NZ’s Internal Affairs was reportedly looking into Deputy PM’s Barnaby Joyce’s citizenship …
18 August 2017 – Sky News
The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs was asked to look into the citizenship status of Barnaby Joyce as early as July – but it was only when questions were put on notice in the parliament that officials realised the Deputy Prime Minister is a New Zealand citizen.
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) first received enquiries about New Zealand citizenship from an Australian media outlet at 5.25pm (NZ time) on July 27.
The department did not identify the organisation but correspondence seen by Sky News confirms the enquiries came from The Australian.
The request was for ‘general information on the New Zealand citizenship status of any person born in Australia to a New Zealand father,’ according to an official timeline released by the Department of Internal Affairs.
It ‘asked whether the Department holds a list of foreign born citizens, referenced the name Barnaby Joyce, and sought general information on how Australians can gain New Zealand Citizenship,’ the department said.
The Department of Internal Affairs responded with general information about NZ citizenship status, but ‘no information about any specific individual was provided as part of the response.’
A week later, the department received a similar request from an independent Australian blogger, understood to be William Summers.
However, it wasn’t until the following Wednesday, when NZ Labour MP Chris Hipkins lodged two written Parliamentary questions on the same issue, that officials realised the potential implications for the Australian government.
The written questions were received by Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne on Wednesday 9 August, at 11.11am (NZ time).
One question asked: ‘would a child born in Australia to a New Zealand father automatically have New Zealand citizenship?’
The other asked: ‘are children born in Australia to parents who are New Zealand citizens automatically citizens of New Zealand; if not, what process do they need to follow in order to become New Zealand citizens?’
The questions were passed onto the department at 2.53pm NZT the same day. At 3.21pm NZT, the department received an enquiry about the same issue from a second media outlet in Australia.
The Department of Internal affairs did not identify this media outlet.
There was ‘no reference to a named person’ in this request, the department said.
Sky News understands it was the written questions from Mr Hipkins that raised red flags with officials, sparking a course of action that otherwise would not have taken place.
Following Chris Hipkins’ questions, Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) met with DIA officials, on Thursday August 10.
It was then, according to Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee, that MFAT realised Barnaby Joyce was a New Zealand citizen – after they saw the media requests, which had been processed through the Official Information Act (or ‘OIA’).
‘When (MFAT) had their meeting on the 10th with DIA, (and) DIA came along with the OIA request, there was somewhat of a putting of two and two together, which just happened to be right,’ Minister Brownlee said.
When officials realised Barnaby Joyce was a New Zealand citizen, they sought opinion from Crown Law and told the Minister for Internal Affairs, Peter Dunne.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister were made aware of the potentially explosive situation and New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Australia, Chris Seed, was informed. Chris Seed then conveyed the information to Barnaby Joyce himself.
‘When MFAT were aware that there was a Parliamentary question that was clearly related to the OIA which they were previously unaware of, it was a catalyst for making the decision to speak with Mr Joyce,’ Gerry Brownlee said.
Sky News understands the only reason Mr Seed spoke to Barnaby Joyce personally was due to the chain of events set in place by Chris Hipkins’ parliamentary questions.
Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne insisted media enquiries were the instigator for the investigation.
‘I know the chronology of events, and Mr Hipkins question came considerably late in the piece,’ he said.
‘It was only when the information had been discovered that the relevance of this question became apparent.’
Government departments must provide a response to questions put on notice within five working days. Answers are given to members of parliament that asked the question; the member can then use the information provided in the way in which they see fit. Answers are only released publicly three days later.
New Zealand Prime Minister suggested if Chris Hipkins hadn’t asked a question, the information might not have been made public.
‘You have to answer a Parliamentary question, you can’t just leave it. Whereas, you can perhaps not go back to the journalist,’ Bill English said on Thursday.
After Barnaby Joyce admitted his Kiwi citizenship, Chris Hipkins revealed he asked his questions following a conversation former colleague with Marcus Ganley, now Penny Wong’s chief of staff.
‘I was interested in the issue, I’ve been discussing it with various people, I’d been following developments in Australia,’ Mr Hipkins told Sky News on Tuesday.
‘I had no idea at the time when I lodged it what the consequences might be for one very senior Australian politician, but it is an interesting issue.’
Both Mr Hipkins and Mr Ganley insist they did not discuss Barnaby Joyce specifically. Mr Hipkins has since been reprimanded by New Zealand Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.
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