Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is a dual citizen of New Zealand. Picture: Kym Smith
Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is a dual citizen of New Zealand. Picture: Kym Smith

What Joyce's citizenship woes could mean for Turnbull

MALCOLM Turnbull is facing the real possibility that he will be forced to seek an alliance with a crossbench MP to hold onto government.

Queensland MP Bob Katter has already outlined what he wants if the Prime Minister seeks his support if the High Court rules Barnaby Joyce is ineligible to sit in Parliament over his New Zealand citizenship.

"You're one by-election away from needing mine or Rebekah Sharkie's vote," Mr Katter warned on Sky News today.

Mr Katter said his support hinged on the government backing his call for a banking Royal Commission and a probe into the need for bio-fuels such as Ethanol.

Mr Katter did not guarantee supply and confidence to the Coalition if a vote of confidence was called in the lower house.

"All I can say is the opportunity is there," he said.

DELICATE BALANCE OF POWER

Julia Gillard was forced to seek an alliance with crossbenchers in 2010 when Labor won only 72 seats after she ousted Kevin Rudd as Labor leader.

The then-Prime Minister formed a minority government with the help of NSW independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, Greens MP Adam Bandt and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie.

The Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull currently holds 76 seats in the lower house, which amounts to a one-seat majority.

To hold onto power, if Mr Joyce lost his seat following a High Court ruling, Mr Turnbull would need to turn to one of five possible allies; independents Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter of Katter's Australian Party, Nick Xenophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie or Greens MP Adam Bandt.

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Bill Shorten accused the government of making up "conspiracy theories" after it was revealed Labor asked a NZ Labor MP to probe Barnaby Joyce's citizenship status.

New Zealand Labour leader Jacinda Ardern today confirmed the speculation an ALP member asked NZ Labour frontbencher Chris Hipkins to look into Mr Joyce's status.

Mr Joyce again refused this morning to stand aside as Deputy Prime Minister.

"The government is engaging in conspiracy theories, we don't need to engage in them," Mr Shorten told Labor MPs in a partyroom meeting today.

The Labor leader made no reference to the members of his party facing calls to prove they aren't dual citizens.

Instead, he opened the meeting with the Maori greeting 'Kia Ora' and joked Mr Joyce should be renamed Foreign Minister or 'leader of the dual nationals'.

Earlier, Ms Ardern said her MPs should not have asked the NZ Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne to look into Mr Joyce.

"I found out about those yesterday when the media story broke and contacted Chris to ask around the nature of the questions he'd asked," Ms Ardern told radio NZ this morning.

"He's been very clear: Yes, someone from the ALP put some legal question to him around citizenship, no mention was made of anyone's name, no rationale for any particular case being pursued was ever raised."

"He asked the questions without knowing how that might be used and has made it very clear, in hindsight, had he known how it would be used, he would not have asked the questions."

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke had earlier rejected the suggestions, saying to his knowledge the Australian Labor Party had not been involved.

Liberal frontbencher Michael Sukkar said it was a "serious" issue if an Australian political party was working to undermine the government.

"He asked the questions without knowing how that might be used and has made it very clear, in hindsight, had he known how it would be used, he would not have asked the questions."

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke had earlier rejected the suggestions, saying to his knowledge the Australian Labor Party had not been involved.

Liberal frontbencher Michael Sukkar said it was a "serious" issue if an Australian political party was working to undermine the government.

The MPs who have yet to provide documents proving they are not dual citizens include Justine Keay, Susan Lamb, Brendan O'Connor, Maria Vamvakinou and Tony Zappia.

Asked on ABC radio this morning why Labor would not just release the documents, Mr Burke said the party was confident its preselection processes had ruled out any possible chance the MPs could be dual citizens.

"We go through parents and we go through grandparents and then a team of lawyers work with the candidates to make sure they have fulfilled the requirements of Section 44," he said.

Ms Keay's confirmation in July that she had not moved to renounce her British citizenship until a month before the 2016 federal election contradict Mr Burke's assurance.

Attorney-General George Brandis told ABC the government's legal advice relied on the assumption that Section 44 of the Constitution did not apply to someone who had no knowledge or reason to believe that they had a dual citizenship.

He conceded the ongoing saga was "getting ridiculous".

The call for Mr Joyce to stand-aside comes as an overwhelming response to a News Corp Australia poll, participated in by more than 63,000 people, shows the majority of Australians think he should go.

The MPs who have yet to provide documents proving they are not dual citizens include Justine Keay, Susan Lamb, Brendan O'Connor, Maria Vamvakinou and Tony Zappia.

News Corp Australia

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