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Australia appoints emergency deputy PM in citizenship crisis

Australia’s High Court ruled on Friday that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and four other lawmakers were ineligible to remain in parliament because they held dual citizenship at the time of the last election.

Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop attends a meeting with South Korea's foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on 13 October 2017. Picture: AFP.

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as deputy prime minister on Saturday after a citizenship crisis ousted his deputy and cost his government its parliamentary majority.

Turnbull had been scheduled to fly to Israel on Friday for a week-long visit but was unable to leave without a deputy to assume the role of acting prime minister in his absence.

His departure has been delayed until Monday, he told media in Sydney on Saturday.

“It’s very important to recognise that contrary to some of the dramatic speculation in the media, that the government has a majority in the House of Representatives,” Turnbull said.

Australia’s High Court ruled on Friday that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and four other lawmakers were ineligible to remain in parliament because they held dual citizenship at the time of the last election.

Turnbull’s centre-right coalition is now in a precarious position. His Liberal Party is the senior party in a coalition with the smaller National Party, which Joyce led.

He must now win the support of one of three independent lawmakers to keep his minority government afloat, with two sitting weeks of parliament left until it recesses for the year. At least two independent lawmakers have promised their support.

Joyce has renounced his extra New Zealand citizenship and will contest a by-election on December 2 that is expected to return him to parliament and his position as deputy prime minister.

The Nationals have appointed Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion as interim parliamentary leader until the results of the by-election have been determined.

Bishop was appointed as interim deputy prime minister as the second highest ranking Liberal Party member after Turnbull.

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