Labor sought legal advice over Katy Gallagher's citizenship status

Labor sought legal advice over Katy Gallagher's citizenship status

Katy Gallagher has revealed Labor sought urgent legal advice to confirm she is not implicated in Parliament's dual citizenship crisis and she formally renounced any right to British citizenship after joining the Senate.

Following media reports suggesting she could be entitled to dual citizenship because her mother Elizabeth was born in Ecuador in 1943, Senator Gallagher said on Monday new legal advice confirmed she was eligible to sit in Parliament.

Senator Katy Gallagher has denied she's implicated in the citizenship crisis.

Senator Katy Gallagher has denied she's implicated in the citizenship crisis.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Labor asked Ecuadorian legal expert Gabriel Echevierra and Melbourne Queens Counsel Matthew Collins for advice on a possible breach of section 44 of the constitution, which confirmed the former ACT chief minister is not an Ecuadorian citizen and had not obtained the status by descent.

"The expert opinion of Dr Echevierra concludes that I am not an Ecuadorian citizen nor am I entitled to apply to become an Ecuadorian citizen," Senator Gallagher told Parliament.

Senator Nick Xenophon and Attorney-General Senator George Brandis in the Senate on Monday.

Senator Nick Xenophon and Attorney-General Senator George Brandis in the Senate on Monday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

"Dr Collins QC has considered Dr Echevierra's expert report in relation to the circumstances of my mother's birth and concluded that there is no question of my eligibility to serve in this Parliament under Australian law, that I am not disqualified under Section 44 of the Australian constitution, and that I am constitutionally qualified to sit as a Senator."

Elizabeth "Betsy" Gallagher was born while her father was temporarily working in the South American country for the Bank of London.

Senator Gallagher said her birth was registered at the British Consulate at Guayaquil and was likely never registered with local authorities.

"I am unable to locate any record of an Ecuadorian birth certificate, despite interrogating family records. It is my understanding that an Ecuadorian birth certificate was never obtained for my mother," she said.

"During her life she never took any steps to attain citizenship of Ecuador. My mother was never an Ecuadorian citizen."

Last week an Ecuadorian lawyer told journalists Labor's spokeswoman for small business and financial services could be a dual citizen, but later walked back the comments and said he was making a hypothetical assessment.

Speaking during a slew of referrals to the High Court and repeated calls for an audit of all MPs' eligibility, Senator Gallagher also revealed she renounced any entitlement she may have had to British citizenship by descent from her father in April 2016.

The move followed her investigations about taking up British citizenship in mid-1990s. She abandoned the plan after her father's death.

After moving from the ACT Legislative Assembly to the Senate to fill a vacancy in 2015, Senator Gallagher said she was not told she needed to renounce any entitlement to foreign citizenship.

During candidate vetting ahead of the 2016 election, Labor advised her to formally renounce any entitlement "out of an abundance of caution"

"Despite my clear understanding that I was not a British citizen I followed the advice of the ALP vetting team and submitted the paperwork to the UK Home Office together with required payment on April 20, 2016.

"I was advised that submitting the declaration of renunciation with the Home Office meant that I had taken all reasonable steps to renounce any entitlement to British citizenship."

Senator Gallagher said she is eligible to sit in Parliament.

"I am not a citizen of Ecuador. I am not a citizen of the United Kingdom. I am only an Australian citizen," she said.

On Monday, the Senate referred Nationals senator Fiona Nash and South Australia's Nick Xenophon to the High Court after it was revealed they hold British citizenship through their parents.

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Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for The Australian Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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