Malcolm Turnbull is preparing to strut the world stage at a leaders summit in Vietnam, but has not managed to shake off the citizenship fiasco back home.
Even as he flew out of Australia and into Vietnam for APEC, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull couldn’t escape federal parliament’s dual citizenship crisis.
Mid-air during a ten hour flight to Da Nang, Mr Turnbull was negotiating with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten via email correspondence after the pair failed to reach a deal face-to-face in Melbourne on Wednesday.
On arrival in the APEC host city, Mr Turnbull was keen to promote the Free Trade Agreement - expected to open markets for Australian sugar, dairy and rice farmers.- to be signed with Peru later on Friday.
But Mr Turnbull had to brush off suggestions that he’ll be distracted at APEC and next week’s East Asia Summit because he’s yet to strike a deal with Mr Shorten over his proposed citizenship disclosure register.
“Well, multitasking is the occupational objective of Prime Ministers,” he told reporters.
Mr Turnbull confirmed he would not rule out using the government’s numbers to refer three Labor MPs now under a cloud.
“I was disappointed that Bill Shorten asked me to agree not to refer MPs of his to the High Court, even though they were admittedly British citizens at the time they nominated for parliament.”
The Labor three in question are Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson, who are facing questions about the timing of their renunciation of British citizenship.
“When you’ve got people who on their own admission are UK citizens at the time they nominated and said they were compliant with the constitution, it really is a bit rich for Mr Shorten to say to me that the government shouldn’t vote to refer them.”
Mr Turnbull is awaiting information from Liberal backbencher John Alexander on whether his late father had renounced his ties to the UK.
There are also question marks over the eligibility of crossbenchers Senator Jacqui Lambie and MP Rebekha Sharkie over their British heritage.
“I’ll be very clear about this, we will vote to refer to the High Court anybody, whether they’re on the government side, the Labor side or the cross benches, if there are substantial grounds to believe that they are not in compliance with the constitution.
“To ask me to do anything else is quite unworthy and I’m disappointed that he made that request and that he even thought that was a proper thing to do,” Mr Turnbull said”
Mr Turnbull’s statement is a shift from what’s been the long established practice that parties refer their own member to the High Court.
If the court strikes out some or all of the MPs there may have to be a ‘Super Saturday’ of byelections to resolve the matter that’s now dragged on since July.
The revival of the Trans Pacific Partnership 11, minus the United States, is the main game for world leaders on Friday.
Australia and Japan have been at the forefront of trying to keep the huge free trade deal alive after President Donald Trump withdrew from it as one of his first acts in office a year ago.
Mr Turnbull is also expected to have a formal meeting with the Vietnamese leadership.
Crossbench PM told she may have to go to High Court
British-born Nick Xinophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie revealed on Thursday Mr Turnbull had suggested to her in a telephone call she may have to refer herself to the High Court.
Ms Sharkie, whose marginal SA seat of Mayo is a Liberal target, filled out a renunciation form on April 19 last year, received an acknowledgment from the UK Home Office on June 2 and nominated for the seat on June 7.
However, the renunciation was not registered until June 29, potentially falling foul of section 44 of the constitution which has already claimed six MPs.
"I believe that I took all steps that were required by the UK to renounce any entitlement to UK citizenship, that were within my power to do so," she said.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson believes it's time to start over.
"I honestly believe you cannot keep going to by-elections. I think it's to a stage now, that many that are coming out, I think it should actually go to a whole new election - a double dissolution," Senator Hanson said.
- with AAP