Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said his department told him late on Thursday afternoon Joyce’s situation had been uncovered as a result of checks following Australian media inquiries.
“Given who he was, Foreign Affairs had been advised and had taken over the diplomatic management of it,” he told RNZ.
“They in turn advised the High Commissioner in Canberra, who broke the delightful news to Mr Joyce… as I understand it, it was either late Thursday evening or Friday morning our time that Mr Joyce was informed.”
Dunne said he spent the weekend expecting the story to break at any moment in Australia, but that didn’t happen until Joyce announced it to federal parliament on Monday.
The minister reiterated the first inquiries came from Australian media.
“The facts show that inquiries into the possibility of there being people in the Australian parliament who might have been New Zealand citizens unwittingly were initiated by the Australian media.”
Dunne said Labour MP Chris Hipkins, who submitted written parliamentary questions to Dunne about citizenship by descent, was “part of the process later on but he didn’t initiate the whole process”.
Hipkins has been reprimanded by opposition party leader Jacinda Ardern for getting involved in the issue, which has caused fierce debate in Australia.
It’s now known he submitted the questions after a call from a senior Australian Labor Party staffer – Marcus Ganley, who works for Opposition Labor foreign affairs spokesperson Senator Penny Wong.
Wong has said Ganley and Hipkins had a discussion about the citizenship issue – which she wasn’t aware of at the time – and that the New Zealand MP was not asked to put in parliamentary questions.
Hipkins’ involvement led Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to say she would have a problem trusting a New Zealand Labour-led government.
Joyce has renounced his New Zealand citizenship and his parliamentart fate will be decided by the Australian High Court.
Australia’s constitution bars citizens of another country from standing for parliament.
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