In a July radio interview, deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said it was "black and white" that dual citizens couldn't sit in parliament, adding that "ignorance is not an excuse".
Just 28 days after the interview, the New Zealand government confirmed the deputy prime minister was a Kiwi dual citizen, through descent from his father.
Joyce is not resigning or standing down from cabinet, as have other MPs who've run afoul of Section 44 of the constitution, with the government suggesting it is confident it'll win a High Court case because of Joyce's apparent ignorance about his Kiwi citizenship.
But during an interview with ABC Radio National's Patricia Karvelas on Tuesday July 18 Joyce said this, in the wake of Greens senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam resigning:
JOYCE: I don't think for either Scott Ludlam or Larissa Waters there was anything malicious about it. I think merely an oversight, but unfortunately that's the law. It's like if you're driving on the road without a licence and you get pulled over. Well, you're in a spot of bother. They were members of parliament. It's quite clear under Section 44, you can't be a member of parliament and have dual citizenship. It's black and white. The outcome is black and white. That's just, that's just the way it is.
KARVELAS: Does the law set the bar too high? Is it time to have a look at Section 44 of the Constitution?
JOYCE: Nah, I don't think it is. I think you just have got to do your homework and make sure you're not a citizen of two countries when you stand for parliament. That's basically it. Larissa said she believed that was not the case and I am sure that would be the outcome for Scott Ludlam. But unfortunately ignorance is not an excuse, you're in strife and as I said, there's nothing malicious about it, being sneaky, but they were outside what Section 44 explicitly says. The reason it says that, is that you can only have one master, Australia. If you're going to serve in the Australian parliament, Australia is your master.
On Monday night, attorney-general George Brandis cited legal advice from the solicitor-general which suggested Joyce's ignorance would form the basis of the defence.
"The government has taken advice from the solicitor-general Dr Donaghue," Brandis said.
"On the basis of that advice we are confident that on the proper interpretation of Section 44, Mr Joyce — because of his unawareness of his status as a New Zealand citizen, if indeed that turns out to be the case — would not be disqualified."
Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam said they were unaware they were dual citizens until they checked into their status in recent weeks.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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