CANBERRA -- Rejecting any criticism of recklessness, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has doubled down on claims of Labor treachery and that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has been trying to "steal government" by colluding with the New Zealand Labour Party over the destabilising issue of dual citizenship.
Meanwhile, the man at the centre of it all, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has overnight released documents proving he has renounced the controversial dual citizenship he automatically, but unwittingly, got by reason of a New Zealand-born father.
He has also thanked constituents for support. The High Court could still disqualify him from Parliament.
— Barnaby Joyce (@Barnaby_Joyce) August 15, 2017
The Foreign Minister is questioning the fitness of Labor's Senate Leader Penny Wong to hold a senior role after it was revealed her Chief of Staff Marcus Ganley was the Australian Labor person who contacted a New Zealand Labour counterpart, Labour MP Chris Hipkins, about the citizenship status of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
A short time ago, the Government lost a bid to censure Wong in the Senate.
Wong says she did not know anything about the inquiries, and was unaware questions were going to be put in the New Zealand parliament. Bishop said the whole situation was "clearly designed" to undermine the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and confidence in the Australian government.
"Her closest, most trusted adviser, her chief of staff, who it seems was a chief of staff in New Zealand, is contacting a sitting Labour member of parliament in New Zealand, and the Shadow Foreign Minister doesn't know about it?" Bishop told Sky News.
"That just beggars belief.
"It is improper conduct for Senator Wong or Senator Wong's staff to seek to use the NZ Parliament."
The NZ Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said the questions put by Hipkins were wrong and unacceptable, but the NZ Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne subsequently confirmed it was questions by Australian Fairfax journalists, and not the question on notice, which led to the outing of Joyce as a New Zealand citizen.
Bishop has, on Wednesday, refused to back down from her line of attack on Labor, especially Wong and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, asking on Sky News if Shorten was "directing his troops to ask questions in other parliaments around the world?"
The Foreign Minister's attack, including that she would not be able to trust a future NZ Labour Government, has been criticised as a "Godwin Grech" moment by Labor's Tanya Plibersek and what has amounted to underarm bowling by Independent Senator Derryn Hinch.
Wong has admitted Ganley's move was "unwise" and unknown to her at the time, but is defending his conduct and rejects any classing of the move as treachery or a conspiracy.
Penny Wong's chief of staff sparked NZ Labour's questioning of Barnaby Joyce https://t.co/7urhpVCAjF— Business Lunchbox (@bizlunchbox) August 15, 2017
Wong said it may not have been a great idea, but the Government has made its own problems.
"I accept it was unwise for him to have that conversation, and he knows that," she told reporters in Canberra. "But we do need to be clear about the facts here and I've been clear about that.
"It is not our fault Barnaby Joyce's dad was born in New Zealand."
Wong insists the Ganley/Hipkins discussion was two friends talking on the phone and little more.
"At no stage did my staff member request questions be lodged in the New Zealand Parliament. Mr Hipkins has absolutely made that clear," Wong told ABC Radio. "The second thing I want to make clear is this: Neither I nor my staff member were even aware questions had been lodged until after this story broke. So any suggestion that this is somehow... What did Julie Bishop say? ... A conspiracy, is ridiculous."
Meantime, Joyce's Kiwi renunciation had been formalised.
The National Leader still has to go to the High Court to determine his and the Turnbull Government's future.
The High Court is also to consider the future of Nationals senator Matt Canavan, former Greens Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters and One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts.Suggest a correction