A colleague of one of the government’s rising stars says it’s “sloppy” Matt Canavan didn’t know he was a dual-citizen when he ran for federal parliament.
The Queensland senator resigned as resources minister on Tuesday night, amid concerns he may be ineligible to have run for office coming hot on the heels of the resignation of two Greens senators.
While he was born in Australia and has never been to Italy, Senator Canavan’s mother registered herself and members of her family as an “Italian resident abroad” – a form of citizenship – with the Italian consulate in Brisbane in 2006.
He was 25 at the time but did not authorise it nor did he know about it.
“Until last week, I had no suspicion that I could possibly be an Italian citizen,” the senator said.
The Turnbull government is seeking legal advice, but its preliminary view is that he is not in breach of section 44 of the constitution, which bars people with dual or plural citizenship from sitting in parliament.
As such, Senator Canavan has not resigned from the upper house – only as the minister for resources and northern Australia – until the matter is resolved.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said nobody believed this would happen when the matter was first raised about a week ago.
“One would presume that if something happens without your knowledge, and without your consent, then it’s probably an invalid process,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“This was something that, two days ago, took us all by surprise when we found out that he was registered as an Italian citizen.”
He described his close friend and former chief of staff as “an incredibly decent person”.
Malcolm Turnbull last week hit out at the Greens’ bungles, saying they showed incredible sloppiness.
Senator Canavan’s Queensland colleague Ken O’Dowd admits the same can be said of the resigned-resources minister.
“The prime minister said it and whether he said it to the Greens or said it to anyone else it’s … sloppy,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“I don’t think there’s much of an excuse anyone can offer.”
Senator Canavan was promoted to cabinet in 2016, after just two years in parliament and two months as the minister for Northern Australia.