Barnaby Joyce claims he is no longer a dual New Zealand citizen.
On Tuesday afternoon, shortly before question time, the Deputy Prime Minister told parliament he had “verbal confirmation” from New Zealand that his New Zealand citizenship had been successfully renounced.
He expects written confirmation to arrive shortly.
However this does not mean Mr Joyce’s troubles are over.
As he was a dual citizen at the time of his election, even unknowingly, Mr Joyce may have breached section 44 of the Australia constitution.
Section 44 of the Australian constitution says anyone “entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power” is disqualified from standing for parliament.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government was “very, very confident” Mr Joyce was eligible to stand as the Member for New England, but the final verdict will rest with the High Court.
If the High Court finds Mr Joyce has breached section 44, he would have no choice but to stand down, forcing a by-election for the New England electorate – which Mr Joyce would be eligible to contest if his New Zealand citizenship is successful renounced.
Kiwi-gate damaging international relations with New Zealand
Barnaby Joyce’s dual citizenship scandal – dubbed Kiwi-gate – has put a strain on Australia's international relationship with New Zealand.
While New Zealand's Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne has confirmed it was Fairfax Media's investigation that led to the discovery of Mr Joyce's dual citizenship, the government has jumped on claims the Labor Party colluded with the New Zealand Labour Party.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accusing Opposition leader Bill Shorten of “conspiracy with a foreign power”.
NZ Labour leader Jacinda Ardern confirmed that her frontbencher Chris Hipkins was involved.
“Yes, someone from the ALP put some legal question to him around citizenship,” Ms Ardern said.
“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.”
Mr Hipkins said he was not directed to ask a question on the issue, saying he submitted a question on notice into the NZ Parliament off his own bat because he too an interest following his conversation with an unnamed Australian Labor friend.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said the involvement could damage relations between the two countries.
“New Zealand is facing an election," Ms Bishop said. "Should there be a change of government, I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia,” Ms Bishop said.
“I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian government.:
Ms Ardern said Ms Bishop’s “false claims” were “highly regrettable”.
“I greatly value New Zealand’s relationship with the Australian government. I will not let false claims stand in the way of that relationship,” she said.
“I would happily take a call from Julie Bishop to clarify matters. I have also contacted the Australian High Commission to register my disappointment and will be meeting with the High Commissioner later today.
“Ultimately, it was questions from the media, not questions from us. We have been implicated far beyond what we should have been.”
Mr Dunne – who is a government member of the United Future Party, not the Labour Party - indicated the rhetoric around NZ Labour was completely overblow.
“This is so much utter nonsense – while Hipkins’ questions were inappropriate, they were not the instigator. Australian media inquiries were," he said, referring to questions from Fairfax Media.
Asked subsequently about Ms Bishop’s comments, a spokesman for Mr Dunne said: “He doesn't want to get involved with the internal politics of your country – that is for your country to resolve.”