SYDNEY – Australia’s Resources Minister Matt Canavan has resigned after discovering that he may be in breach of the constitution because he is a dual Italian citizen.
“According to the Italian government, I am a citizen of Italy,” Canavan, who was also Minister for northern Australia, told reporters Tuesday.
Canavan’s mother, who was born in Australia but is of Italian descent, applied for Italian citizenship for herself and her son in 2006 without informing him.
Attorney General George Brandis said Canavan may not have to resign from Parliament because his citizenship was obtained without his knowledge or consent.
“We’re in the process of taking advice from experts in Italian citizenship law,” Brandis said. “In view of the legal uncertainty of the matter, when the Senate convenes on Tuesday week, the government will move to refer the matter for determination by the High Court.”
Italian authorities have confirmed that Canavan never signed the documents requesting citizenship. “I had no knowledge that I myself had become an Italian citizen, nor had I requested to become an Italian citizen,” Canavan said.
Canavan said he would not resign from Parliament before his citizenship status was resolved. “I will stand aside until the matter is finally resolved and resign as the Minister for Resources and northern Australia,” he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull left open the possibility of Canavan returning to his Ministerial post, appointing Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to act in the role until Canavan’s status was settled.
The question mark over Canavan’s citizenship came to light after two Greens senators were forced to quit Australia’s upper house earlier this month after discovering they held dual-citizenship in violation of Australia’s constitution.
While Canavan appears to have been caught up in events he didn’t initiate, the development is a blow for a government already stressed by ongoing sniping between former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and allies of Turnbull.
The Turnbull government’s one-seat majority in the lower house will not be affected if Canavan is forced to resign from Parliament because he is a senator.