The High Court will sit in judgement over a government senator and two former Greens members over their eligibility to sit in parliament due to citizenship issues.
As a cloud also hangs over One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, the Senate on Tuesday agreed that the court will look into former minister Matt Canavan and Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam of the Greens, who have resigned their Senate seats.
The court will test their eligibility under section 44 of the constitution, which bans dual citizens from parliament.
Senator Canavan’s mother signed him up to be an Italian resident abroad a decade ago, but he says it was only made known to him after the emergence of issues with the two Greens – who have resigned from parliament.
Attorney-General George Brandis told parliament on Tuesday the government would work to expedite the hearing.
“There is an overriding public interest in resolving the uncertainty around Senator Canavan’s status,” he said.
Senate President Stephen Parry said he had notified the governors of Western Australia and Queensland of the two Greens vacancies.
Senator Canavan, who has stood aside from cabinet but not parliament, told the chamber he would not vote in the Senate until the matter was resolved by the court.
He insisted that until three weeks ago, he had no knowledge or reason to believe he may have been registered as an Italian citizen.
Senator Brandis said the government’s preliminary view was that Senator Canavan was not in breach of the constitution.
The Greens on Tuesday lodged a notice of motion to refer Senator Roberts to the High Court, which is expected to be dealt with in the Senate on Wednesday.
Documents have emerged showing Senator Roberts once was a British citizen.
Senator Roberts and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson have denied on several occasions he ever held British citizenship.
But Buzzfeed has obtained an immigration department document signed by Senator Roberts and dated May 8, 1974, on which the then 19-year-old notes he is a “British UK and Cols (Colonies)” citizen.
The Queensland senator was born in Disergarh, India, in 1955 and his family arrived in Australia in October 1962.
While the documents confirm the Roberts family’s notifications to become citizens were approved by the immigration department, there is no mention of whether the British citizenship was renounced.
Senator Roberts has said he took steps to renounce any “possible” British citizenship before he ran for parliament, but did not receive a letter back from British authorities until December last year.
Senator Brandis told AAP he did not believe there was enough evidence at the moment to support a referral of Senator Roberts to the High Court.