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Sheepish Aussie deputy PM drops Kiwi citizenship

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce

Sydney, Australia | AFP | Australia’s “accidental Kiwi” deputy prime minister renounced his New Zealand citizenship Tuesday amid sheep jokes, Hollywood taunts and conspiracy theories about a left-wing plot to topple Canberra’s conservative government.

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce revealed his New Zealand connection on Monday, sparking calls for him to stand down as it is illegal for dual citizens to sit in the Australian parliament.

By Tuesday afternoon, Joyce told parliament that authorities in Wellington had agreed he could renounce the New Zealand citizenship unknowingly acquired from his Dunedin-born father.

“We received verbal communication from New Zealand before question time that that has now been accepted and we’re looking forward to the written advice turning up pronto,” he said.

The development does not mean the end of the bizarre affair, which threatens Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s one-seat majority in parliament.

But Joyce will hope it bolsters the case to remain in his job, preserving the government’s wafer-thin buffer, until the High Court determines if he is eligible to sit as an elected official.

– Kiwi fruit –

The 50-year-old is best known internationally for threatening to euthanise Johnny Depp’s dogs Pistol and Boo when they were brought into the country illegally.

Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard, who kept the dogs after they split, was revelling in his discomfort, tweeting Tuesday “when Barnaby Joyce said ‘no one is above the law’, I didn’t realise he meant New Zealand law’.”

“To comfort Mr. Joyce in his hour (of) need, I have sent him a box of New Zealand’s finest kiwi fruit (assuming this passes his biosecurity laws),” she added.

Joyce, who Depp once said “looks somehow inbred with a tomato”, has long cultivated an image as a straight-talking Aussie bushman, usually sporting a wide-brimmed Akubra hat and elastic-sided farm boots.

The deputy Australian leader was “shellshocked” to learn last week of automatically qualifying as a New Zealander even though he had never applied for citizenship.

New Zealand officials said queries from Australian journalists prompted last week’s discovery about Joyce’s status.

However, Turnbull said it was “outrageous and improper” that a New Zealand Labour MP, Chris Hipkins, also admitted asking questions about the issue last week after talks with someone from the Australian Labor Party.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar alleged a conspiracy between the Australian and New Zealand centre-left parties, likening it to Cold War espionage.

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