Barnaby Joyce says if he is re-elected following his disqualification from parliament on Friday, he will seek a multi-pronged referendum to tackle a range of constitutional questions, including the rules on MPs’ citizenship and indigenous recognition.
Joyce needs to seek re-election after the High Court last Friday ruled he was ineligible for parliament because of his entitlement to New Zealand citizenship through descent. There will be a by-election for Joyce’s seat of New England on December 2. Joyce is expected to be returned.
The Australian reports today that, if returned, Joyce would “seek cabinet approval and Labor Party support for an ‘omnibus’ referendum to simplify the eligibility requirements for MPs and tackle other constitutional questions, including recognition of indigenous people and the republic.”
Changing the Australian constitution is extremely difficult given that it requires a majority of voters plus a majority of voters in a majority of states. Referendum questions put to voters effectively need strong bipartisan support in order to pass.
The Turnbull government last week rejected a proposal for an indigenous “Voice to Parliament” and the enshrining of indigenous recognition in the Constitution, arguing it was not likely to pass in a popular vote — a decision that angered indigenous leaders. The government plans to develop an alternative, more modest proposal.
Joyce says he would approach Labor leader Bill Shorten about proposing a range of questions be put to voters, potentially at the same time as the next federal election in 2019.
From The Australian’s report:
“You might have four or five things,” Mr Joyce said. “You can clear the deck of a whole range of constitutional changes and put them up at the next election. If Bill Shorten was a decent bloke, he would say, ‘OK, I reckon these are the things we need to clear up, so let’s go’.
“I … know what he will say. ‘So what about the republic?’ OK, mate, put that on the ballot paper as well.”
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