Diplomatic relations with New Zealand on notice as citizenship drama bites

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

By Stefanee Lovett


The fallout from the dual citizenship situation that the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, finds himself in has started with accusations the New Zealand Labour Party conspired with counterparts from within the labour movement in Australia to bring this issue to light. Government Ministers, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, and the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar MP, did the media rounds this morning labelling the alleged interference, according to the Assistant Minister, as “borderline corruption”. The Opposition Leader, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, didn’t miss an opportunity to add some levity, welcoming colleagues to a meeting of caucus with a “kia ora everybody” greeting.

Following a week dominated by the same-sex marriage / marriage equality debate (depending on which side you might take), it seems politics moves very quickly, but still only one issue at a time.

1.For the second consecutive day, the Manager of Opposition Business and Member for Watson, the Hon Tony Burke MP, moved a motion to suspend standing orders during Question Time. In moving the motion, the Manager of Opposition Business again called for the Deputy Prime Minister to “immediately resign from Cabinet”. Predictably, the Government was able to use its strength of numbers in the House to defeat the motion.

2.Facing criticisms that he may have overreached with his rhetoric in Question Time yesterday, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, was notably more circumspect with his comments surrounding the High Court, saying “we are very, very confident that when the matter of the eligibility of the Member for New England comes before the High Court, he will be found to be qualified to sit in this Parliament”.

3.While more cautious in his tone when referencing the High Court, the Prime Minister was forceful discussing the possible collusion between members of the Australian Labor Party and the New Zealand Labour Party regarding the citizenship scandal, fulminating from the dispatch box “the real issue today, and I look forward to saying some more about it in the course of this Question Time, does go to an issue of allegiance and loyalty. No one has ever doubted the loyalty of the Deputy Prime Minister to Australia, but what about the Leader of the Opposition — conspiring with the Labour Party of New Zealand — to undermine to the Government of Australia”.

4.Under trying circumstances, it was a balanced performance from the Speaker, the Hon Tony Smith MP, who did his best to hold a rowdy Question Time in check whilst also promoting “free flowing debate”, telling Members “I’m not going to let some Members of this House disrupt Question Time for other Members of this House”. Unfortunately, some Opposition Members didn’t heed the warning, forcing the Speaker to boot out six Members from the House under section 94a, namely the Members for Griffith, Burt, Wakefield, Gellibrand, Lyons and Whitlam.

1.During Question Time the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that he has commenced proceedings to rescind his New Zealand citizenship, telling Members “over the course of the weekend, we went through the process of renunciation. We have received verbal communication from New Zealand before Question Time that that has now been accepted, and we’re looking forward to the written advice turning up pronto”.

2.The Prime Minister, addressing the Coalition joint party room meeting this morning, has accused the Opposition Leader of trying to “steal” Government by dragging New Zealand into the argument over the citizenship of the Deputy Prime Minister. “This is a very serious development — it shows that Bill Shorten is willing to interfere in the political system of a foreign country” the Prime Minister said.

3.The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, outlined her fear that working with a future New Zealand Labour Government could be difficult, given their role in uncovering Deputy Prime Minister’s dual citizenship. Speaking with the press gallery this morning, the Minister said “New Zealand is facing an election. Should there be a change of Government, I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the Government of Australia”. Taking to Twitter to respond, the Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand, the Hon Jacinda Ardern MP, tweeted: “I value our relationship with the Australian Govt highly. I won’t let disappointing and false claims stand in the way of that relationship.”

4. Katter Australia Party leader and Member for Kennedy, the Hon Bob Katter MP, has joined the outskirts of the citizenship debate surrounding the Deputy Prime Minister confirming he will no longer guarantee supply or confidence to the Government, saying it was “back to the drawing board” in regards to negotiations for his support if a no-confidence motion was tabled in the Parliament.

5.The Australian Workers Union (AWU) has confirmed it donated a large sum of money to left-wing grassroots activist group Get Up! when the Opposition Leader, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, led the union. The Weekend Australian revealed on the weekend that donation to be about $100,000. An AWU spokesman confirmed to The Australian, that “the support we gave to GetUp! was endorsed by the national executive at the time”.

Today’s legislation focus included:

1.Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2017.

2.Petroleum And Other Fuels Reports Bill 2017.

3.Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening The Requirements For Australian Citizenship And Other Measures) Bill 2017.

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