The Turnbull government ignited a diplomatic incident with New Zealand on Tuesday as it accused Labor and its NZ counterparts of treachery and a “conspiracy” over the Barnaby Joyce affair.
Topping off a chaotic and turbulent day in Parliament, independent MP Bob Katter confirmed he would no longer guarantee supply and confidence to the Turnbull government.
He labelled Mr Turnbull’s position on Mr Joyce’s citizenship saga “totally untenable” which made him look like a “towering hypocrite”.
If the High Court rules Mr Joyce ineligible to sit and he loses a by-election in his safe New England seat, the government will need the support of one of five crossbenchers to survive.
“It’s back to the drawing board,” Mr Katter said, when asked on Tuesday about guaranteeing confidence and supply.
Another independent MP Andrew Wilkie said he would continue to approach all issues in the Parliament on their merits and has “not guaranteed anyone anything”.
Nick Xenophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie said Mr Joyce − who has discovered he is a dual New Zealand citizen by descent − should step aside from cabinet while the court determines his eligibility.
But she said any suggestion of the government needing crossbench support was a “long, long way away”.
“What I want to see is … a stable government,” she told Sky News.
Independent MP Cathy McGowan said her support for the government on questions of supply and confidence remained the same, despite the issue over Mr Joyce.
However, she supports an audit of the citizenship status of all members and senators, and wants the register of MPs’ interests to include a statement on citizenship status.
Julie Bishop claims Labor ‘conspiracy’
Earlier, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop accused Bill Shorten of treacherous behaviour over the Joyce citizenship crisis which emerged after New Zealand Labour MP Chris Hipkins asked a written question about the issue.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus revealed late Tuesday that it was a staff member in Senator Penny Wong’s office who prompted the questions.
Mr Dreyfus said there was nothing wrong with sharing information with other Labour parties.
Senator Wong said her staffer had mentioned the issue was part of an informal discussion with friends and that it was questions from journalists that had resulted in the disclosure of Mr Joyce’s second citizenship.
“A staff member in my office had informal discussions with New Zealand friends about domestic political issues, including the section 44 debate,” Senator Wong said in a statement.
“New Zealand Minister Peter Dunne has since confirmed it was questions by Fairfax journalists, and not the question on notice, which led to the ousting of Mr Joyce as a New Zealand citizen.
“For the Turnbull government to then turn this into a diplomatic incident to try to distract attention from the failings of the Deputy Prime Minister is both reckless and damaging.”
Ms Bishop accused the Australian Labor Party of trying to use the New Zealand Parliament to undermine the Australian government, saying it put the relationship between the two governments at risk.
Mr Hipkins’ party leader Jacinda Arden said the question was unacceptable and that she was happy to discuss the issue with Ms Bishop on the phone.
“From my perspective, we’ve made it clear it shouldn’t have happened but ultimately it was questions raised by the media that caused this situation, rather than questions from us,” she said.
“I wanted to make clear our level of involvement because we’ve been implicated far beyond what we should have been.”
Senator Wong, Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the party was deeply disappointed that Ms Bishop has been prepared “to risk relations with our close friend and ally.”
“I would urge the government to reflect on the wisdom of using the credibility of the Foreign Minister in this manner, and to move swiftly to repair relations with parties of government in New Zealand.”
Government threatening to refer up seven ALP MPs
Mr Turnbull has told his party room Mr Shorten wants to steal government by entering into a conspiracy with a foreign power.
The government has also threatened to refer up to seven members of the Federal Opposition to the High Court.
Mr Turnbull urged Labor to clear up questions about the citizenship of some of its MPs on Monday, but Mr Shorten refused.
Senior frontbencher Christopher Pyne said there were question marks over seven Labor MPs and he has not ruled out asking the High Court to rule on at least some.
The seven Labor members include four who Mr Pyne targeted on Monday: Susan Lamb, Tony Zappia, Justine Keay and Maria Vamvakinou.
The other three are Tanya Plibersek, Senator Wong and Anthony Albanese.
Mr Pyne called on them to produce documents to show they had successfully renounced citizenship of other countries.
“All they need to do is produce the evidence that they are qualified to be in the House of Representatives, that they’ve renounced their citizenship successfully,” he said.
− with ABC