Political chaos after Australian Deputy Prime Minister found ineligible for Parliament

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 17:  Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce   during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House on August 17, 2017 in Canberra, Australia. Justice Minister is the latest MP to have questions raised over his possible dual citizenship following revelations on Monday that deputy Prime Minister was a dual Australian and New Zealand citizen. Dual citizenship, which is prohibited for members of Parliament under the constitution, has already forced two Greens senators - Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters - to quit and Nationals senator Matt Canavan to resign as resources minister.  (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

One would not want to be Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull right now, after a High Court decision ruled five Australian MPs, two of which were cabinet ministers, ineligible.

Australia's government is currently held by a coalition agreement between the Liberal Party and the smaller National Party. 

Barnaby Joyce as leader of the National Party served as Deputy Prime Minister, but after Friday's High Court ruling both Mr Joyce and his deputy Leader Fiona Nash have been found ineligible.

With the loss of Mr Joyce, the government is down to 75 seats in the 150 seat lower house.  This does not hand control to the opposition party Labor however, as there are five seats held by members of other parties, and in the event of a tie the Speaker is able to cast a tiebreaking vote.

Mr Joyce will be contesting a by-election in his seat of New England, the date of which is expected to be announced on Monday.

Mr Joyce is expected to win the seat, but the ruling government faces an anxious wait until the by-election is over.

Labor is already capitalising on the confusion and the party will have to work with smaller minor parties and independents to ensure that bills continue to be passed until the by-election is over.

Mr Turnbull has been forced to take over Mr Joyce's role of Minister of Agriculture, being sworn in by the Governor-General on Friday.

There are also questions surrounding who should perform the role of Acting Prime Minister during a planned trip by Mr Turnbull to Israel.

The National Party says its interim leader, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, should lead the country in the Prime Minister's absence, while the Liberal Party says Foreign Minister and Liberal Deputy Leader Julie Bishop should be the one to rule.

Mr Turnbull was supposed to leave on Friday but postponed the trip, taking the weekend to stabilise his government.