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Australian senator Malcolm Roberts deemed dual citizen during nomination by High Court

Australia's High Court has ruled that Senator Malcolm Roberts had British citizenship at the time of his nomination to parliament's upper house. Under Australian law, members of parliament cannot hold dual citizenship.

Symbolbild England, Reisen, Mann (Fotolia/mark yuill)

Malcolm Roberts, a nationalist politician and a member of Australia's One Nation party, is one of seven politicians in Australia's government recently revealed to be dual citizens, making him ineligible to hold elected office.

"I find that Senator Roberts was a citizen of the United Kingdom by descent at the time of his nomination," Justice Patrick Keane of Australia's High Court said in his findings.

Section 44 of the Australia's 1901 constitution says dual citizens are "incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives."

Matt Canavan, Australia's former resources minister, stepped down from his post in July after his mother revealed he might have Italian citizenship. The country's deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, also revealed in August he may hold New Zealand citizenship.

Roberts claims innocence

Roberts, who moved to Australia from India as a child with his family, rejected suggestions he knew he was a British citizen before running for parliament. He said he did not read the Australian citizenship form he signed in 1974 when he was 19, saying his sister filled it out for him.

The form contained a line confirming he was a "Citizen of the UK and Colonies," a reference to a British post-war policy that enabled people connected to the current and former members of the British Empire to more easily attain citizenship. Roberts, who was elected to the Australian Senate in 2016, has said he never held any citizenship other than Australian.

But Justice Keane wrote in his findings that Roberts "knew that there was at least a real and substantial prospect that prior to May 1974 he had been and remained thereafter a citizen of the United Kingdom."

Roberts had also written an email to British authorities before his nomination with the subject line "Am I still a British citizen?" that was presented during the hearing as evidence.

Friday's ruling means the full bench of the High Court will decide the parliamentary fate of Roberts next month, like the other politicians currently holding elected office. If his election is found invalid, the court will have to determine the method of replacing him in the upper house of Australian parliament.

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