The Slatest

Australian Court Sacks Deputy Prime Minister and Four Other Members of Parliament in Citizenship Scandal

An accurate summary of the national mood.


Australia’s dual-citizenship saga has come to an explosive climax, with the Australian High Court on Friday deeming five of the seven politicians holding dual citizenship—dubbed the “Citizenship 7” by the media—ineligible to serve.

These seven members of Parliament, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, have spent the past few months in political limbo, after each discovered—in quick succession—that they held dual citizenship with either New Zealand, Canada, or the U.K. (Section 44 of the Australian Constitution bars dual citizens from running for office, whether or not they are aware of their secondary citizenship.) The ineligible parliamentarians include two members of the Greens party, two from the rural Australia–representing National Party, and a member of One Nation, Australia’s far-right nationalist party.

The conservative government, a coalition of the Liberal and National parties, has lost its one-seat lower house majority and its deputy leader, despite the assurances of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Joyce would be spared by the court. The former deputy prime minister is known internationally as the man who once threatened to kill Johnny Depp’s dogs over having skipped customs, and many Twitter users are cracking Pistol and Boo jokes.

Joyce has renounced his inherited New Zealand citizenship and says he will recontest his seat at a special election on Dec. 2. In the meantime, the government holds tenuous power, with independent MP Cathy McGowan committing her support to the Liberal-National coalition and promising not to back any no-confidence motions from the Labor Party.

While the coalition may still hold government, it’s not clear who is now Australia’s second in command: The Liberal Party is claiming the role should go to its No. 2 leader, Julie Bishop, while the Nationals, who on Friday lost both their leader and deputy, say the Liberals should honor the spirit of the agreement and let their party decide. The crisis has even led Prime Minister Turnbull to cancel his trip to Israel to mark the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba because it is unclear who would be acting prime minister in his absence.