News National Julie Bishop mocked over claims of ‘foreign interference’ in Joyce affair

Julie Bishop mocked over claims of ‘foreign interference’ in Joyce affair

julie bishop
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop came under fire during Question Time on Wednesday. Photo: AAP
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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has been openly mocked for her suggestion that Labor and its NZ counterparts engaged in foreign interference to bring down the Turnbull government.

After suggesting she would find it hard to work with a NZ Labour government, Ms Bishop on Wednesday intensified her attack on the opposition over its alleged involvement in revealing Barnaby Joyce’s dual citizenship.

Ms Bishop claimed Labor’s role in “orchestrating” a NZ Labour MP to ask a question in the NZ Parliament “designed to undermine” the government was a “direct breach of the international obligation for non-interference”.

“The Australian Labor Party set up the New Zealand government,” she told Parliament. 

Under international law, the principle of non-interference refers to the prohibition of “the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State”.

Labor said Ms Bishop had “disgraced herself” by pursuing “conspiracy theories” and openly mocked her claims during Question Time.

“Would the Minister for Foreign Affairs please tell the House some more about the evil, treacherous conspiracy she has exposed in this House time and again?” Labor’s Tony Burke said in a question to Ms Bishop.

Labor has conceded that Senator Penny Wong’s chief of staff, Marcus Ganley, spoke with NZ Labour MP Chris Hipkins about the country’s citizenship laws.

Barnaby Joyce has been forced to defend his eligibility in the High Court. Photo: AAP

But the opposition has stressed that he did not mention Mr Joyce’s case nor ask Mr Hipkins to take up the issue in Parliament.

It is unclear why Mr Hipkins’ questions, which do not mention Mr Joyce by name, would have prompted NZ authorities to investigate the Deputy PM’s situation.

However, the NZ Herald reported that the responsible department had mentioned both Australian media enquiries and Mr Hipkins’ questions when it briefed the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

NZ Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne, whose department received the questions from Mr Hipkins, has previously dismissed any suggestion Mr Hipkins’ questions were a factor.

On Wednesday, Mr Dunne called the entire affair a “silly spat”.

Mr Joyce’s citizenship and NZ Labour’s involvement has become a political issue in New Zealand, which is in the midst of an election campaign.

Ms Bishop was accused of interfering in the campaign on Tuesday when she suggested she would find it hard to build trust with a newly elected NZ Labour government.

Mr Dunne, a minister but a member of United Future, not the governing National Party, said the comments were “probably unwise in the circumstances”.

“I think that probably everyone should just take a deep breath at the moment and pull back from the brink,” he said.

“The issue is to do with the Australian constitution, beginning and end of the story.”

That was contradicted by NZ’s Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee, a National MP, who suggested Mr Hipkins’ had prompted authorities to investigate.

Asked repeatedly if Ms Bishop had gone too far, NZ PM Bill English said only that he could “understand” Ms Bishop’s response.

Mr English said he expected the spat between the two nations to dissipate, while Labour leader Jacinda Ardern also declined on Wednesday to criticise Ms Bishop’s comments.

Ms Ardern has conceded that Mr Hipkins’ conduct was inappropriate.

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