DOUBTS over Josh Frydenberg’s eligibility to sit in Parliament were finally put to rest this week after the Federal Court of Australia dismissed a dual citizenship challenge against him.
The challenge was brought last year by Michael Staindl, a constituent in Frydenberg’s Victorian electorate of Kooyong. Staindl’s lawyers had claimed the federal Treasurer held dual citizenship through his mother Erica Strausz, who was born in Budapest in 1943.
Strausz, a Holocaust survivor, listed her nationality as “stateless” upon arriving in Australia as a child.
Section 44 of the constitution prevents dual citizens from sitting in Parliament.
I welcome today’s decision of the Full Federal Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, “that Mr Frydenberg has proved that he was not, and has never been, a citizen of Hungary”.
— Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) March 17, 2020
On Tuesday, the Federal Court concluded that Frydenberg had “proved that he was not, and never has been, a citizen of Hungary”.
“The evidence is sufficient to conclude that upon leaving Hungary in 1949 the Strausz family lost or renounced any citizenship of Hungary and were stateless,” the ruling stated.
The judges said the legal status of Jewish Hungarians, such as the Strausz family, had to be assessed against the “background of catastrophe and anti-Jewish violence and terror”, noting they sought to leave Hungary for a new life elsewhere.
“We are dealing with proof of a status of citizenship of those leaving totalitarian Hungary to whom those in power stated, with the authority of the ruling Communist Party: leave, as class enemies of the people, with no right of return,” the ruling stated.
Ordering Staindl to pay the costs of the case, the judges found he had “failed to prove that any obligation of allegiance was at any time owed by Mr Frydenberg to Hungary”.
“We find the petitioner has not proved that Mr Frydenberg was a Hungarian citizen in 2019 and was not eligible to be elected to Parliament in that year.
“Indeed, we conclude that Mr Frydenberg has proved that he was not, and never has been, a citizen of Hungary. That conclusion is confirmed by the contemporaneous view of the current government of Hungary.”
Frydenberg on Tuesday welcomed the Federal Court’s finding.
The case sparked anger from both sides of politics, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison describing the action against Frydenberg as “the most despicable case that I’ve seen undertaken against a member”.
Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek previously stated, “These people [Frydenberg’s family], like many millions, fled the Holocaust … I think we’re actually getting into pretty disturbing territory now.”