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Tuesday, December 8, 1998 Published at 22:27 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

One Nation's dual nationality row

Pauline Hanson's party failed to gain a single seat in Federal government

After an all but comprehensive defeat in the elections, Australia's right-wing One Nation party is facing an embarrassing legal attack.

A Sydney businessman claims the party's only Federal MP, Senator Heather Hill, should be stripped of her seat because when the election took place she held dual nationality.

David Grossman reports on the One Nation from Sydney
Malaysian-born Australian Chuck Hong, a strong critic of One Nation, says under Article 44 of the Australian constitution, foreigners or people with dual citizenship are not eligible to stand for election.

"The rules of law that apply ... to all other Australians should apply equally to Miss Hill," said Mr Hong.

Although Miss Hill has since renounced her claims to being a British citizen, she now faces a complicated High Court battle to save her seat.

The BBC's David Grossman in Sydney says that much is being made of the irony that the one MP elected on the One Nation ticket of putting Australians first is now suspected of not being quite Australian enough.

"Absolute and outright nastiness"

A close friend of One Nation's leader, Pauline Hanson, Heather Hill was in at the beginning of the party, helping shape its populist right-wing agenda.

But voters rejected Pauline Hanson and 160 of her fellow candidates.

The one small consolation in the party's sweeping election defeat was Miss Hill's narrowly-won senatorial seat in Queensland.

Miss Hill is claiming that the same global business interests she denounced in her election campaign are threatening her now.

"This in my mind is absolute and outright nastiness by people who have money," said Miss Hill.

"It's malicious, it's vexatious and it's trying to destroy people who are trying to uphold a democracy," she said.

Constitutional complication

The Australian constitution says that any person seeking a seat must take adequate steps to ensure they are not subjects of a foreign country.

Heather Hill went into the election holding British citizenship but believes that by renouncing it she has taken the reasonable steps required by the constitution.

According to constitutional experts, there are many issues to be thrashed out.

Not least among them is that when the Australian constitution was framed in 1901, all Australians were British subjects.

Distinct Australian citizenship did not even exist until 1949.

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