Resources Minister and Queensland Liberal National Party senator Matt Canavan has resigned from cabinet after discovering he may hold dual Italian citizenship, potentially rendering him ineligible to hold office under s44 of the constitution. He will remain in the Senate while his citizenship status is clarified, the government announced this evening, with the High Court to be asked rule on his citizenship status give his mother’s Italian ancestry. “I have become aware that according to the Italian government, I am a citizen of Italy,” Canavan said at a media conference this evening, due to his mother’s application for Italian citizenship more than a decade ago. He says he was unaware of his Italian citizenship.
Canavan, who has been a hardline rightwinger and coal spruiker in his time in parliament since entering the Senate in 2014, is the third politician to be caught out recently by s44, which prohibits people with citizenships other than of Australia, or even entitled to hold other citizenships, from being elected. Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters have resigned in the last two weeks after discovering they were, respectively, New Zealand and Canadian dual citizens.
Responding to Ludlam’s resignation, the Prime Minister called the “oversight” “remarkable”. Attorney-General George Brandis seized on Ludlam’s resignation to call him “extremely mean- spirited” and that “I don’t think we should shed too many tears over the consequences of Mr Ludlum’s own negligence”.
Canavan’s failure to resign from the Senate, while the government attempts to find a way around what appears to be a hard and fast prohibition in the constitution by going to the High Court, will compare shabbily with the immediate resignations of Ludlam and Waters, both of whom were co-deputy leaders of their party. Neither Ludlam nor Waters were aware of their dual citizenship, with Waters having acquired hers courtesy of her Australian parents’ brief stay in Canada, where she was born. The government insists that, because Canavan’s Italian citizenship was not sought by him and he was unaware of it, he should be let off. Both circumstances would appear to apply to Ludlam and Waters, too.
Canavan’s full statement is here:
“STATEMENT ON CITIZENSHIP STATUS
In 2006, my mother lodged documents with the Italian consulate in Brisbane to become an Italian citizen. In doing so, it would appear that she made an application for me to become an Italian citizen as well. I was 25 years old at the time.
While I knew that my mother had become an Italian citizen I had no knowledge that I myself had become an Italian citizen. Until last week I had no suspicion that I could be an Italian citizen. I was not born in Italy and have never been to Italy.
Following the reporting of Senator Ludlum and Senator Waters, my mother raised with me the possibility that I was an Italian citizen last week.
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The Italian authorities have confirmed that the application for Italian citizenship was not signed by me. To my knowledge I have not received any correspondence from Italian authorities about my citizenship status, and they have not been able to provide any such records.
In the short time available I have not been able to obtain definitive legal advice as to whether my registration as an Italian citizen, without my knowledge or consent, was valid under Italian law. I am seeking to obtain that advice presently.
On the basis of the advice the Government has obtained it is not my intention to resign from the Senate.
However, given the uncertainty raised by this matter, I will stand aside until the matter is finally resolved, and resign as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia.”