New Zealand authorities have confirmed Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is a citizen of their country.
My Joyce revealed in Parliament on Monday he learnt last week he could be a New Zealand citizen by descent through his father and may renounce his New Zealand citizenship.
New Zealand’s Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne has since confirmed Mr Joyce’s New Zealand citizenship under the Citizenship Act of 1948.
Mr Dunne said the Crown Law had checked the circumstances and confirmed Mr Joyce was a citizen.
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has also confirmed Mr Joyce’s status.
“Unwittingly or not, he’s a New Zealand citizen,” he told reporters.
“It is a matter for the Australian system to decide how they deal with this issue.”
Children born to New Zealand Citizens automatically obtain citizenship under New Zealand law.
It does not have to be activated.
However, Mr English said some cases like Mr Joyce’s are “almost always accidental”.
“No-one sets out to confuse the public with their citizenship.”
It is now up to the High Court to decide if Mr Joyce has breached Section 44 of the constitution and is eligible to sit in Parliament.
The situation threatens Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s majority government, with the government holding a slim one-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
Labor Calls For Joyce to Stand Down
The Labor Party has called for Mr Joyce to resign until the High Court rules on his case.
“How on Earth can this Government have someone in the office of the Deputy Prime Minister when they don’t even know if he’s meant to be a Member of Parliament?” Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said.
Mr Joyce’s former rival in the seat of New England independent MP Tony Windsor told the ABC he could run if a by election was called.
“The issues that I stood on last time against Mr Joyce have gone from bad to worse,” he told ABC TV.
“The National Broadband Network, for instance – I think people in particular, but city people as well – have woken up to this massive con that’s been perpetrated upon them.”
“I’ll be watching this.”
He said Mr Joyce should not get special treatment.
“The law is the law,” Mr Windsor said.
“Why is Barnaby Joyce different to anybody else that has stood aside during this particular issue?”
Prime Minister Backs Joyce
However, Mr Turnbull is continuing to back Mr Joyce, rejecting calls to stand him aside until the High Court examines his status.
Attorney-General George Brandis said he expects the court will clear Mr Joyce.
He said dual citizenship may not be a clear-cut breach of Section 44.
“There has to be some conscious acknowledgement…so in a case as Mr Joyce’s, he first learnt of this on Thursday afternoon and it came as complete shock to him,” he told Sky News.
What Could Happen
If the High Court finds Mr Joyce to be ineligible to sit in Parliament, it is likely he will renounce his New Zealand citizenship and attempt to return by winning back his New England seat.
The Liberal Party will need to decide how Parliament will be managed until a by-election is held if Mr Joyce is ineligible. The Coalition be govern would by a one-seat majority during that period.