Yet despite winning plaudits from all over Australia, Cooper’s quest for citizenship has been unsuccessful.
The sticking point relates to the fact Cooper must not have been overseas for 12 months all up in the four-year period before applying. Under current rules, a recent stint in Japanese rugby makes him ineligible.
However, if an individual meets all the requirements to become an Australian citizen except for the residency requirements because of travel for work, the minister now has capability to approve an application for citizenship.
Cooper was eligible to play his first match for the Wallabies in 2008 because he had lived in Australia for the required three years prior.
Keneally is now the shadow minister for immigration and citizenship and has been in Cooper’s corner since it emerged his fourth request had been rejected by the Department of Home Affairs in July.
“What an extraordinary performance,” Keneally told the Herald. “At the last moment of the game, with everything on the line and with the toughest kick, he took on the responsibility and got the job done for his country and for his mates. There is no more Australian value than standing up and looking after your mates. Quade Cooper’s passport needs to match his jersey. He’s an Australian hero and he should be an Australian citizen.”
Earlier on Monday, Falinski, the federal member for Mackellar, told the Herald good news could be on the horizon.
“I’ve been lobbying behind the scenes pretty heavily,” Falinski said. “This is a broader problem than just Quade. Will Genia is in the same boat. I’ve been talking to Alex Hawke for quite a bit on this and I’m hopeful we might have something to say on this sooner than later. They have moved it along quite a bit.”
Genia played 110 Tests for the Wallabies between 2009 and 2019 and forged a fine combination with Cooper for Queensland and Australia. Born in Papua New Guinea, Genia is back in Australia but still contracted to the same Japanese rugby franchise as Cooper, the Kintestsu Liners. Both Genia and Cooper moved permanently to Australia as teenagers.
Genia was informed by legal representatives recently he would not be granted citizenship for the reasons that Cooper’s application was rejected.
Genia declined to comment on Monday. He is frustrated by the situation and hopeful of gaining citizenship.
Keneally and Hawke met on August 3 to find a resolution to Cooper’s citizenship matter. She says no answer had been forthcoming.
“I wrote to the minister six weeks ago,” Keneally said. “I’ve put several options to the government as to how Quade’s citizenship can be resolved. After last night’s performance, all of Australia has one question for Alex Hawke: why the bloody hell isn’t Quade Cooper an Australian citizen already?”
Hawke’s office did not respond the Herald’s request for comment on Monday.
In a letter to Hawke, Keneally explained how a resolution could be found.
“Legal experts inform me that as the previous holder of a Distinguished Talent visa, Mr Cooper’s activities could be interpreted as ‘of benefit to Australia’, and as such, he is already eligible for citizenship under the special residency requirements of Section 22A of the Act,” Keneally wrote.
“However, given your Department has advised you to the contrary, I would like to propose an alternative approach for your consideration.
“Currently, there are a number of exemptions to the general residency requirements contained in the regulations of the Act, including exemptions specifically relating to Distinguished Talent visas. As such, I believe there is scope for a simple regulation change that you, as Minister, could make to broaden this pre-existing exemption in the Act. I propose that we meet again shortly to discuss our path forward.”
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