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Australian deputy PM is also NZ citizen

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia’s deputy prime minister on Monday became the latest lawmaker to reveal he might have breached a constitutional prohibition on dual citizens becoming lawmakers, after the New Zealand government declared he was a kiwi.

Barnaby Joyce told Parliament he would become the fifth lawmaker to be referred to the High Court since last month for scrutiny over whether he was entitled to remain in Parliament.

Joyce, who leads the conservative Nationals minor coalition party, said he had legal advice that he would be cleared by the court and would not stand down from Cabinet.

The 116-year-old section of the constitution that bans dual nationals is taking an extraordinary toll on the finely balanced Parliament elected in July last year. Before the careers of five came under a cloud since July, only two elected lawmakers were caught. Both were elected in the late 1990s and were quickly disqualified by the High Court, the first over New Zealand citizenship and the second for being British.

Critics of the constitutional rule argue it no longer suits the modern multicultural Australia in which almost half the population was born overseas or has at least one overseas-born parent.

If Joyce was disqualified, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s center-right government could lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives where parties need a majority to govern. The other four lawmakers are senators who if disqualified would be replaced by members of their own parties.

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