One Nation MP `is not an Australian'

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The Independent Online
THE SOLE parliamentary representative of the Australian anti-immigration party, One Nation, may be unable to take up the seat she won two months ago because she is insufficiently Australian.

Heather Hill, originally from Britain but who has lived in Australia for 26 years, held dual citizenship at the time of the 3 October poll in Queensland. She now faces court action instigated by a Sydney businessman, Chuck Hong, who does not believe she is entitled to enter the legislature.

Article 44 of Australia's constitution states that candidates must take "reasonable steps" to ensure their allegiances are to their adopted country only. The Supreme Court disqualified two candidates in a 1992 by-election, one from Italy and one from Spain, because they had failed to renounce their former nationality. Since this stern interpretation of the rules, parties have been more careful to ensure that candidates are in a position to claim that they are, as one senator put it, "Dinky-Di Australian".

Exactly who was entitled to this distinction was revived by One Nation's president, Pauline Hanson, its only member of the last parliament.

In her maiden speech in the House of Representatives, after the 1996 election, she stunned her fellow politicians when she said: "I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. They have a different religion, a different culture and they do not assimilate."

Mr Hong came to Sydney from Malaysia 30 years ago, and now speaks with an irreproachably "fair dinkum" accent. At a news conference, yesterday, he said: "The rules apply to me and they apply to you and to all other Australians. That is the Australian way."

Mr Hong would have petitioned the court but he does not live in Queensland. So he persuaded Jimmy Sue, a Chinese-born Kung Fu grandmaster and teacher to put his name to the legal action.

There was a deadline of today for launching a legal challenge to the election results. Mr Hong explained that he was stepping in where the National Party, the junior partner in the governing coalition, had stepped back, citing more important things on which to spend its money.

Ms Hill, interviewed at her Queensland home, pronounced herself "very hurt. I'm a very loyal Australian," she said, and added that she had now renounced her British citizenship, although there was no recognition in the constitution of retrospective action.

A constitutional expert, Tony Blackshield, sketched out one intriguing scenario to the public broadcaster ABC. If Ms Hill were disqualified, there would be a recount of the Senate votes from Queensland, which works on a party list system.

The result would almost certainly be for the number two on One Nation's list to be elected. If the party wanted to secure its original choice of representative, the second person could resign the seat, and Ms Hill - or anyone else - could then be renominated by the Queensland parliament.