Newly elected independent MP Dai Le has rejected suggestions she could be ineligible to sit in Australia’s parliament because of rules blocking people with citizenship from other countries under the constitution.
Ms Le defied expectations to defeat high-profile Labor candidate Kristina Keneally in the southwest Sydney seat of Fowler, previously held by Labor on a margin of 14 per cent.
The Fairfield deputy mayor was born in Vietnam, leaving in 1975 with her mother and two sisters as a child, then spending several years in refugee camps in the Philippines and Hong Kong, after which she arrived in Australia in 1979.
Under section 44 of Australia’s constitution, anyone subject to the citizenship of another country is unable to be chosen or sit as a member of the House of Representatives or Senate.
But in a statement, Ms Le dismissed concerns she could be caught out by the rules after receiving “extensive media enquiries” about her adherence to them.
“I can confirm that the AEC (Australian Electoral Commission) accepted my application to stand for the federal election and that I’m not a subject or a citizen of another country, and was not when I lodged my nomination form with the AEC prior to the close of the nomination,” she said.
“It’s now time for me to start to work for the people of Fowler.”
The response followed The Australian reporting on Wednesday that Ms Le was facing questions over her eligibility to stand following revelations she stated on her Australian Electoral Commission section 44 declaration that she had never been a subject or citizen of any country other than Australia.
Section 44 was at the centre of the 2017–18 Australian parliamentary eligibility crisis, which saw a number of MPs and senators deemed ineligible to sit by the High Court.
In total, 15 sitting politicians stood down over their dual citizenship, briefly costing the then-Turnbull government its lower house majority.
This included Barnaby Joyce, Jacqui Lambie, Katy Gallagher, Larissa Waters, Malcolm Roberts and Rebekha Sharkie.
The decisions forced a number of by-elections requiring those involved to renounce their citizenship to other countries – which in some cases had been unknown to them or how it would affect their eligibility to sit in parliament.
have argued that the rules impose a major obstacle on people from diverse backgrounds from entering politics.
Section 44 bars anyone who is a subject or citizen — or entitled to the rights of a subject or citizen — of a foreign power from being elected into parliament.
To change any part of the constitution, Australia needs to hold a referendum, which would be both a lengthy and costly process.