Deputy Prime Mister Barnaby Joyce was deemed ineligible to sit in Parliament due to dual citizenship today, leaving the Turnbull Government’s majority at risk.
The High Court decision has sparked a by-election in the New South Wales seat of New England.
Mr Joyce referred himself to the High Court on August 14, after realizing he inherited New Zealand citizenship from his father.
He continued to sit in Parliament believing he was safe citing legal advice.
Four other Federal MPs were also disqualified.
Deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash’s seat will go to the next person on the Coalition’s NSW Senate ticket, as she has British dual citizenship.
One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts will be replaced by Fraser Anning, who is next on the One Nation ticket. While he renounced his British citizenship, it wasn’t until after last year’s election.
Former Greens Senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters both resigned from Parliament earlier this year after realising they had dual citizenship. They have both been found ineligible today.
The High Court ruled in favour of National MP Matt Canavan, despite doubts as to whether he had Italian dual citizenship.
Cross bencher Nick Xenophon is also safe; however, he has already resigned from federal politics to run for South Australian Parliament.
Instability in the Liberal Party
Murdoch University senior lecturer in global politics and policy Dr Ian Cook said the disqualification of the Deputy Premier has put the Turnbull Government in a precarious position.
“They’ve basically lost that one seat that they had that made governing a little easier than it’s going to be now because they’ve lost that seat,” he said.
“They’re now in a position where they’ll have half the numbers and with the vote of the speaker of the house they’ll be able to eventually get legislation through.
“But it’s going to make life a lot more difficult for them, certainly in the Lower House, until the by-election is run.”
However, Dr Cook said he doesn’t think Bill Shorten will seek to take over power, but rather make life more difficult for the Turnbull Government.
He said there is already a degree of instability within the government, given Tony Abbott has not fully backed Malcolm Turnbull.
“We’ve now got this extra external difficulty for Malcolm Turnbull, so I think that’s going to make politics interesting from our perspective and very difficult from Malcolm Turnbull’s perspective.”
Section 44 of the Constitution bans foreign nationals, including those with dual citizenship, from sitting in Parliament.
Dr Cook said this law is anachronistic.
“I think that there might once have been some problem with dual citizenship in some sense of loyalty to this country,” he said.
“But I think that over time, society has become a bit more mature.
“We’re not as concerned about people being up against British citizens or committed to Britain rather than Australia. And I think that that was one of the major justifications or motivations behind the writing of that section of the Constitution.”