Independent Senator Derryn Hinch could be facing the end of his political career after discovering he still holds a US social security card from his time living in New York in his youth.
Section 44 of the constitution bans anyone with allegiance to a foreign power from sitting in parliament and also disqualifies anyone who is “entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power”.
Hinch was given the social security card when he worked for the Sydney Morning Herald in New York and has retained it ever since.
While the dual-citizenship debacle has already claimed seven Senators and MPs, this particular legal tick is a new thorn in politicians’ side, with many elected officials having lived and worked in foreign countries before taking office.
Hinch said he will seek legal advice on the matter, but insisted he had followed the law to the best of his knowledge.
“I plan to raise the issue with the solicitor-general and, if necessary, will refer myself to the High Court, acting as the Court of Disputed Returns,” he said in a statement, reports the ABC.
“I have never held US citizenship. I have never held a Green Card.”
“I do have a social security number because I worked for the Sydney Morning Herald in New York and automatically acquired one. It stays with you, citizen or not, until you die.
“I have not accepted the ‘rights and privileges of a foreign power’. I paid a special social security tax for 10 years, on top of regular income tax, which makes me entitled to a pension. That’s not a privilege. It’s payment for that tax I paid in the 1960s and 1970s.”
While he’s been caught out on this issue, Hinch has previously said he has “no sympathy” for “dual citizenship slackers”.
If he is forced to resign it will mean changes to the Senate, where numbers are tight between Labor and the Coalition.
As an Independent, Hinch holds plenty of sway when it comes to votes and can change an outcome simply by crossing the floor.