AGRICULTURE and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce has shocked federal parliament today announcing he may be a dual NZ citizen.
Mr Joyce made a statement to the House of Representatives today outlining the issue.
“Needless to say I was shocked to receive this information,” he said.
Mr Joyce said he and his family had never had any reason to believe he was anything other than an Australian citizen and had never applied to make him a NZ citizen and he was born in Australia at Tamworth.
Queensland Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan resigned from the ministry recently while the High Court’s Court of Disputed Returns deals with the constitutional merits of his dual Italian citizenship.
Mr Joyce’s matter has also been referred to the High Court, to seek clarity.
Mr Joyce said he was contacted last Thursday afternoon by the NZ High Commission to advise that on the basis of preliminary advice from the department of internal affairs, which had received inquiries from the NZ Labour Party, it considered he could be a citizen of NZ by descent.
He said he was born in 1967 to an Australian mother and “I think I’m fifth generation”.
Mr Joyce said his father was born in NZ and came to NZ in 1947, as a British subject and “in fact we were all British subjects at that time”.
He said the concept of NZ/Australia citizenship was not created until 1948.
“The NZ government has no register recognising me as a NZ citizen,” he said.
“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 44.1 of the constitution for 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.”
Last month, Greens Senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlum resigned from parliament after revealing they held dual citizenships with Senator Waters having failed to denounce her dual Canadian citizenship and Senator Ludlum his NZ citizenship.
Asked about the controversy, Labor senior MP Anthony Albanese said other parties would need to explain their processes – but he said nobody in Labor had been “caught up with these issues” due to its internal processes, around candidate selections.
Asked if Mr Joyce should stand down or refrain from voting while the matter was being dealt with in the High Court, Mr Albanese said it was “a matter for the government to give proper consideration of”.
He said he was also respecting the statement Mr Joyce made today, to the House of Representatives, on the matter.
“I will not give you running commentary on individuals,” he said.
“There is 150 members of the House of Reps.
“I have gone through my own circumstances and it is up to others to speak on their own behalf.
“The Labor Party has in place a very rigorous process when we nominate for public office.”
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the Prime Minister’s advice on the matter had led him to ask the Deputy Prime Minister to continue on in his ministerial roles “and that is what he has done”.
“It has been appropriately sent off to the High Court and that is where it will be determined,” he said.
“You don't leap to conclusions about this and you do what is appropriate and that is what the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister has done.
“You simply take the next step.
“It doesn't distract the government from what we are focused on.”