CANBERRA, Oct. 27 – Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister (PM) Barnaby Joyce and four other federal politicians have been disqualified from sitting in the parliament by the High Court on Friday.
Joyce, leader of the Nationals party which shares a governing coalition with the Liberal National Party (LNP), was found to be ineligible to serve as Member of Parliament under section 44 (i) of the Constitution which prevents dual citizens from being elected.
Joyce’s deputy leader of the Nationals, Senator Fiona Nash, was also disqualified as well as One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts and Greens Senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters who have both already resigned from parliament.
The court found that the four ineligible parliamentarians were either the citizen of a foreign power or entitled to the rights or privileges of a citizen of a foreign power. Nick Xenophon, who along with Senator Matt Canavan, was cleared by the High Court, has said he will resign regardless of the result and enter state politics in South Australia.
Both Joyce and Ludlam have parents who were born in New Zealand where the law is that citizenship is passed on to children. Nash’s father was born in Scotland where similar laws apply while Roberts was born in India to a Welsh father and Waters was born in Canada.
The ruling is a major blow for the Australian government which has lost its majority in the House of Representatives, where government is established.
Despite losing its majority, the government’s position is not expected to be under threat with the Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) requiring 76 votes to pass a motion of no confidence in the government, a number that ALP does not enjoy.
Prime Minister (PM) Malcolm Turnbull will have to undertake a major reshuffle of his Cabinet with Nash and Joyce both serving as ministers until the ruling. Joyce has flagged his intention to run in a by-election in his New South Wales seat of New England where polling suggests he will win.
“I had no reason to believe I was a citizen of any other country but Australia,” Joyce told reporters on Friday. “I was always prepared for this outcome, I don’t actually stand here totally surprised. So it’s a pretty simple story, we are off to a by-election.”
“I will get back to work and were cut for the people in my electorate, the elected of New England, and do the best for my nation which I have always tried to do.”
As members of the Senate, neither Nash nor Roberts are entitled to a by-election and their seats will instead go to the next person on their respective parties’ Senate ticket at the 2016 election.
Anthony Albanese, a senior member of the ALP, said that the government had “learnt nothing” from the citizenship saga, describing Joyce’s admission that he was “prepared” for the ruling as “breathtaking.” “The government has lost its capacity to govern over recent months,” Albanese said. “Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce have both been humiliated frankly.”
(Copyright National News Agency / Xinhua, 2017)