Politics Down Under
February 23, 2018

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, a rural conservative who has presented himself as a devoted husband and father of four, resigned on Friday, citing a sexual harassment claim that emerged in the Australian press on Thursday. Joyce was already facing a sex scandal from recent revelations that he had impregnated his former press secretary after an extramarital affair; the woman is reported to be 33, which would have made her 9 when Joyce got married. That scandal prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to instate a ban on government ministers having sex with their personal staff, and while the so-dubbed "bonk ban" has majority approval, The Washington Post notes, it opens a new chapter in Australian politicians' presumption of privacy.

"That's just not who we are in Australia," Joyce said upon announcing his resignation. "Don't go after private individuals. It's just wrong." That may be the Australian way, it isn't how things are done in the U.S. or Britain. So for more more information about Joyce's affair, watch this overview from Sunday's Last Week Tonight, where John Oliver not only explains Joyce's previous claim to fame but also introduces the very Australian father of Joyce's paramour. Peter Weber

October 27, 2017

Australian Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull at least temporarily lost his governing majority on Friday when Australia's High Court ruled that his deputy prime minster, Barnaby Joyce, and five other members of parliament are ineligible to serve because they held dual citizenship when elected. Three of the seven lawmakers implicated in a dual-citizenship flap that began over the summer belong to Turnbull's governing coalition, which drops to 75 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, from 76 before Joyce's departure. Turnbull said he is disappointed at the ruling but noted that the opposition Labor Party only has 69 seats.

Joyce renounced his New Zealand citizenship after discovering he was a dual citizen, and he's eligible to run for his old seat in a Dec. 2 special election; he said he will run again, and if he wins back his seat, Turnbull's government will have a majority again. Another Turnbull Cabinet member, Fiona Nash, will be replaced by a lawmaker from their party, while the third member of the governing party, Matt Canavan, was declared eligible to hold office, as was an independent lawmaker, Nick Xenophon, who resigned anyway. Two of the other members of Parliament disqualified — Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, both of the Greens party — had already stepped down and urged the court to disqualify all seven lawmakers.

The seven-member High Court deliberated for two weeks on whether holding dual citizenship, even if unknowingly, should bar Australians from running for federal office as "subject or citizen of a foreign power," as stipulated under Section 44 of the Constitution. Their decision that it does clears up an ambiguous point of law, but it also opens to scrutiny decisions made by Joyce and Nash while they were still dual citizens. "This is all uncharted territory," says Anne Twomey, a constitutional law professor at the University of Sydney. Peter Weber

September 14, 2015

On Monday, Australia's ruling conservative Liberal Party is voting on a challenge to Prime Minister Tony Abbott's leadership from former party leader Malcolm Turnbull (pictured), who resigned as communications minister to mount a bid to unseat Abbott. If the 101 Liberal lawmakers vote in favor of Turnbull, he will automatically become not just party leader but also prime minister. "I will be a candidate and I expect to win," Abbott told reporters on Monday.

Analysts aren't so sure. Abbott led the Liberal Party to victory in 2013, but his popularity has steadily declined since then, and most recent polls suggest a Labor Party victory in national elections next year. "It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr. Abbott's leadership," said Turnbull, a social moderate and policy centrist popular with swing voters but not with the party's conservative wing. "Now if we continue with Mr. Abbott as prime minister, it is clear what will happen, he will cease to be prime minister and will be succeeded by [Labor leader Bill] Shorten."

But the Labor Party's recent history with mid-rule leadership switches might save Abbott's job. "After being toppled by his deputy Julia Gillard, Labor PM Kevin Rudd seized back his old job in a reverse coup only to lose it forever when the public punished his party at a general election in 2013," explains BBC News editor Wendy Frew. But there are signs that the Liberal-National governing coalition might be through with Abbott anyway, she adds: "As one unnamed cabinet minister told local media on Monday morning: 'This time I think they will get him.'" Peter Weber

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