TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP - CANBERRA
JOURNALIST: Mr Burke, has Labor lost all credibility on this issue of citizenship given that now four on your own side may be referred to the High Court?
TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Well it's been the case for some time that the Government have said that there’d be three people that they would be referring. They are all people that took every possible step that could be taken before they were nominated. There is no High Court decision that says they are ineligible. There is a piece of legal advice that Malcolm Turnbull waves around that says they've got a problem. Well, we know what it is like when Malcolm Turnbull waves legal advice around. We saw him claim that he knew what the High Court would hold last time. So you know, that’s nothing to do with what was released yesterday all that information was already public.
The thing that did change yesterday though, is with David Feeney through all our checking processes he was asked about a decade ago to deal with both potential Irish and potential UK citizenship and dealt with it at the time. We've now in this process, because it’s disclosure you have to provide the documents as well. He's been able to locate the document with respect to Ireland but he hasn't been able to find the documents for the UK. Well if those documents don't turn up then he has to be referred to the High Court. Certainly, that has changed in the last 24 hours because he wasn't able to meet the deadline and I will move that reference personally.
JOURNALIST: You can see that David Feeney should be referred but you don't believe any of the other Labor members should be?
BURKE: With respect to David Feeney, I’ll move that referral. If the documents turn up, it doesn't make sense that he was asked ten years ago to deal with both potential Irish and potential UK and only dealt with one of them. But it's a disclosure process. If you don't have the documents you get referred. So I’ll move that referral personally. With respect to the other individuals, there is no step they could have taken before they nominated that they didn't take. Absolutely no steps. In fact, in fact in Susan Lamb’s case, the UK then wrote back to her and said we're not even convinced you had UK citizenship in the first place. So that's the situation that they're in. If Malcolm Turnbull's desperate to move referrals then he has already indicated they will move them with respect to those members.
JOURNALIST: But isn't that where the grey area is with some of these High Court rulings? That it does need to be an absolute that you have renounced your citizenship. You can't say oh we can't find any evidence that you were ever a dual citizen.
BURKE: What I’m saying is if it existed, she filled out the renunciation paper. So there was no additional step that could have been taken. What Malcolm Turnbull is relying on effectively is the end of the reasonable steps test. Which is Malcolm Turnbull inventing a High Court decision that they haven't made.
JOURNALIST: But if you’re so confident that they did take reasonable steps why not have them referred to the High Court just so there are no more questions and that would be the end of it?
BURKE: Well I'm confident that I'm eligible to be in Parliament. I'm not going to refer myself to the High Court.
JOURNALIST: Isn't it embarrassing for Bill Shorten? He’s been talking up Labor’s vetting processes.
BURKE: Oh and there is no doubt with respect to the vetting process that David Feeney was asked the questions about the different aspects of what had been done. He had answered all those questions in a way that the vetting process has demanded and when it's come to look for the documents, one of those documents hasn't turned up.
Now, as I say that is not good enough. Even David himself stood up in the Parliament yesterday and made clear that's not good enough and if the document doesn't turn up he's got to go to the High Court. But think about the seven Liberals. We've got seven Liberals who in a disclosure process have said they have got the documents but they're not going to let you see them. It's meant to be about disclosure and they've disclosed that they're going to keep their documents secret. Now some of those Liberals may well have documents that establish that everything's okay for them.
But if they're not willing to make their documents public then they're in no better situation than David Feeney and they will need to be referred.
JOURNALIST: But it doesn't come back to this point with either Labor or Liberals that there are grey areas and these grey areas need to be cleaned up?
BURKE: Look in terms of the Labor people there are four people being spoken about. Three, the Liberals have already said they will refer. David Feeney, I have said I will refer, unless the document shows up. With respect to the seven Liberals, they are now the question. Because we know what's going to happen with respect to the other four. For those seven Liberals they can't have a disclosure system where they participate in it by writing down ‘I'm going to keep my documents secret’. That's not a disclosure system.
They're the people who are now in doubt. What will happen to the four Labor people is effectively settled by what the Government said they will move and by what I’ve said I will move. But for the seven Liberals, they have to either bring forward their documents and stop keeping them secret or simply accept that they are on their way to the High Court.
JOURNALIST: Katy Gallagher, it also looks as though there's a bit of a cloud over her eligibility to sit in the Senate as well. So do you have any advice on that?
BURKE: Can I say because of my role in the House of Representatives I've been completely immersed in 150 members of the reps, well 148 at the moment.
JOURNALIST: What are the circumstances though? This does force Bill Shorten to contradict what he said earlier. Is that not a bad look for him?
BURKE: Obviously we would be in a different situation if David Feeney had located the relevant document by the deadline. But what we have kept to is the principle that we called for when we said there would be disclosure system. When you make a decision like that, you roll the dice. You create a situation where there might be information that comes forward that was different to what you thought or some of the information that you believed you had is not able to be located. And that's what's happening with respect to David Feeney.
It's also what's happened with respect to seven members of the Liberal Party. Seven members of the Liberal Party who may well have documents. It may well be that a number of them are fine and they're all keeping their documents secret as cover for whichever of them is in real trouble. I don't know. But what I do know is you can't use a disclosure system to announce that you're going to keep your documents secret.