Derryn Hinch has become the latest politician to be caught up in the citizenship scandal after revealing he has a United States social security card that could disqualify him from the senate.
Mr Hinch confirmed on Wednesday night he still holds the social security card making him eligible for benefits from the US government, which could breach the Australian constitution.
He acquired the American social security number when he was working in New York in the 1960s and 70s.
Section 44 of the constitution states a person cannot sit in parliament if they hold dual citizenship and are also not eligible if they are “entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power.”
However, he has told Sky News he does not believe he is a US citizen.
“I’ve read section 44 more times than anybody…I thought I ticked all boxes, I still think I do,” he said.
“For the record I’ve never held US citizenship, I’ve never held a Green Card, I do have a social security number because I worked for Fairfax in New York.”
“You automatically get a social security number and it stays with you until you die.”
“It doesn’t make you a citizen.”
Mr Hinch said he “paid a special social security tax” with his regular income tax for ten years which would entitle him to “an American pension”, but claims it is not a payment.
He further claimed he wrote to the US Social Security Department when he was sworn into the Australian senate, instructing them to not pay the pension.
Mr Hinch said he will go to the High Court if the Solicitor General believes he may have breached Section 44 of the Constitution.
“I do plan to raise it with the solicitor general and if necessary I will refer myself to the High Court,” he said.
“I do not believe I have fallen foul of the section that says ‘you are entitled to the rights and privileges of a subject or citizen.”
Constitutional Expert Professor George Williams said it is not clear what Section 44 actually means because it has never been interpreted by the High Court.
He also said he would not be surprised if an audit uncovered 20 or more MPs with eligibility issues.
He said it would be advantageous to hold an audit over facing individual problems concerning senators.
“Perhaps an audit is something we may need to look at after the High Court makes its decisions,” Professor Williams said on Wednesday.
Mr Hinch is the eighth parliamentarian to be caught up in the citizenship debacle despite previously renouncing his New Zealand citizenship.
Another five members of parliament including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce face a High Court test in October of their eligibility to serve as MPs.
Two MPs including cabinet minister Fiona Nash will be referred to the court by parliament next week.