Canberra, Oct 27: Australia's High Court on Friday disqualified the deputy prime minister and four senators from sitting in Parliament in a ruling that could cost the government its slender majority in Parliament.
The decision to disqualify Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce over a 116-year-old constitutional ban on dual citizens sitting in Parliament means a by-election will be held for his rural electoral district in December.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative coalition has a single-seat majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives where parties form governments.
Joyce will be able to stand for re-election, having renounced the New Zealand citizenship he unknowingly inherited from his father. With the government trailing the opposition Labor Party in opinion polls, voters could use the by-election to toss both Joyce and his government out of office.
Joyce later apologised to his electoral division for the inconvenience of a by-election that will be held at the earliest possible date, December 2.
"I was always apprehensive, some people say I'm a natural pessimist, I'm naturally cautious and I was always prepared for this outcome", Joyce told reporters.
"I'm going to make sure that I don't cry in my beer, I'm going to get back to work and work hard for the people of my electorate", he added.
The court also disqualified four of the six senators whose qualifications to be elected were debated in a three-day hearing earlier this month.
The disqualified senators included government minister Fiona Nash, Joyce's deputy in the Nationals party, who inherited British citizenship from her Scottish father.