Josh Frydenberg hits back at new citizenship claim

Cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg has hit out at a fresh report claiming his mother, who fled regime-sponsored killing of the Jews after World War II, was not stateless when she arrived in Australia.

Mr Frydenberg last week scotched suggestions he could be a Hungarian citizen through descent, which would put him in breach of the constitution. He has been forced to issue a new declaration highlighting his mother's statelessness following an article in The Australian claiming his mother Erika Strausz was not stateless when she fled Europe with her parents and siblings.

The newspaper said Mr Frydenberg's mother "arrived in Australia using a valid passport" and "the immigration report was unclear about whether the family was travelling on Hungarian passports or some other form of valid travel documents for those displaced during World War II".

Josh Frydenberg said it was absurd to suggest his mother was not stateless when she arrived in Australia from Hungary. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Josh Frydenberg said it was absurd to suggest his mother was not stateless when she arrived in Australia from Hungary. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The immigration report noted that she listed her status as "stateless" but this appeared to conflict with NSW Customs Department senior officer J.H. Coventry Coventry's report which stated the Strausz family was of "Hungarian nationality", The Australian reported.

Mr Frydenberg last week said suggestions he could be Hungarian by descent through a stateless mother were "absurd".

He repeated this on Tuesday, saying: "There is a clear reference to statelessness on my mother's official documentation upon her arrival in Australia with her family".

Erika Strausz, born in Budapest in 1943 at a time when the Jews were declared by law as "aliens", arrived in Australia in 1950. At the heart of the furore surrounding Mr Frydenberg, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has denounced as a witch-hunt, is whether or not a Hungarian law passed in 1993 bestows citizenship upon Mr Frydenberg even if he was not aware of it or sought it.

Official documents held in the national archives show Erika Strausz' nationality when she arrived in Australia in 1950 is described as Hungarian but her citizenship is registered as "stateless". The 1954 United Nations Convention on Statelessness defines a stateless person as "someone who does not have the nationality of any country".

Jayne Persian, an historian and author of Beautiful Balts: From Displaced Persons to New Australians, said on Twitter: "All displaced persons were categorised as 'stateless' by the United Nations".

"Their nationality on migration papers is immaterial - writing 'stateless' under nationality in the post-war era was an act of renunciation," she said.

Immigration documents relating to Erika Strausz. Photo: National Archives, courtesy of Josh Frydenberg.

In 1993, the Hungarian government passed law a stating "the child of a Hungarian citizen is going to be a Hungarian citizen by birth". A person can submit a citizenship check to their local embassy to find out whether they are a Hungarian citizen.

Mr Frydenberg was born in 1971, 21 years after his mother declared herself stateless. She obtained Australian citizenship in 1957. He said: "Neither I or my mother have ever sought Hungarian citizenship".

But he agreed the Hungarian government's retrospective laws had presented complexities. "The issue of the unilateral and retrospective conferral of citizenship under Hungarian law is obviously a complex issue," he said.

Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said pursuing Mr Frydenberg's mother is a "bridge too far".

"We are actually getting into pretty disturbing territory now," she said last week.

"I mean, these people, like many millions, fled the Holocaust and I really do think that we're going a bridge too far when we start to pursue people in these circumstances."

Section 44 of the constitution says MPs will be disqualified if they are "a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power".

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This story Josh Frydenberg hits back at new citizenship claim first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.