If the Nationals lose their leader and nation its deputy prime
minister, then Fairfax Media’s health and industrial relations
correspondent, Adam Gartrell, will be the lightning rod for any
anger Coalition supporters will feel about the dual citizenship
saga that’s landed Joyce in hot water today.
Joyce announced in parliament today that he could potentially
be a New Zealand citizen by descent and has referred the issue to
the High Court.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said that following advice from
the solicitor-general, “the government is satisfied that the
court would not find Mr Joyce disqualified to sit in the House”.
But Gartrell has just revealed why the government
suddenly finds itself in such an embarrassing position,
especially after the PM
accused the Greens of “incredible sloppiness” and “extraordinary
negligence” following the resignation of two senators last
month who fell foul of section 44 of the Constitution.
The journalist had a tip-off about Joyce last Monday and admits
his “first reaction was to laugh”, in this account of what happened next.
He sent Joyce’s media adviser an email titled: “Is the boss a
Kiwi?” that day and was told everything had been sorted years
But Gartrell kept digging, and as he recounts: “…found a number
of places where the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs
(DIA) said citizenship by descent was automatic, and registration
was only needed if you wanted a passport”.
And last Thursday, he wrote to Joyce’s office again, having
spoken to three constitutional experts.
“Our advice is that any person born to a Kiwi father between 1949
and 1978 automatically became an NZ citizen by descent. There is
a further process you can go through to register that citizenship
– the process that confers the rights such as passports etc. But
even if that citizenship is never registered, the person is still
an NZ citizen,” Gartrell’s email said.
That’s when alarm bells started ringing in the government and the
matter went to the new solicitor-general for advice.
Fairfax gave Joyce the weekend to respond, and then on Monday
morning, Gartrell told Joyce’s office they were going to publish
what they’d discovered. Less than two hours later, the deputy PM
stunned everyone when he told Parliament about his concerns and
how he would refer the matter to the High Court, scooping the
Read Gartrell’s account of how events unfolded here.
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