Media Statement: High Court Decision and Ministerial Arrangements

Media release
27 Oct 2017
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
High Court decision

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon.

The decision of the Court today is clearly not the outcome we were hoping for but the business of government goes on.

We have a majority of members in the House of Representatives, even in the absence of Barnaby Joyce and, of course, as you know, we have support from the crossbench.

We welcome the Court confirming Matt Canavan's eligibility to sit in the Senate, but are obviously disappointed that the Court has found against Barnaby Joyce and the Fiona Nash.

We thank the Court for its very timely consideration of this enormously complex matter and its clarification of the meaning and the operation of Section 44 of the Constitution as it relates to citizenship.

Along with the Solicitor-General, Stephen Donaghue QC, whose advice has been invaluable throughout this process, we'll closely evaluate the full implications of the court's decision, which will now be carefully considered by Australians and, of course, in particular by the Parliament.

The government will refer the decision to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters so that it is able to consider, among other things, whether any changes to Section 44 should be recommended, how the electoral laws and practices could be changed so as to minimise the risk of candidates being in breach of Section 44, and ensuring in our multicultural society that all Australians are able confidently to stand for and serve in our Parliament.

Now, in the past few months have been very stressful for Barnaby, Fiona and Matt, their families and their staff. But throughout, their commitment to the Parliament and the government have been undiminished.

The people of New England will have their say on the 2nd of December.

The Speaker has advised that he is going to issue the writ today.

Barnaby Joyce is the best person - as we've seen already on the television, complete with his hat - the best person to continue to deliver for New England and for Australians living in regional, remote and rural areas.

He has a passion for representation and while I know that Barnaby will be disappointed with the outcome of the Court case, it is as though he's been let out of the stalls and he's ready and raring to go. His enthusiasm is absolutely infectious. 

Now, Fiona as a senator of course, will not be able to contest a by-election. I thank her for her great service to the government and to the Parliament.

She has been an outstanding minister, passionately devoted to regional Australia and its advancement. She is a staunch friend, a very, very good colleague. A really good friend devoted to the National Party but above all to the Coalition.

And as Barnaby acknowledged just a few minutes ago her stoicism, her calm, her collected approach to the challenges that she's been facing while obviously carrying out her ministerial office all the time under great pressure has been remarkable.

Now, throughout the uncertainty of the past few months we've been determined that the Court's deliberations and the pending hearings would not distract us from the important business of government.

So we've got on with the job of delivering important outcomes for the Australian people - including a comprehensive energy plan that will bring down power bills and ensure families and businesses can keep the lights on. While the Labor Party, as we know, is promising price hikes as far as the eye can see.

We're getting more Australians into work. Not for the first time I must remind you that jobs and growth is not just a slogan but an outcome - 371,000 jobs created in the last year alone thanks to our strong economic management.

And we've continued to keep Australians safe by ensuring that our law-enforcement agencies have the resources and the support they need.

Now, we are moving immediately today to return Matt Canavan to the ministry by restoring him to the role of Minister for Resources and Northern Australia.

I will be sworn in as Minister for Agriculture and Water resources - a portfolio not entirely unfamiliar to me as the older ones among you will remember and one that I will hold until the people of New England have had their say.

In terms of Senator Nash's portfolios, Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield will act as Minister for a Regional Communications. And Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester will act as Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government.

Now, there is much more to do between now and the end of the year, much more to do here and of course much more to do in New England.

We look forward to Barnaby Joyce, who does not take the support of his community for granted. He's approaching them with enthusiasm, determination and humility and I'm confident that with that combination of capabilities he will win once again the support of the people of New England.


Prime Minister, can you survive a no-confidence motion given that Labor is going to throw everything at you when Barnaby is out?


Well, I have already stated to you, as you know, that we have the support of a majority of members, we have a majority of members in the House of Representatives and we enjoy the support of the crossbench.

Thank you all very much - I must get Senator Canavan sworn in.

Thank you.