Kenyan-born Lucy Gichuhi of the Family First Party. PHOTO | COURTESYKenyan-born Lucy Gichuhi of the Family First Party. PHOTO | COURTESY
By CHAD KITUNDU and AGENCIES

An Australian High Court has rejected Labor’s push to challenge the eligibility of South Australian Family First senator Lucy Gichuhi based on concerns about her citizenship.

The High Court on Wednesday declared that Senator Gichuhi, who was born in Kenya, is free to replace Bob Day as a South Australian senator in the Federal Parliament.

Labor’s acting shadow attorney-general Katy Gallagher had argued that there were legitimate questions about her eligibility that needed to be answered.

RETAINED KENYAN CITIZENSHIP

The High Court rejected a push by lawyers for Labor’s Anne McEwen, who wanted to challenge Senator Gichuhi’s eligibility based on whether she still retained her Kenyan citizenship.

Justice Geoffrey Nettle said Ms McEwen had ample time to arm herself with the evidence needed to challenge whether the senator had taken reasonable steps to denounce her Kenyan citizenship, as the issue had been before the court several times.

Commonwealth Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue said Kenyan law stated that a Kenyan’s citizenship was automatically withdrawn once a person was over 21 and had taken up citizenship in another country.

Jeremy Kirk, acting on behalf of Ms McEwen, said he was still waiting on a report from an expert in Kenyan law as evidence to prove Senator Gichuhi held two citizenships.

DUAL CITIZENSHIP

The Kenyan-born lawyer migrated to Australia in 1999 and said she became an Australian citizen in 2001 and never held dual citizenship.

Australia’s constitution precludes anyone with dual citizenship from being in the parliament.

But legal experts argued a challenge could still be launched against her because of a change to citizenship laws in her country of birth.

Before the hearing, Labor’s national party president Mark Butler said now was the best time to work out whether she renounced her Kenyan citizenship before running.

“The legal advice we’ve received is that there remains a question about this matter and particularly where we’ve gone over the last couple of years with the question marks over Bob Day’s eligibility,” he said.

“We’ve taken the view that, particularly given that the High Court is convened, that this question needs to be answered once and for all, definitively.”

FORMAL PROOF

It is unclear if Ms Gichuhi had to provide formal proof of having renounced her Kenyan citizenship before running for parliament.

She maintained there was no issue with her eligibility.

“I am an Australian citizen and am eligible to serve — I will continue to take advice on all of these matters as we move forward,” Ms Gichuhi said in a statement last week.