Hinch Disputes Citizenship Drama Saying A ‘Pension Is Not A Privilege’

CANBERRA — He has been demanding an independent citizenship audit of all MPs and has had zero sympathy for any politician under a citizenship cloud. But now crossbench senator Derryn Hinch could be the eighth federal pollie ensnared in the dual citizenship debacle.

The Victorian senator has confirmed he still holds a U.S. social security card from his time living and working in New York in the 1960s and 1970s, making him eligible for a U.S. pension — which is potentially a breach of Section 44 of the constitution.

“I am number eight,” Hinch joked on being introduced on ABC radio on Thursday. That reference is to the growing list of caught-up politicians; Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, Fiona Nash, Nick Xenophon, Scott Ludlum, Larissa Waters and Malcolm Roberts.

On Tuesday, the case of ACT Labor Senator and former Chief Minister Katy Gallagher was also raised, but her alleged issue, of a British mother born in Ecuador, is not proven. The ALP claims to have addressed the British and Ecuadorian question marks during vetting for Gallagher’s nomination for the Senate.

Hinch had renounced New Zealand citizenship prior to nominating for election to the Senate, but could still fall foul of the same part of Section 44 of the Constitution which disqualifies dual nationals and those ‘entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power’.

There are already doubts from leading citizenship experts and Hinch, himself, is not convinced.

“I don’t believe a pension is a privilege where ever you live,” he told RN Breakfast. “I can’t vote in the United States. I could not even work there without the right papers.”

Hinch explained his “entitlement” is that while working in the U.S. he paid an extra tax which collected money for a pension later in life.

“The entitlement is that because for these 10 years I paid this tax, I am entitled to a pension,” he said.

Regardless, he is to seek advice from the Solicitor-General on Thursday and, if necessary, is prepared to refer himself to the High Court for determination.

Hinch worked in New York as a journalist for Fairfax media. A social security number is needed for employment and a card is used as identification for life. The Senator has declared he never held U.S. citizenship and never held a U.S. Green Card.

He said he wrote to the U.S. social security department a year ago asking it to stop the pension.

“I don’t want to be accused of double dipping. ‘Please freeze my pension, whatever I am entitled to from August 30 2016’, and that is what it says,” he said.

The crossbencher believes a so-called “close friend” dobbed him in to the media to cause trouble.

“Somebody has done it,” Hinch said. “Somebody does not like me and there we go.”

The senator has famously had no sympathy for “slacker” politicians caught up in the constitutional fiasco and on Thursday he said that view has not changed.

“I think everybody should have checked dual nationality. They should have done it,” Hinch insisted.

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