SHOULD Barnaby Joyce stay or go from his cabinet roles – that’s the question being posed following the shock revelation of his dual NZ citizenship last week and now Fiona Nash.
The National Farmers’ Federation backed Mr Joyce’s capacity to handle his expanded ministerial workload after the Agriculture and Water Resources Minister was lumped with Northern Australia and Resources after Queensland Senator Matthew Canavan’s resignation from cabinet, due to his dual Italian citizenship issues.
Now, with a third senior Nationals’ member caught up in the citizenship drama - with deputy-leader and Regional Development, Regional Communications and Local Government and Territories Fiona Nash revealing last week that the matter of her dual Scottish citizenship would be referred to the High Court to resolve - the question of workload has intensified along with exacerbating doubts about the government’s policy focus.
Adding further intrigue to the controversy that erupted after two Greens Senators resigned following announcements of their dual citizenship, SA independent Senator Nick Xenophon revealed on Saturday he’d received advice from the United Kingdom Home Office that they considered he was a British Overseas Citizen.
Today, senior Nationals MP and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester fended questions about whether the High Court would rule Mr Joyce was invalidly elected and subsequent challenges against the decisions he’s made in parliament.
But Mr Chester said he was “very confident” in the advice provided by the Solicitor General that his party leader would be found eligible to continue in his role as the Member for New England.
“I will let the High Court do its job, but I’m very confident with the advice that has been provided by the Solicitor General,” he said.
“We have a great working relationship with the Kiwi’s.
“It has been a pretty tough week in terms of negotiating these issues around the dual citizenship.
“I think most Australians at home are thinking, well if you’re born in Australia, you’re an Australian.
“In terms of foreign countries having citizenship laws which can impose a citizenship upon someone without their knowledge; that seems quite surprising for a lot of people and we need to get some clarity around that in the High Court.”
Mr Chester said the Solicitor General’s advice was that both Mr Joyce and Senator Nash would be found eligible to continue serving in their roles.
“And they are doing a great job on behalf of the National Party, on behalf of the government, and on behalf of regional Australia,” he said.
“So I think this could take some time to resolve and I’d rather have Barnaby and Fiona out there in their job and delivering for regional Australia and delivering for the Coalition Government.
“I think it is appropriate they stay in their roles there.”
Mr Chester said there was also merit in all members of parliament being “upfront and honest” about the citizenship issue.
“Now the Nationals have been upfront and very honest and we have found an issue with three of our colleagues that have gone and referred themselves to the High Court,” he said.
“I think the Labor Party needs to come forward as well.
“If they have got any MPs that have any question marks about them; refer them to the High Court and clarify the situation.”