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Australia, New Zealand Fued Erupts     08/16 06:11

   WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Like squabbling siblings, New Zealand and 
Australia have close ties but also a rivalry that can sometimes turn ugly.

   That tension spilled into politics on Tuesday, when Australian Foreign 
Minister Julie Bishop accused New Zealand's opposition Labour Party of 
conspiring to undermine her government, a claim New Zealand lawmakers said was 
"false" and "utter nonsense."

   The unlikely dispute involved Barnaby Joyce, Australia's deputy prime 
minister. Joyce said Monday he'd been advised he was a New Zealand citizen and 
an Australian court was being asked to determine if he should be kicked out of 
parliament because Australia's constitution bans lawmakers from being dual 
citizens.

   If Joyce was disqualified, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's center-right 
government could lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives, 
where parties need a majority to govern.

   But Joyce told Australia's parliament on Tuesday that New Zealand had just 
told him verbally that his citizenship had been renounced after he requested as 
much over the weekend, and he was now awaiting written confirmation. 
Renunciation won't affect the court decision since the case rests on his 
eligibility to run in the last election.

   Bishop said Australia's opposition Labor Party had used their New Zealand 
counterparts to raise questions about Joyce in the New Zealand parliament.

   "This is highly unethical at least, but more importantly it puts at risk the 
relationship between the Australian government and the New Zealand government," 
Bishop told reporters in Canberra.

   "New Zealand is facing an election," she said. "Should there be a change of 
government, I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in 
allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia."

   New Zealand's election is next month.

   New Zealand Labour Party Leader Jacinda Ardern said the claims were false 
and "highly regrettable." She said she'd contacted the Australian High 
Commission to register her disappointment and would be meeting with the 
commissioner in person.

   Bishop was referring to two questions lodged in the New Zealand parliament 
by Labour lawmaker Chris Hipkins, who asked whether children born in Australia 
to a New Zealand father automatically had New Zealand citizenship.

   Ardern said she had no knowledge of the questions lodged by Hipkins and knew 
nothing about the Joyce case until it broke in the media this week.

   She told Radio New Zealand that somebody connected with the Australian Labor 
Party had put the questions to Hipkins without mentioning Joyce, and that 
Hipkins wouldn't have asked them if he knew how they were going to be used. She 
called the questions inappropriate.

   "I greatly value New Zealand's relationship with the Australian government," 
she said in a statement. "I will not let false claims stand in the way of that 
relationship. I would happily take a call from Julie Bishop to clarify matters."

   New Zealand's Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said Hipkins had not 
started the row.

   "This is so much utter nonsense --- while Hipkins' questions were 
inappropriate, they were not the instigator," Dunne tweeted. "Australian media 
inquiries were."

   Joyce is perhaps best known abroad for the tough stance he took on Johnny 
Depp's pet dogs Pistol and Boo. Joyce threatened to have the Yorkshire terriers 
euthanized after saying they were smuggled into Australia in 2014 where Depp 
was filming the fifth installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie 
series.

   Depp's then-wife Amber Heard pleaded guilty to falsifying an immigration 
document to conceal the dogs in a private jet. She avoided jail under a deal 
that included Heard and Depp appearing in an awkward video warning against 
others breaking Australia's strict quarantine laws.

   Heard took to Twitter to mock Joyce, saying in one post she'd sent him a box 
of New Zealand's finest kiwifruit to comfort him in his hour of need, assuming 
it passed his biosecurity laws.

   Joyce's office said Wednesday it hadn't yet received anything from the 
actress.

   The Australian and New Zealand opposition parties are kindred center-left 
parties, although the Australian party uses the American spelling for its name.


(KA)

 
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