Malcolm Turnbull Threatens Extra Sitting After Failure to Strike Citizenship Agreement

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are at loggerheads over the citizenship agreement, and without a deal struck, the Prime Minister claimed there may be extra parliamentary sitting days to finalise it.

Mr Turnbull called the two-hour meeting with the opposition leader a “constructive discussion”, but Mr Shorten called for drafting changes to the government’s proposal for MPs to declare their citizenship status.

Mr Turnbull wants all MPs and senators to declare their citizenship status to Parliament before December 18, but Mr Shorten wants politicians to produce citizenship documents no later than December 1.

Mr Shorten also wants Mr Turnbull’s proposal to include where politician’s grandparents are born.

“We’re apart on two issues: the question of MPs disclosing not just where their parents and grandparents were born to the best of their knowledge but if you know that your parent was born overseas, what steps have you taken to find out that the law over seas in that country doesn’t confer citizenship upon you,” Mr Shorten said.

Mr Turnbull said despite the stalemate, both leaders wanted the issue resolved by the end of the parliamentary year.

“We are certainly agreed on the need for disclosure and of the kind that I’ve set out in the resolution and we also agreed that the matter must be dealt with before the end of the year,” Mr Turnbull said.

“The disclosures should be made before the end of the year and the house and the Senate should have the opportunity, having considered those disclosures, whether any members or senators should be referred to the High Court.”

“I do think it is important to get on with it, because we need to ideally be able to say to members and senators there is complete bipartisan agreement on the way in which the disclosure will be done and so people will be getting all of their paperwork into shape, into the correct form well in advance of the parliament coming back and the resolutions being passed.”

 

Mr Turnbull said there may be further sitting days than scheduled to deal with the issue.

“I want to make sure we have enough time for the disclosure requirements to be complied with, enough time for the parliament to consider it and vote on referrals by the end of the year,” he said.

“It is important to settle the terms of the resolution as soon as possible, I would have liked to have done it today.”

“I was ready to do it today.”

However, Mr Shorten said the parliament should pass a resolution in the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday 27 November and MPs should be disclosing their eligibility by the end of the week.

“This would allow the disclosures to be checked out and then if there are any problems requiring referral to the High Court that could be done in the last week of parliament,” he said.

“The government is saying that people need longer. We do not believe that Australians should pay $1 more to sort out the government’s problems.

The ongoing crisis means there is the possibility of a number of by-elections on one day in early 2018, possibly in February.

The Government believes four Labor MPs’ citizenship status is questionable, including Susan Lamb and Justine Keay, but Coalition MPs are also facing Section 44 including John Alexander.

Mr Turnbull’s proposal will give all politicians 21 days to produce documents, but Labor said it may not be enough time and some MPs may not discover their citizenship status until next year.

The Senate is expected to consider Mr Turnbull’s plan when it meets next week, but the House of Representatives will not meet again until later in the month, solidifying the final day to reveal documents around December 18.

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