On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister, Bill English, confirmed that the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Barnaby Joyce is a citizen of New Zealand.
Unwittingly or not, because his father was born in New Zealand, Mr Joyce is a citizen of New Zealand by descent and this Kiwi citizenship does not have to be activated.
“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 Labor Party, they considered that I may be a citizen by descent of New Zealand,” Mr Joyce told Parliament on Monday.
“Needless to say, I was shocked to receive this information. I have always been an Australian citizen, born in Tamworth, just as my mother and my great-grandmother (were) born there 100 years earlier.”
“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 an New Zealand citizen,” Mr Joyce told Parliament.
The High Court will now decide the fate of Mr Joyce’s political career by ruling on whether he has breached Section 44 of the constitution and would therefore be ineligible to sit in Parliament.
The Greens and Labor Party are calling for Mr Joyce to resign as Deputy Prime Minister until the High Court rules on his case.
“How on earth can this Government have someone in the office of Deputy Prime Minister when they don’t even know if he’s meant to be a Member of Parliament?” asked Labor frontbencher Tony Burke.
After receiving legal advice, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is “very confident” that Mr Joyce won’t be disqualified. In a 1992 ruling, the High Court ruled that just because a country gives an Australian citizenship doesn’t mean that Australia has to recognise it.
In the latest parliamentary embarrassment, the Australian public is learning that even more members are ineligible due to dual-citizenship issues. It makes one wonder how such significant legislation is overlooked by politicians when running for government. It also calls into questions the diligence of their parties and, of course, those in charge of enforcing the legislation. It seems as though it’s easier to get into Parliament than it is to apply for a passport or Visa.
The same people enforcing our borders, making billion-dollar decisions on behalf of our country and deciding our futures can’t even check their own citizenship status.
These parliamentarians have made a mistake in failing to renounce citizenship. However, the fact that the law itself doesn’t allow dual citizens to sit in Parliament in this great multicultural country seems ridiculous.
According to analysis by the ABC’s Antony Green, if the High Court disqualifies Barnaby Joyce for dual-citizenship by descent, it will mean 40 to 50 per cent of the Australian public would need to renounce dual-citizenship before being eligible to run for Parliament.
This story is still developing. Several MPs born overseas are yet to provide documentation that they, too, don’t hold dual-citizenship.
It seems only logical that, for the greater good of our parliament and to prevent a thinning of the ranks (which already seems extremely thin as it is), parliamentarians who have citizenship without their knowledge can renounce their secondary citizenship and continue serving our country.
What do you think? Is the current dual-citizenship law ridiculous? Should a multi-cultural country like Australia allow dual citizens to sit in Parliament?