Barnaby Joyce refers himself to high court over New Zealand citizenship

The deputy prime minister said he could be a New Zealand citizen by descent but Malcolm Turnbull has asked him not to resign

Barnaby Joyce has referred himself to the high court in order to clarify whether he is eligible to sit in parliament on grounds of dual citizenship.

The New Zealand high commission contacted the deputy prime minister last week to tell him that preliminary advice from the Department of Internal Affairs indicated he could be a citizen of New Zealand by descent. On Monday afternoon the New Zealand government confirmed Joyce was a citizen.

Internal Affairs has confirmed Australian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is in fact a NZ citizen.

— Katie Bradford (@katieabradford) August 14, 2017

Joyce dug in on Monday, telling parliament he would not step aside while his matter was heard by the high court.

While his Nationals colleague, Matt Canavan, stood aside from the cabinet while the matter of his Italian dual citizenship was heard, Joyce said on Monday he intended to fulfil his normal duties as deputy prime minister, because the government’s legal advice indicated he would not be disqualified by the court.

“The New Zealand government has no register recognising me as a New Zealand citizen,” he said.

While Joyce has faced questions from journalists about his eligibility for some weeks, given his father was born in New Zealand, he told parliament he was “shocked” by the advice from the New Zealand high commission.

“I’ve always been an Australian citizen born in Tamworth,” he said. “Neither I or my parents had any reason to believe that I may be a citizen of any other country.

“I was born in Australia in 1967 to an Australian mother and I think I’m fifth generation. My father was born in New Zealand, came to Australia in 1947 as a British subject – in fact, we were all British subjects at that time”.

“The concept of New Zealand-Australian citizenship was not created until 1948. Neither my parents nor I had ever applied to register me as a New Zealand citizen”.

The deputy prime minister is the fifth federal parliamentarian to have his case go to the high court because of a potential breach of the constitutional requirements for eligibility.

Labor said the Joyce case had far-reaching implications, because it was now unclear whether the Coalition was governing in majority.

The manager of opposition business, Tony Burke, told parliament Joyce needed to stand aside until the court determined his eligibility, given it was now unclear whether or not he had been validly elected: “And if you don’t know, how on earth can you rely on that vote?

“As of today … majority government is in question,” Burke said. “We don’t know if we have a majority government.”

The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Joyce should follow Canavan in stepping aside from his cabinet duties while his case was heard.

She told Sky News that Joyce hanging on to his roles and continuing to vote “doesn’t look good” and “smacks of hypocrisy”.

That observation was echoed by crossbench senator Derryn Hinch.

So one National Senator Matt Canavan resigns from Cabinet, says he won’t vote until High Court but Dep. PM. Joyce stays and will vote. Duh?

— Derryn Hinch (@HumanHeadline) August 14, 2017

Joyce assumed Canavan’s portfolio responsibilities, because he has already been referred to the high court because of his possible Italian dual citizenship.

The deputy prime minister will keep voting on legislation in the normal fashion while the case is heard.

While some of the crossbench independents have already given the prime minister undertakings on confidence and supply, the loss of Joyce’s vote on the floor would be deeply problematic for the government.

The Turnbull government has a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Canavan has told the Senate he will not vote until his matter is heard. Canavan has been paired in the upper house.

The Senate last week referred the cases of Canavan, two Greens senators, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, and the One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts to the court over dual citizenships.

The Turnbull government is already facing another high court proceeding over one of its lower house MPs, David Gillespie, with concerns he may have an indirect financial interest in the commonwealth, which, like dual citizenship, is grounds for disqualification under section 44 of the constitution.

There will be a directions hearing on the Gillespie case in August, with substantive hearings expected before the end of the year.

The former independent MP Tony Windsor, who ran against Joyce at the last federal election in his seat of New England, told Guardian Australia on Monday it was too soon to say whether the question mark over the deputy prime minister’s eligibility presented opportunity for a political comeback.

“But I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Windsor said.

The former independent MP said the run of constitutional cases suggested to him the current prohibition was “absurd”.

“Turnbull and Shorten should sit down and try and work this out. It probably is time they tidied the whole thing up.”

After Joyce’s statement to parliament, Malcolm Turnbull wrote to the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, on Monday inquiring whether or not he wanted to refer any cases of Labor MPs to the high court on the basis it would be desirable that all cases are heard at the same time.


Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
High court citizenship case: Barnaby Joyce and four others ruled ineligible
Australian deputy prime minister and four senators disqualified from holding office in ruling that could cost government its slender majority

Paul Karp

27, Oct, 2017 @6:37 AM

Article image
Why Australian MPs are heading for the high court over dual citizenship – explainer
The deputy prime minister’s future depends on a hearing over an ambiguous but now-critical section of the constitution. Here’s why

Joshua Robertson

23, Aug, 2017 @6:00 PM

Article image
Dual-citizenship high court ruling: the stakes of the case – explainer
Four of the seven politicians who have been referred to the high court are fighting for their political futures

Amy Remeikis and Paul Karp

09, Oct, 2017 @5:00 PM

Article image
Pressure mounts on Barnaby Joyce over citizenship – as it happened
Labor targets deputy PM as ABS revokes promise of no personal identifiers on marriage equality postal vote. Follow the day in politics live ...

Gabrielle Chan

14, Aug, 2017 @7:50 AM

Article image
Barnaby Joyce: 'Dopey' Liberal and Labor MPs let Nationals take citizenship rap
Joyce urges all MPs concerned about citizenship status to refer themselves immediately to the high court

Katharine Murphy and Paul Karp

31, Oct, 2017 @9:42 PM

Article image
Social media rejoices as citizenship stone comes back to hit Barnaby Joyce
The deputy PM’s referral to the high court to determine whether his New Zealand citizenship makes him ineligible to be an MP was meat and drink for Twitter

Guardian staff

14, Aug, 2017 @3:31 AM

Article image
Australian politicians' citizenship crisis – a brief history
From Scott Ludlam’s shock resignation in July to high court hearings this week, this timeline looks back at how it all unfolded

Amy Remeikis

09, Oct, 2017 @10:31 PM

Article image
Barnaby Joyce's future is under a cloud, constitutional law experts say
Malcolm Turnbull’s confidence the high court will rule the deputy PM eligible to sit in parliament labelled ‘somewhat optimistic’

Katharine Murphy Political editor

14, Aug, 2017 @9:05 AM

Article image
How the citizenship muddle unfolded and who’s caught up in it – timeline
It’s politics as unusual, as many more Australian MPs and senators have their citizenship status questioned and the list of wounded grows

Mike Ticher and Bridie Jabour

18, Aug, 2017 @5:05 AM

Article image
Tony Windsor asks high court for byelection in Barnaby Joyce's seat
Former MP’s lawyers object to George Brandis’s argument that MPs should not be punished if they were unaware of dual citizenship

Katharine Murphy Political editor

03, Oct, 2017 @8:15 AM