Bill English condemns Labour's Chris Hipkins in Aussie citizenship saga

Prime Minister Bill English has criticised Labour's Chris Hipkins for interfering in Australia's constitutional crisis by looking into Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's background.

After speaking to an acquaintance in the Australian Labor Party (ALP), Chris Hipkins put two Parliamentary questions to Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne about the citizenship of children born in Australia to a New Zealand father. 

Mr Dunne then revealed Mr Joyce is a New Zealand citizen, meaning it's against the law for him to stand in office in Australia. 

Citizenship saga: How it unfolded

  • Three Australian politicians resign after discovering they hold dual citizenship
  • Questions are raised over whether Australian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce was automatically granted NZ citizenship because his father is a New Zealander
  • Australian media put questions to NZ's Department of Internal Affairs
  • Meanwhile, Labour's Chris Hipkins has a conversation with someone in the Australian Labor Party. He claims he was unable to answer a question the acquaintance asked about automatic NZ citizenship
  • Mr Hipkins submits Parliamentary questions to about automatic citizenship to Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne
  • Mr Dunne confirms to Australian media that Mr Joyce was automatically granted citizenship. The written Parliamentary questions remain unanswered
  • Mr Hipkins accused of meddling for submitting questions to Mr Dunne
  • Mr Joyce remains deputy PM while he seeks advice

Mr Dunne says it was questions from Australian media, not Labour's Chris Hipkins that led to the revelation, but Mr English says it's up to MPs to make sure they don't get embroiled in the politics of another country.

"I can't remember a time when an MP has done something like that that involves the politics of another country. It's just another misjudgement about what is actually a serious issue," Mr English told reporters.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins.
Labour MP Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty

The whole affair has thrown the Australian government into chaos, after three politicians had to stand down when it was revealed they also held dual citizenship.

Mr Hipkins told media on Monday that he should have looked into the background of why his ALP acquaintance was seeking information, and said he had no intention of getting involved in Australia's politics. He said he never spoke to the ALP member about Mr Joyce specifically.

But Mr English says it's up to MP to "make sure they are not interfering or part of the politics of another country."

"It's another misjudgement in the Labour Party about an issue that's quite serious and Chris Hipkins should have known that .There's been a lot of publicity about what's happened to the MPs," Mr English said.

Ardern: 'I don't intend to have to make a habit of pulling [MPs] into line, but as required I will'

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told media on Wednesday she has "relayed" to Mr Hipkins an expectation that he focus on New Zealand's election. 

She said Mr Hipkins was approached by an acquaintance in the ALP who asked a question he couldn't answer, so he asked a question in Parliament to clarify it.

"This is not an issue he should have been involved in," Ms Ardern said. "These are not questions we should have been asking."

"He knew nothing of any individual cases that related to the concern of citizenship… Had he known, he wouldn't have asked the question and now regrets having asked it."

"I've certainly conveyed to my caucus I don't intend to have to make a habit of pulling them into line, but as required I will," Ms Ardern said.