NZ gov’t confirms Australian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce a citizen

By @chelean on
Barnaby Joyce, a member of the Australia Federal Senate, talks during an interview in Canberra, December 2, 2005.
Barnaby Joyce, a member of the Australia Federal Senate, talks during an interview in Canberra, December 2, 2005. Reuters/Tim Wimborne

The New Zealand government has confirmed that Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Barnaby Joyce is a citizen. The confirmation came Monday hours after Joyce referred himself to the High Court over his potential dual citizenship.

The leader of the National Party said the NZ High Commission contacted him last week to say he could be a citizen by descent. His father was born in New Zealand, while Joyce was born in Tamworth, New South Wales, in 1967.

He told the Parliament that he or his parents never applied to register him as a New Zealand citizen and that the Kiwi government has no register recognising him of the same. His father moved to Australia in 1947 as a “British subject.” He added, “In fact, we were all British subjects at that time.”

According to Sky News NZ bureau chief James O’Doherty, Joyce is definitely a Kiwi citizen. “NZ Internal Affairs Minister tells me the Crown Law office has confirmed Barnaby Joyce is definitely an NZ citizen,” he tweeted.

The confirmation creates a problem for Joyce, who holds the second most senior office in Australia. Section 44 of the Constitution states that a politician cannot be eligible for Federal Parliament office if their loyalties lie with another foreign power. As a dual citizen of both Australia and NZ, Joyce’s qualification would be called into question.

If he would be forced out from office, a by-election would determine a new member for New England.  The Turnbull Government would also lose its House Majority. It would need to ask for support from the Opposition or the crossbench MPs to successfully pass legislation. The Governor-General, currently Sir Peter Cosgrove, would decide on who would be the next deputy prime minister based on advice from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull, however, is confident that Joyce would not be disqualified from the Parliament. The party is waiting for the High Court to rule on Joyce’s eligibility.

Just last month, Greens Senator Larissa Waters announced her resignation when it emerged that she is also a Canadian citizen. She was born in Canada to Australian parents. And although she never returned to Canada, she failed to renounce her citizenship there.

A week before her resignation, fellow Greens member Scott Ludlam was also forced to quit over the same issue. He found out he holds a dual citizenship of Australia and New Zealand.

Cabinet Minister Matt Canavan is still awaiting a High Court decision over his eligibility. He said his mother applied for him an Italian citizenship without his consent. One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts is also awaiting the High Court to decide on his British citizenship status.