Australian court says no guarantee of
speedy ruling on citizenship crisis
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[October 12, 2017]
By Colin Packham
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's High Court
said on Thursday it was aware of the need to rule on the eligibility of
seven lawmakers quickly, but warned it could not guarantee a speedy
resolution to a case that threatens the government's one-seat majority
Parliament was rocked in August when seven lawmakers, including the
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and two other cabinet ministers,
said they held dual-citizenship, potentially ruling them ineligible to
hold elected office.
The uncertainty has put the government's future under the spotlight.
"The court is aware of the need for a speedy decision, but it is not
always possible to do so immediately," said chief justice, Susan Kiefel.
The court's decision will determine whether Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull can maintain his shaky grip on power.
Should the court rule that Joyce, the sole lower house lawmaker caught
up in the crisis, is ineligible, Turnbull will need to win the support
of one of three independent lawmakers to keep his minority government.
The remaining six politicians embroiled in the case are senators and
their seats would be assigned to alternatives from their political
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A sign stands outside the High Court of Australia in Canberra,
Australia, October 15, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray/File photo
A potential deal with an independent politician would allow
Turnbull's government to continue until a special election for
Joyce's seat can be held, most likely in November.
Joyce, popular among rural voters who dominate his local
constituency, has already indicated he will stand for re-election
after renouncing his New Zealand citizenship in August.
"Special by-elections are extremely volatile but it is lucky for
Turnbull that it is Joyce that may have to stand, as country
Australians seem not to trust the prime minister," said Nick
Economou, senior lecturer in Australian politics at Monash
University in Melbourne.
Support from rural voters, who overwhelmingly backed Turnbull in his
razor thin re-election last year, has fallen to its lowest level in
more than two years, a Newspoll for The Australian newspaper on
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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