SYDNEY – Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s political future was in doubt Monday after it emerged he was a dual citizen, placing the conservative government’s slim parliamentary majority at risk.
Australia does not allow dual citizens to sit in Parliament, with New Zealand confirming later Monday its citizenship was automatically granted to Joyce via his father.
The revelation has major implications for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal-National coalition government, which won national elections last year with 76 seats in the House of Representatives – a narrow one-seat majority.
Joyce has refused to step aside, instead referring the case to the High Court, saying that the solicitor-general was confident he would not be disqualified.
The obscure rule was little known until recently but several lawmakers have fallen victim to it in recent months, leaving parliamentarians scrambling to clarify their ancestral ties.
“Needless to say, I was shocked to receive this information,” Joyce told parliament after hearing he may be a dual citizen. “I’ve always been an Australian citizen born in (regional city) Tamworth. Neither me or my parents had any reason to believe that I may be a citizen of any other country.” The dual citizenship crisis kicked off in July when the minor Greens party’s co-deputy leader Scott Ludlam resigned after revealing he had dual Australian-New Zealand citizenship.
The crisis soon claimed other victims, including Canadian-born Greens senator Larissa Waters and Resources Minister Matt Canavan, who left cabinet after finding his mother signed him up to Italian citizenship in his 20s.
Joyce said Monday he had been contacted by the New Zealand High Commission last week to advise him that he “could be a citizen of New Zealand by descent”.