SYDNEY • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday appointed Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as acting premier as he tried to stem the fallout of a citizenship crisis that has cost his government its parliamentary majority.
Mr Turnbull delayed until tomorrow a long-planned trip to Israel and held an emergency Cabinet meeting to shore up support after the High Court ruled on Friday that his deputy, Mr Barnaby Joyce, and four other lawmakers should be expelled from Parliament because they held dual nationality.
The court's shock decision had immediate ramifications, stripping the coalition government of its one-seat majority in the Lower House, forcing it to call a by-election in Mr Joyce's seat and sending the Australian dollar lower.
The opposition Labor Party has said it is considering a legal challenge to every decision made by Mr Joyce since last year's election.
Mr Turnbull yesterday said the deputy position would remain vacant until after the Dec 2 by-election for Mr Joyce's seat. The position normally goes to a member of the National Party, the junior partner in the coalition government.
Ms Bishop, a member of Mr Turnbull's Liberal Party, would instead be acting PM when he is overseas.
"Government goes on, good government goes on," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney, dismissing suggestions that the inability to agree on a deputy indicated tensions within the coalition. "When times get tough, that's when you put your arms around your mates."
Mr Turnbull now needs the support of one of three independent lawmakers to keep his minority government afloat, with two sitting weeks of Parliament left until it recesses for the year. At least two independent lawmakers have promised initial support, but noted that it may be conditional.
Mr Turnbull is under particular pressure after refusing opposition demands to remove Mr Joyce, who has renounced his New Zealand citizenship, from the Cabinet while the court decided his fate.