Aussie DPM drops NZ citizenship but his seat still uncertain

High Court yet to decide Mr Barnaby Joyce's eligibility in Parliament.
High Court yet to decide Mr Barnaby Joyce's eligibility in Parliament.

SYDNEY • Australia's "accidental Kiwi" and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce renounced his New Zealand citizenship yesterday amid sheep jokes and conspiracy theories about a left-wing plot to topple Canberra's conservative government.

Mr Joyce revealed his New Zealand connection on Monday, which sparked calls for him to stand down as it is illegal for dual citizens to hold a seat in the Australian Parliament.

By yesterday, Mr Joyce told Parliament that the authorities in Wellington had said that he could renounce the New Zealand citizenship that he unknowingly acquired from his Dunedin-born father.

The development does not mean the end of the bizarre affair, which threatened Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's one-seat majority. Australia's High Court has yet to determine if Mr Joyce is eligible to sit as an elected official.

The 50-year-old is best known internationally for threatening to euthanise Johnny Depp's dogs, Pistol and Boo, when they were brought into the country illegally.

Depp's ex-wife, Amber Heard, revelling in his discomfort, tweeted: "To comfort Mr Joyce in his hour (of) need, I have sent him a box of New Zealand's finest kiwi fruit (assuming this passes his biosecurity laws)," she added.

New Zealand officials said queries from Australian journalists prompted last week's discovery about Mr Joyce's status. However, Mr Turnbull said it was "outrageous and improper" that an NZ Labour MP, Chris Hipkins, also admitted asking questions in Parliament about the citizenship issue last week after talks with someone from the Australian Labor Party.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop cast doubt on whether Canberra could work with New Zealand Labour if it won a general election scheduled for next month.

"I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia," she told reporters.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Aussie DPM drops NZ citizenship but his seat still uncertain'. Print Edition | Subscribe