back to top

Here's What Will Happen Next After The High Court Kicked Barnaby Joyce Out

A by-election for New England, a cabinet reshuffle and some new senators.

Posted on
AAP / Getty/BuzzFeed News

The Australian government has been thrown into chaos after the High Court ruled five of the seven so-called "Citizenship Seven" were ineligible to sit in parliament.

The High Court was called on to rule whether seven politicians in the federal parliament were eligible to be elected last year due to holding dual citizenship at the time of the 2016 election, in conflict with section 44 of the Australian constitution. Today, after two weeks of deliberating, the judgment was handed down.

So what happens from here?

First of all, what did the High Court decide on Friday?

Nick Xenophon, Matt Canavan: shantay you stay.

World of Wonder

Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash, Malcolm Roberts, Scott Ludlam, Larissa Waters: sashay away.

World of Wonder

The court ruled that deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash, One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, and former Greens senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam were ineligible to be elected to parliament in 2016, and has effectively kicked them out of parliament (aside from Waters and Ludlam who had already resigned).

There will now be five new senators in the next few months as a result of the Senate countback for those ruled ineligible, and the casual vacancy filled after Independent senator Nick Xenophon resigns from the Senate to contest the state election in South Australia.

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan was found eligible, despite the fact that he was eligible for Italian citizenship via his mother, who he initially blamed for the whole mess.

A by-election is set to be held in the New South Wales seat of New England on 2 December after the High Court found Joyce was ineligible to sit in parliament because he was a dual citizen with New Zealand at the time of the 2016 election.

The by-election

Joyce has said in a press conference in Tamworth, New South Wales, he will contest the election, but still needs to go through the process of getting preselected by the Nationals, which is almost certainly a formality.

His main opponent, former independent MP Tony Windsor, will not be contesting the election, which was a shock because he had made submissions during the High Court case against Joyce.

Windsor told ABC News that it was a busy time for him.

"I'm pretty busy at the moment, I've got a lot of things on. Helping build a house for one of our children and a by-election at the moment, probably isn't the ideal time. Maybe in February I would have had a look at it. I wouldn't rule it out that the Senate - [it] would address some of these issues I believe about," he said,

There will be new senators

There will be a countback of the Senate vote in each state to determine the replacements for Roberts, Nash, Ludlam, and Waters, with the next in line on their party tickets likely to be elected.

For Roberts, the next in line on the One Nation ticket — Fraser Anning — will likely be elected. Anning is no longer facing bankruptcy proceedings that would have made him ineligble.

Roberts has announced he will contest the seat of Ipswich in Queensland for the upcoming state election (predicted to be called any day now).

Ludlam has already resigned, and 22-year-old student Jordan Steele-John (next on the Green ticket) will likely take his place in the Senate.

A countback for Waters would mean former Democrats senator turned Greens candidate Andrew Bartlett would be her replacement as next on the ticket.

Nash's departure means one fewer Nationals in the Coalition, as next on the ticket in the event of a countback would be Liberal candidate Hollie Hughes. The current problem for Hughes is that she is on the government payroll as a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and you can't be on the government payroll when seeking candidacy.

The AAT told BuzzFeed News earlier in the week that Hughes had not resigned yet, and had not responded to follow-up requests this afternoon.

There will also be a new senator to replace Xenophon. Despite him being one of the two who were given the nod to stay by the High Court, Xenophon announced earlier this month that he would be resigning from the Senate to contest a state seat in the South Australian election next year in the SA-BEST party.

The Nick Xenophon Team will rebrand, and Xenophon and the two senators and one MP will choose a replacement because the party gets to decide when a senator resigns and a casual vacancy is declared.

What about the government?

Turnbull announced he would take on the portfolios of agriculture and water from Joyce while the by-election is underway, and Canavan was sworn back in as the minister for resources and Northern Australia on Friday afternoon.

Nash's portfolio of regional communications has been handed to communications minister Mitch Fifield.

Nationals senator Nigel Scullion has been appointed as the interim leader of the Nationals while Joyce is contesting the by-election. No deputy has yet been appointed to replace Nash.

There is currently no deputy prime minister, and Turnbull is due to leave the country for Israel on the weekend. This means it is currently unclear who will be acting prime minister while he is out of the country, but the Herald Sun has reported that deputy Liberal leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop would be acting PM.

The by-election in New England would be held just before the final sitting week of 2017, meaning New England will be without a representative, and the government will be sitting on 75 seats out of 150 in the House of Representatives for the next two sitting weeks at the very least (or 74 if you take out speaker Tony Smith).

This complicates things for Turnbull because in the event of a tie on the floor of parliament, Smith has previously told Guardian Australia he won't use his casting vote to give the government a majority.

Labor has not given a pair to the government while Joyce is out, meaning that the government may lose votes on issues the cross-bench supports, like setting up a royal commission into the banks.

Labor's deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said on Friday that there was now a hung parliament, and the Turnbull government was a minority government.

What about the constitution?

Turnbull said on Friday that the High Court judgment would be sent to a parliamentary committee to consider changes to Australian law to avoid this whole mess again. Constitutional changes require a referendum, but Sky News reported earlier today that the government might consider changes to the Citizenship Act to prevent people unwittingly being granted citizenship by a foreign power.

Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Josh Taylor at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.