Citizenship saga: Illawarra MPs’ family histories on show

Details from the Illawarra federal MPs' citizenship statements, published online late on Tuesday.

Details from the Illawarra federal MPs' citizenship statements, published online late on Tuesday.

The Illawarra’s federal parliamentarians have had their family histories made public as part of the country’s first citizenship register.

The citizenship documents of all House of Representatives MPs were published late on Tuesday, amid the dual citizenship fiasco plaguing the Parliament.

The documents showed two of the region’s pollies – Labor Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis (Liberal) – had foreign links. 

Ms Bird’s disclosure stated that while both her parents were born in the Illawarra, her paternal grandfather was born in Northumberland in the UK. 

The Cunningham MP didn’t attach any documentary evidence to her disclosure, but said that checks had cleared her of British citizenship by descent. 

“The only possible pathway that might have been available to me to inherit citizenship by descent would be my paternal grandfather who was British,” she wrote. 

“However, checks were undertaken on my behalf to confirm that, under British law, the grandchildren of British citizens do not have an entitlement to British citizenship by descent.” 

Ms Sudmalis’ foreign links were more pronounced, with her mother, and both maternal grandparents born in England.

The Liberal MP said she had “made enquiries” about whether the connection meant she had acquired UK citizenship by descent.

Ms Sudmalis attached correspondence from the UK Home Office, dated August 15, 2017.

The form was signed by an official and stated: “...there is no trace of the above named person having acquired British citizenship”.

It was the same form the MP tweeted on September 4.

Retrospective changes to the British Nationality Act in 2010 gave anyone born to a British mother before 1983 the right to register as a British citizen.

Prior to the changes, citizenship for those born before 1983 was only gained via their father or paternal grandfather.

Ms Sudmalis was born in 1955.

“While it may have been open to me to apply for British citizenship based on my mother’s birth, I have never made any such application, and have thus not acquired British citizenship,” she wrote in her statement.