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Key ministers ruled ineligible by High Court

A long-awaited ruling by the High Court on the fate of the so-called ‘Citizenship Seven’ has resulted in the departure of both the Leader and Deputy Leader of the National Party.

Now former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, will contest a byelection for the seat of New England on 2 December 2017.

Despite speculation, former Member for New England Tony Windsor has declared that he will not be a candidate on the byelection ticket.

The other high-profile departure is Minister for Regional Telecommunications, Regional Development and Local Government, Senator Fiona Nash.

Unlike Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash will not have the opportunity to contest a byelection. Instead her Senate seat will go to the next in line on the NSW ticket, namely NSW Liberal Hollie Hughes.

Media reports have suggested that Senator Nash is hoping Ms Hughes will step aside from the seat, allowing Nash to return to the Senate.

In the interim, the Prime Minister has announced the reallocation of portfolios impacted by the decision.

The Prime Minister himself will take charge of the agriculture and water resources portfolio, pending an outcome in the New England byelection.

Telecommunications Minister Mitch Fifield will take charge of Fiona Nash’s Regional Telecommunications duties, while Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester will take carriage of the regional development and local government portfolios.

Senator Matt Canavan, who stood down from the front bench pending the outcome of the High Court case, has been ruled eligible to remain in Parliament. Accordingly, the Prime Minister announced this afternoon that he would resume his responsibilities as Minister for Resources and Northern Australia.

Responding to the news today, National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson described the loss of Barnaby Joyce as ‘regrettable’.

“Mr Joyce’s passion and wide-ranging knowledge of our industry, has stood the farm sector in good stead during his time in the Ministry,” Ms Simson said.

“The portfolio of agriculture and water resources is of utmost national importance and one that requires stability and focus.

“We are grateful to the Prime Minister for his decision to take carriage of this important area personally,” Ms Simson concluded.

The High Court also ruled Greens senators Ludlam and Waters, plus One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts to be ineligible.

Senator Nick Xenophon, was ruled eligible to remain in the Senate, but previously announced his intention to resign following the High Court’s ruling.

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