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Australia foreign chief stands in for PM after deputy ousted

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will stand in as Australia's acting prime minister while Malcolm Turnbull conducts an overseas trip, following the dual citizenship crisis that has sidelined his deputy.

Australia's High Court disqualified deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and four other senators from sitting in Parliament on Friday after they were each found to hold citizenship of Australia and another country.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney on Saturday before a visit to Israel, Mr Turnbull said that Ms Bishop, as deputy leader of the Liberals, was next in line after Mr Joyce to be acting prime minister, and would fulfil that role during his trip.

He also said that his coalition still holds a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, where parties form governments.

"It's very important to recognise that contrary to some of the rather dramatic speculation in the media that the government has a majority in the House of Representatives," he said.

Mr Turnbull was initially supposed to fly to the Middle East on Friday and the decision to delay the trip until Monday indicates the unrest created within government ranks by the High Court decision.

The conservative Liberal Party provides the prime minister and the junior coalition partner, the Nationals, traditionally provides the deputy prime minister who acts as prime minister in Mr Turnbull's absence.

Mr Turnbull's decision to have Ms Bishop act as prime minister will anger many within the Nationals, as will the decision not to fill the role of deputy prime minister until former Nationals leader Mr Joyce's political future is settled at a December 2 by-election.

The Nationals lost Mr Joyce and deputy leader Fiona Nash because they were dual citizens.

Nationals senator Nigel Scullion, an English-born immigrant who dashed to London to renounce his British citizenship days before nominations closed for elections in 2001, will be the Nationals' acting leader. But Mr Turnbull said Mr Scullion will not be appointed deputy prime minister.

The Liberal Party blames the Nationals' slack vetting procedures for candidates for creating the current political mess.

The Nationals will not want to lose any of its government influence through the High Court fallout and there will be argument over which political party provides Mr Nash's replacement.


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