Barnaby Joyce out the front of the old closed down butchers shop in Bendemeer in the New England. Picture: Peter Lorimer
Barnaby Joyce out the front of the old closed down butchers shop in Bendemeer in the New England. Picture: Peter Lorimer

Barnaby Joyce almost called it quits amid citizenship row

BARNABY Joyce has revealed he thought about quitting politics this year as the crisis over his dual citizenship heated up.

The former Deputy Prime Minister, who is now fighting to win back the seat of New England after the High Court's decision on Friday, has said he would have been foolish not to consider all his options.

"In any of these decisions, it is an alternative that you have to consider, otherwise you ... don't have a balanced approach," Mr Joyce told a local Tamworth radio station.

Politicians always considered when was the best time to "take your feet out of the stirrups", he said.

"When that time comes, I will make sure I get off the horse with dignity and walk to the rail," he said.

Mr Joyce has chosen to fight for his former seat and has begun campaigning in New England ahead of a by-election on December 2.

Former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce on the campaign hustings has a surprise meeting with an old friend Mrs Jill Skewes, 87, in Bundameer, north of Tamworth. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
Former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce on the campaign hustings has a surprise meeting with an old friend Mrs Jill Skewes, 87, in Bundameer, north of Tamworth. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

It's expected he will win after his main challenger, former independent MP Tony Windsor, announced he would not be running.

Speaking to the ABC from the electorate today, Mr Joyce also hit back at Labor Party claims that more than 100 of his and ousted Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash's decisions in Parliament could be open to challenge after the High Court ruled they were ineligible to be elected.

He claimed any legal challengers would have a tough time establishing a case as some of the decisions Labor highlighted were not solely his, but made by the full cabinet.

However, constitutional expert George Williams has said there was a risk that some of decisions could be open to challenge, but it would only be those made after Mr Joyce's bombshell announcement in August that he might be a New Zealand citizen.

"I think it's unlikely the High Court would strike down decisions before these issues arose," the University of NSW Dean of Law told the ABC this morning.

Former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce on the campaign trail in Bundameer, north of Tamworth. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
Former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce on the campaign trail in Bundameer, north of Tamworth. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

But he said there was a genuine uncertainty over any call made after it was clear Mr Joyce's eligibility would be tested by the High Court.

"That's why standing down is the wisest course," he said.

Asked whether he should have stepped down, Mr Joyce said he had strong advice that he would not be ruled ineligible.

He has also sent a public warning to Liberal backbenchers who have anonymously criticised the Nationals in the media over their citizenship woes, saying his party was the reason the Coalition was in government.

"I just get annoyed when people off-the-record - because it's always off-the-record - start making comments about the National Party," he said.

"We won the last election because the National Party didn't go backwards, we actually went forwards.

"We held all our seats and won one.

"I just think that people should be reminded of that and if they really have a strong view of something, put your name to it."

The former Deputy Prime Minister has told The Australian if he wins the by-election, he will lobby for a referendum to be held on changing the Constitution to simplify the eligibility requirements for MPs regarding citizenship.

It could be held at the time of the next federal election and also ask the public other key questions, including whether Australia should become a republic and whether indigenous Australians should be recognised in the Constitution, he said.


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