‘Up to her neck in it’: Citizenship saga gets ugly

FEDERAL Parliament's citizenship furore has descended into a slanging match of "baseless smear" and wild accusations thrown across the floor of both houses as drama escalates.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Wednesday accused Senator Penny Wong of being "up to her neck in it", while One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson questioned Ms Wong's own citizenship.

Senator Wong, the Opposition's foreign affairs spokeswoman, has admitted her chief of staff was involved in fishing for information around Barnaby Joyce's citizenship before it was revealed the Deputy Prime Minister was a New Zealand citizen.

That conversation led to NZ Labour MP Chris Hipkins asking questions prior to a decision to refer to the High Court Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's eligibility to sit in the Australian parliament.

But Senator Wong has denied a conspiracy, saying "everybody was asking questions".

She insists while her chief of staff - a dual NZ-Australia citizen himself - did regularly speak with friends across the ditch, including Mr Hipkins, neither she nor he knew the MP had asked questions in parliament until after the story about Mr Joyce broke.

Until Tuesday, Mr Joyce was a NZ citizen by descent, a status unknown to him when he stood for election.

Ms Bishop ignited a diplomatic row when she queried whether the Turnbull government could build sufficient trust in NZ Labour if it won power in next month's election.

On Wednesday, her target was Senator Wong.

"This wrong, unacceptable conduct that should never have happened was instigated by Penny Wong," she told Sky News.

Senator Wong defended her staffer's inquiries, but denied she knew about them.

Ms Bishop wasn't convinced, doubting how Senator Wong's "closest, most-trusted adviser" would have acted without her knowledge.

Senator Wong accused the government of manufacturing a "Kiwis under the beds scare" as a distraction from its own woes.

"What Ms Bishop did yesterday was an extraordinarily reckless and irresponsible act from frankly a foreign minister generally who has been competent and credible," she told in Canberra.

A bid by the government to censure the Labor frontbencher was defeated in the Senate Wednesday morning.

Attorney-General George Brandis moved the motion which was defeated 34-29 after the Greens and several crossbenchers voted with Labor.

Earlier Senator Brandis accused Senator Wong of conspiring with a foreign political party to undermine the federal government.

"It plainly crosses a line when a serious domestic political dispute ... is progressed by the opposition not through the process of the Australian parliament but through the process of a parliament of a foreign friendly nation," he told parliament.

But Senator Wong said his accusations amounted to "grubby, baseless smear in an attempt to distract attention from this government's problems".

The Greens dismissed the government move as "politics of distraction".

Senator Bernardi, who defected from the government earlier this year, said it was normal for people to exploit personal contacts for political gain.

"I challenge anyone in this place to say they would not have done the same," he told parliament.

Senator Hanson, who supported the censure motion, said Senator Wong had "used her office to get information" and use the opportunity to further query Labor members' citizenship status.

"I am sick of hearing in the halls of this parliament who might have dual citizenship and who might not," she said.

"You've got too much to hide. Even Senator Wong's citizenship has been questioned. Even Senator (Sam) Dastyari's citizenship."

Senator Wong and Senator Dastyari have assured they have each renounced their foreign citizenships from Malaysia and Iran respectively.

News Corp Australia

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