Citizen debate reaches Bunbury

FEDERAL Member for Forrest Nola Marino may have acquired Italian citizenship through marriage, in what would represent a twist in the eligibility crisis that has engulfed federal Parliament.

Ms Marino’s case also highlights a gap in the proposed new disclosure regime being debated by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, which does not consider the possibility of dual citizenship attained through marriage.

The citizenship spotlight fell on Ms Marino, who married her husband, Carmelo Marino, in Western Australia in 1972. Mr Marino – who goes by the name Charlie was born in Italy in 1950 and emigrated to Australia with his parents the following year, according to ancestry documents seen by Fairfax Media.

That means Mr Marino was an Italian citizen at birth.

If Mr Marino naturalised as an Australian before 1972 he would have lost his Italian citizenship and not passed it on to Ms Marino. But if he retained it she too would have become an Italian citizen.

Official Italian government advice clearly states: “Foreign women who married an Italian citizen prior to 27 April 1983 automatically acquired Italian citizenship on the date of marriage.”

Ms Marino, who as the Chief Government Whip in the House of Representatives is responsible for party discipline, has so far failed to clarify the facts around her situation, refusing to say whether she or her husband ever relinquished Italian citizenship.

Ms Marino and her office declined to answer questions put by Fairfax Media, but in a statement said: “I am an Australian citizen and only an Australian citizen.”

“The High Court made clear that Italian law requires the taking of the positive steps to acquire citizenship. I have never taken such steps,” she said.

In considering the case of cabinet minister Matt Canavan last month, the High Court found it could not be “satisfied” he was a citizen of Italy, in part because he took no positive steps to attain the status.

But Senator Canavan’s case related to Italy’s notoriously complex system of indefinite “jus sanguinis” citizenship by descent. Ms Marino’s case relates to a different, and more straightforward, area of Italian law.

Section 44 of the Australian constitution makes no distinction between different forms of citizenship, meaning if Ms Marino was found to be an Italian citizen through marriage she would be ruled ineligible.

Source: Bunbury Mail.