A former staffer for former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Finance Minister Michael Cullen was the Australian Labor Party staffer who spoke to Labour MP Chris Hipkins, prompting questions by Hipkins about citizenship in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported Marcus Ganley, Australian Senator Penny Wong's chief of staff, was the Australian Labor Party staffer who had spoken to Hipkins - a conversation Hipkins said prompted him to ask questions of Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne on the legal citizenship status of an Australian born to a New Zealand father.

The question of New Zealand citizenship of Australian ministers was raised again this week after it was revealed Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce was in fact a New Zealand citizen. Today Joyce told Parliament he had renounced his citizenship.

Ganley was an adviser to former PM Clark and former Finance Minister Cullen during the Labour Government until 2008. He then advised Phil Goff as Opposition Leader.


In a written statement, Wong said a staff member in her office had "informal discussions with New Zealand friends about domestic political issues, including the section 44 debate."

That is the section of the Australian Constitution which bars MPs holding dual citizenship.

She said Internal Affairs Minister Dunne had made it clear the issue was looked at after inquiries from an Australian journalist rather than Hipkins.

"For the Turnbull Government to then turn this into a diplomatic incident to try to distract attention from the failings of the Deputy Prime Minister is both reckless, and damaging."

She said the questions Hipkins asked were not asked on behalf of Australian Labor.

"At no point did [Ganley] make any request to raise the issue of dual citizenship in Parliament, a fact confirmed today by Hipkins and the New Zealand Labour Leader.

"In fact, neither I, nor my staff member had any knowledge the question had even been asked until after the story broke."

Hipkins has denied knowing there were questions about Joyce's citizenship, saying he asked the questions of Dunne to clear up the law.

Wong's confirmation Ganley had discussed Australia's rule on dual citizenship with the MPs indicates Hipkins did know that was the general issue under discussion.