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Australian PM's grip on power tested as deputy faces citizenship questions

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Australian PM's grip on power tested as deputy faces citizenship questions

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government's one-seat majority is secure despite doubts surrounding his deputy's citizenship, media reported.

Turnbull's government is at risk of losing its grip on power after New Zealand authorities told Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce he has New Zealand citizenship by descent. Under Australia's constitution, individuals with dual citizenship are barred from sitting in federal parliament. If Joyce is disqualified, Turnbull would be forced to seek the support of independents.

Joyce, leader of the National Party, the junior partner in the conservative coalition, said he has no intention to resign or temporarily step down and has already referred the matter to the High Court after conferring with Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue, Reuters said.

In an address to parliament, Turnbull said his government is "very confident" that "the court will not find that [Joyce] is to be disqualified from the parliament."

Labor leader Bill Shorten has called Joyce's referral an "incredibly serious development" which he said undermines the "legitimacy and integrity" of Turnbull's government, The Australian said.

The High Court is also reviewing the citizenship of three other lawmakers, the BBC reported.