Liberal Bennelong MP John Alexander is the latest to become embroiled in the citizenship fiasco. Photo: Adam Ward
Liberal Bennelong MP John Alexander is the latest to become embroiled in the citizenship fiasco. Photo: Adam Ward

The seat that could bring down the PM

THE fate of Malcolm Turnbull's government could rest in the unpredictable Sydney seat that both major parties fight hardest for.

The seat of Bennelong could once again be in play with the Liberal Party's token celebrity MP John Alexander the latest to become embroiled in the citizenship crisis that's threatening the government's majority.

The former tennis professional and member for Bennelong was last night outed as potentially having British citizenship by descent.

The son of a British migrant, Mr Alexander admitted on Tuesday he believes his dad renounced his UK citizenship soon after migrating to Australia, but now he's double checking.

Member for Bennelong John Alexander is double checking whether he could be a dual citizen.
Member for Bennelong John Alexander is double checking whether he could be a dual citizen.

Because Gilbert Alexander landed in Australia in 1911, and Australian citizenship was only created in 1949, he had a window of only two years to renounce his British citizen before the arrival of baby John Alexander to ensure citizenship was not passed on to his son.

Like the fiasco the Turnbull Government now find itself in, Mr Alexander's citizenship status could be a little messy.

If Mr Alexander is referred to the High Court and his 2016 election deemed ineligible, it would trigger a by-election in the coveted seat that up until recently has been considered a safe one for the Liberals.

For decades, the people of Bennelong were represented by one of the Liberal Party's founding members, John Cramer.

The revered party elder, who served under Prime Minister Robert Menzies, held the seat from 1949 until 1974 when he handed the reigns to a then up-and-comer, also named John.

John Howard held the seat of Bennelong from 1974 until his political career ended in 2007. Picture: David Motte
John Howard held the seat of Bennelong from 1974 until his political career ended in 2007. Picture: David Motte

Former prime minister John Howard was elected to Bennelong in 1974 and stayed there throughout his parliamentary career when he lost government to Kevin Rudd in 2007.

The seat went to political rookie Maxine McKew, who was rocketed into the hard-fought election with the aid of the public profile she had built up as a high profile journalist with the ABC.

It took a tennis ace to win back the seat.
It took a tennis ace to win back the seat.

Before entering politics, Ms McKew had held some of the biggest media gigs including hosting the national broadcaster's Lateline and 7.30 Report programs.

Her political career was however short-lived when the Liberals put up another celebrity candidate against her, winning back the seat with the aid of tennis great Alexander who had now represented Bennelong since 2010.

In last year's federal election, Mr Alexander won comfortably against Labor's candidate - North Ryde mum Lyndal Howison - with more than 50 per cent of the vote.

However, if the citizenship fiasco saw Mr Alexander booted, both major parties would likely be scratching for strong, well-known candidates to fight for the Liberal stronghold.

Concerns over MP's citizenship status were raised following Mr Turnbull's announcement of his plans to resolve the dual citizenship crisis whish he conceded could see more parliamentarians sent to the High Court.

Before Maxine McKew fought elections, she presented them.
Before Maxine McKew fought elections, she presented them.

In the PM's proposal, within 21 days of the parliament approving the measure, MPs will be required to provide to the registrar of members' interests a declaration that he or she was not, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, a citizen of any country other than Australia.

They will also be required to declare the birthplace of their parents, but not their grandparents.

If they had been a dual citizen, MPs would need to provide details and evidence of the time and manner in which their foreign citizenship was renounced or otherwise came to an end.

Mr Turnbull says the disclosures could reveal a number of "lineball cases" which end up in the High Court, and in some cases, members may choose to resign.

The Prime Minister is due to discuss the plan with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Wednesday, ahead of a Senate meeting next week.

Mr Shorten says he'll engage constructively with the prime minister. But the Labor leader wants to ensure the process satisfies all Australians there are no remaining clouds over the eligibility of MPs to sit in parliament.

The Greens will still seek Labor and crossbench support next week for a special parliamentary committee to scrutinise all MPs, using the advice of expert citizenship lawyers.


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