophon would, he said, remain in Parliament until the court made its ruling.

But Xenophon was uncharacteristically emotional as he explained the details of his circumstances.

Normally so relentlessly chipper in demeanour, he betrayed frustration and deep sadness at the preposterous circumstances that might undo his career. And true anger showed when he explained how unnamed political foes had dedicated time and effort in order to encumber him with a useless and obscure category of citizenship that appears to have been crafted by a dying empire to disenfranchise its former colonial subjects in all but name.

"To those politicians and their staff beavering away at this, presumably over many hours and days, I say: Didn't you have anything better to do with your time given the urgent and serious problems ... that South Australia and our nation faces?" he asked furiously.

"No wonder so many Australians are disgusted by our current broken state of politics. No wonder so many Australians are repulsed by politicians and the political class."

It was a fair point.

For a time after the Perth barrister, Dr John Cameron, brought down the first section 44 scalp, the Greens senator Scott Ludlam, by sending evidence of his New Zealand citizenship to the clerk of the Senate last month, an uneasy political detente held.

With politicians being taken down according to obscure laws drafted by long dead bureaucrats of foreign nations, there was a sense that the Parliament was locked into a vast game of Russian roulette.

After it emerged that the One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts might also be a Brit, government and opposition voices convinced Pauline Hanson to refer him to the High Court herself. This was an effort to stave off the sort of partisan warfare that appears to have broken out, potentially costing Xenophon his job.

If what Xenophon says is true, and there is no reason to believe it is not, platoons of parliamentarians and their staff are now at work trying to knock each other out of the game.

What they should be doing is co-operating to find the least disruptive way to audit the citizenship of all parliamentarians, facilitating the processes of the High Court, and if necessary, working out how best to run a referendum to fix an archaic matter of law that is turning Parliament - which turns out to be a veritable UN general assembly - into an international laughing stock.

It might not be surprising to learn that our elected representatives have chosen to exploit these weird circumstances to their own advantage rather than to clear the air and get back to work, but, as Xenophon suggested, it is repulsive.

This story Xenophon joins list, takes aim over citizenship furore first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.