Barnaby Joyce May Have New Zealand Dual Citizenship; Deputy PM Refers Himself To High Court

The Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has announced that he may have dual citizenship with New Zealand and therefore be in breach of Section 44(i) of the Constitution.

Joyce has agreed that the government will refer his case to the High Court. He will not resign from his NSW seat of New England and will remain in the Cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

The announcement was made in a brief statement by Joyce to the House of Representatives this morning. The Nationals leader entered the Senate in 2005 and transferred to the House of Representatives in 2013.

Joyce is the fifth MP to be ensnared by Section 44 in recent weeks. Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters have both resigned from the Senate, whilst Senators Matt Canavan (LNP) and Malcolm Roberts (One Nation) have been referred to the High Court. The Nationals member for Lyne, David Gillespie, faces a challenge on the office of profit provision of Section 44.

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has written to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, asking him to nominate Labor members who should also be referred to the High Court.

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Letter from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Hansard transcript of statement to the House of Representatives by Barnaby Joyce.

Mr JOYCE (New England—Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (10:01): Last Thursday afternoon the New Zealand High Commission contacted me to advise that, on the basis of preliminary advice from their Department of Internal Affairs, which had received inquiries from the New Zealand Labour Party, they considered that I may be a citizen by descent of New Zealand. Needless to say, I was shocked to receive this information. I’ve always been an Australian citizen, born in Tamworth, just as my mother and my grandmother were born there 100 years earlier. Neither I nor my parents have ever 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 am fifth generation. My father was born in New Zealand and came to Australia in 1947 as a British subject. In fact, we were all British subjects at that time. The concept of New Zealand and Australian citizenship was not created until 1948. Neither my parents nor I have ever applied to register me as a New Zealand citizen. The New Zealand government has no register recognising me as a New Zealand citizen.

The government has taken legal advice from the Solicitor-General. On the basis of the Solicitor-General’s advice, the government is of the firm view that I would not be found to be disqualified by the operation of section 44(i) of the Constitution from serving as the member for New England. However, to provide clarification to this very important area of the law for this and future parliaments, I have asked the government to refer the matter, in accordance with section 376 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns. Given the strength of the legal advice the government has received, the Prime Minister has asked that I remain Deputy Prime Minister and continue my ministerial duties.

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