Date : Monday, 25 October 2010
Author : The Hon Eric Abetz

Senator Eric Abetz has delivered the following statement to the Senate, to address inaccuracies contained in an article printed by the Mercury Newspaper in Tasmania regarding legal proceedings currently before the High Court. The following transcript is from the Hansard.

N26Abetz, Sen EricSenator ABETZ-I thank the Senate. On Saturday, 23 October, the Mercury newspaper printed an article on page 2 under the heading ‘Citizenship action on Abetz folds’.

The fact is that the matter has not folded; it is for mention again in the High Court on 15 November. I therefore kept my comments to the media on the case to a minimum.

The petitioner, however, used the opportunity to say and have published assertions that are simply incorrect. Allow me to quote the petitioner as reported in the article, “Senator Abetz’s renunciation was dated March 9, 2010.”

He said it meant Senator Abetz had been ineligible, because of his dual citizenship, during the 16 years of his political career until that date.

“You cannot renounce what you haven’t got, so it means that Senator Abetz was a dual citizen and thus ineligible from 1994 to 2010,” he said.

He followed that up with: “If he was a proper chap he would resign.”

I have been advised by my legal advisers that I can respond to these public allegations.

The facts are these: in the lead-up to my becoming an Australian citizen on 3 December 1974, I was given a document, a copy of which I still have, issued by the Australian Government.

It said, in part, under the heading ‘Duties’, ‘before we can become Australians we must renounce our present allegiance and swear or promise to be loyal to her majesty, the Queen.’

Under the heading ‘Privileges’, on that same document, it says, ‘Australians have the right to offer themselves for election as a member of Parliament.’

On 3 December 1974, the oath I swore commenced as follows-and I have a copy of it here: I, Eric Abetz, renouncing all other allegiance, swear by Almighty God. German authorities have advised, and continue to advise on their website in an information sheet entitled ‘German citizenship law’-as follows:

Please note that a German National who is naturalized abroad (e.g. in Australia) loses his/her German citizenship automatically through that naturalization.

Out of an abundance of caution, before nominating for the 1993 election, I wrote to the German embassy on 26 November 1992.

That same article somehow suggested that that letter may not exist, that I had somehow promised to the Hobart Mercury that I would make it available to them.

I never promised to the Hobart Mercury that I would make that letter available to them; I did tell them that it existed. That letter, along with all the other documents, have been provided to the petitioner.

In that letter of 26 November 1992, out of an abundance of caution, I said, in part: Given the latest High Court ruling in relation to the possibility of dual citizenship, I write to advise that any citizenship that I may still have with West Germany or Germany is hereby renounced, and I consider myself simply to be solely an Australian citizen. In the event that anything further is required, please advise immediately so that those matters can be attended to.

I received no response.

To completely clarify the matter, I asked German officials to provide me with a document confirming my non citizenship. I was provided with a renunciation certificate, but with an explanation that ‘the certificate does not necessarily state that you actually were a German citizen before it was issued’.

To assert that I renounced my German citizenship in March 2010 as asserted in the article is wrong. I believe I renounced my German citizenship on 3 December 1974 in my oath and in the application of German law.

To make doubly sure, I wrote in November 1992 to clarify the position.

I now hold a certificate to confirm all of this. To assert that that certificate somehow renounced my citizenship-which I allegedly held up until that time-is, I suggest, demonstrably false. I thank the Senate.