Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has resigned from Cabinet after discovering he is a dual citizen of both Italy and Australia, and he has his mum to thank for the mess.
The Queenslander, who is Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, confirmed he would stand down from Cabinet after learning that his mother had registered him for Italian citizenship without his knowledge.
Last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused the Greens of “incredible sloppiness” after two of its Senators were forced to stand down for breaching the same provisions.
At a news conference on Tuesday night, Senator Canavan said he was 25 when his mother made the citizenship request on his behalf. She was born in Australia but is eligible for Italian citizenship through her parents.
At the time Mr Canavan’s mother is said to have made the application for Italian citizenship, his father Bryan Michael Canavan pleaded guilty to embezzling $1.6 million from global food company Nestle, according to a Courier Mail report from 2007.
Prosecutor Julie Alyward was quoted by the Courier mail as telling the District Court in Brisbane that Bryan Canavan held a senior postion with Nestle Australia, but during a three and a half-year period stole cash and property for no other motive than “greed”.
Seantor Canavan said his mother warned him he might hold dual citizenship following the recent resignations of Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters over the same issue.
“According to the Italian government, I am a citizen of Italy,” he said. “I was not born in Italy, I have never been to Italy, and to my knowledge have never set foot in an Italian consulate or embassy.”
Senator Canavan does not plan to resign from the Senate and will instead make his case to the High Court.
“While I knew that my mother had become an Italian citizen, I had no knowledge that I myself had become an Italian citizen, nor had I requested to become an Italian citizen,” Senator Canavan said.
“The Italian authorities have confirmed that the application for citizenship was not signed by me.
“To my knowledge, until this week, I have not received any correspondence from the Italian authorities about my citizenship status, and they have not been able to provide any such records.”
If Senator Canavan is ruled ineligible, he would become the third MP to fall victim to Section 44 of the Constitution, which prohibits dual citizens becoming MPs.
Greens senators Ludlam and Waters stepped down from Parliament earlier in the month after finding they were dual citizens of New Zealand and Canada respectively.
The Constitution requires that an MP has done everything in their power to renounce citizenship of another nation in order to be eligible to sit in Parliament.
Ms Waters wrote on Twitter that while she did not agree with Senator Canavan’s politics, her heart “goes out” to him.
The government will refer Senator Canavan’s eligibility as an MP to the High Court.
STATEMENT ON CITIZENSHIP STATUS In 2006, my mother lodged documents with the Italian consulate in Brisbane to become…
Attorney-General George Brandis said the government was seeking advice from experts in Italian citizenship law whether Senator Canavan’s registration as a citizen had been valid, given he was not notified.
“It is the government’s preliminary view that because the registration was obtained without knowledge or consent, that he is not in breach of Section 44,” Senator Brandis said.
Mr Turnbull said Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce would fill Senator Canavan’s ministerial responsibilities until the matter was resolved.
Senator Canavan, considered a rising star within the Nationals, was elected at the 2013 election before he was elevated to second on the LNP ticket at the 2016 election.
He is among the government’s most vocal supporters of the controversial Adani mining project and had overseen recent reforms to Australia’s gas exports laws.