Australian PM puts foreign minister in charge amid government crisis

Turnbull said Barnaby Joyce remained the leader of the federal Nationals but could no longer fulfill the Acting Prime Minister role because he was "not now in the parliament".

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, a member of Turnbull's Liberal Party, would instead be acting prime minister when he travels to Israel on Monday, three days behind schedule.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the prime minister here and I'm sure he'll make it a very worthwhile trip".

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, on Saturday, appointed his foreign minister as acting prime minister as he tried to stem the fallout of a citizenship crisis that has cost his government its parliamentary majority. Having recently renounced the New Zealand citizenship he inherited from his father, Joyce will contest a December 2 by-election.

With the loss of Mr Joyce, the government is down to 75 seats in the 150 seat lower house.

A Liberal minister has defended Malcolm Turnbull's last-minute decision to shorten his trip to Israel, insisting it's not an embarrassment.

"I had no reason to believe that, you know, I was a citizen of any other country that Australia".

Independent MP Cathy McGowan said in a statement she would "continue to supply confidence and support to the government", giving the coalition room to breathe in the lower House of Representatives. By convention his deputy would have taken over his responsibilities during his absence.

The Greens' Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters and One Nation's Malcolm Roberts, all of whom except Roberts had already announced their resignation regardless of the finding, who served in the Senate alongside Nash were also disqualified.

"Matt Canavan has been sworn in again as Minister for Resources for Northern Australia and Fiona Nash's former portfolios will be undertaken by Darren Chester, and in the case of regional communications, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield".

Critics have condemned as outdated the 116-year-old constitutional ban on lawmakers having dual citizenship in a country where nearly half the people are immigrants or have an overseas-born parent.

The government's solicitor-general had argued to the court that Joyce and four of the other seven had not breached Section 44 of the constitution as they were unaware of their overseas citizenship.

Labor will be putting pressure on the Turnbull government following the citizenship fiasco that has left it without two of its cabinet ministers. But the High Court judges ruled ignorance was not an excuse in law.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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