Citizenship crisis: Government strikes deal with Labor requiring MPs to disclose status within 3 weeks
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Citizenship crisis: Government strikes deal with Labor requiring MPs to disclose status within 3 weeks

Federal politicians will be required to publicly disclose their citizenship history and status by December 1 after the Turnbull government struck a deal with the opposition designed to end the crisis that has battered Federal Parliament.

After a week of tense negotiations the Coalition has agreed to Labor's demands, including stronger disclosures and a quicker turnaround. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull originally wanted the disclosures made in the third week of December, a plan that would have required Parliament to be recalled in the days before Christmas.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann helped broker the deal directly with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor's Penny Wong.

The government will move a motion in the Senate today requiring disclosure by December 1 and the lower house will do the same when it returns later in the month.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten should agree to audit the citizenship status of all MPs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten should agree to audit the citizenship status of all MPs.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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The deal comes as MPs in both major parties – and on the crossbench – remain under a citizenship cloud, with further High Court referrals likely.

Under the new disclosure regime, which is modelled on the pecuniary interests register, politicians will be required to disclose their date and place of birth, citizenship at birth and, if they were foreign-born, details about when they naturalised as Australians.

They will have to include details about how they have satisfied themselves they are not dual citizens and what they have done to renounce any foreign ties.

They will also be required to disclose details about their parents and grandparents, given the risk of citizenship by descent.

Any MPs who are caught out misleading or failing to fully comply with the register put themselves at risk of "serious contempt" of Parliament.

New MPs will have 21 days after being sworn in to make their disclosures.

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Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith announced on Monday morning that a byelection would be held on December 16 for Bennelong, after Liberal MP John Alexander resigned at the weekend over his dual citizenship.

Following Mr Alexander's announcement, the government is now officially in a minority in the lower house, holding 73 of the 148 occupied seats – not including Mr Smith – in the House of Representatives. Labor holds 69 seats and the crossbench has five.

Adam Gartrell is the health and industrial relations correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in Parliament House

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