If ever there was good reason to be upset with your mum, Resources Minister Matt Canavan sure has one.
The conservative Queensland senator has quit Cabinet after his mother told him he was an Italian citizen last week despite Senator Canavan not being born there nor ever visiting the country.
The Government will refer the matter to the High Court when Parliament returns to determine whether or not Senator Canavan has breached the Constitution.
Labor frontbencher Tony Burke has supported Senator Canavan and said he did not think anyone could blame him for the bungle given “he has never been to Italy and had no way of knowing”.
Senator Canavan’s hasty exit comes comes just two weeks after the resignations of Greens senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam from Federal Parliament due to their own dual citizenship.
Considered a “rising star” of the National Party, Senator Canavan was the minister for resources and northern Australia.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce will temporarily take over Senator Canavan’s Cabinet responsibilities while his eligibility is determined.
The Australian constitution disqualifies potential candidates from election if they hold dual or plural citizenship.
Elected in 2013, Senator Canavan told Brisbane reporters that his mother registered herself and her son for overseas citizenship at the Italian consulate in Brisbane in 2006 even though she herself had never been to Italy and was born in Australia.
“According to the Italian Government, I am a citizen of Italy,” Senator Canavan said, even though he did not sign the citizenship papers himself.
“I had no knowledge that I had become an Italian citizen, nor had I requested to become an Italian citizen. Following the resignation of [former] senators Ludlam and Waters last week, my mother raised with me the possibility that I was, in fact, an Italian citizen on Tuesday evening.”
Attorney-General George Brandis said once Parliament returned, the Government would refer the matter to the High Court.
“It is the Government’s preliminary view that because the registration was obtained without Senator Canavan’s knowledge or consent, that he is not in breach of Section 44 of the constitution,” he said.
In a statement, Senator Canavan said he would not resign from Parliament.
“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,” he said.
“I am seeking to obtain that advice presently.”
It is still not known whether Senator Canavan will refrain from voting in the Upper House until his eligibility is determined.