Canavan vows to fight citizenship issue

Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan considered quitting parliament, but decided to fight issues over his citizenship in the High Court.


Senator Canavan resigned from cabinet on Tuesday after it emerged his mother had signed him up to become an Italian citizen in 2006.

She informed him of his status as an “Italian citizen abroad” on July 18 having seen media reports about the ineligibility of Greens senator Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam which forced them to quit parliament.

Under Section 44 of the constitution a person is disqualified from being elected if at the time of their election they are a citizen of “a foreign power” or otherwise have an “allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power”.

Senator Canavan told reporters in Rockhampton on Thursday while he felt it appropriate to resign from the ministry, legal advice led him to conclude he was not in breach of the constitution.

“I did consider not continuing on, given the circumstances of other cases, but I base my decision very much on that legal advice that we’ve been provided which provides grounds that I have not breached section section 44,” he said.

“I think it’s important we let that process run now and let the court make its decision.”

He said it was an important legal question for all people thinking of running for parliament, not just for him.

Senator Canavan said he was aware his mother had applied to become an Italian citizen but he had no knowledge or suspicion of what had occurred 11 years ago until last week.

“I’ve never signed a document, given consent or have any knowledge of these matters until last week.”

Asked whether he was aware his mother had been receiving Italian election voting papers in his name for the past decade, he said he had never received any correspondence from Italian authorities.

Senator Canavan’s father Bryan was involved in a $1.6 million fraud, for which he was convicted and jailed, over several years leading up to the family holding a meeting to discuss Italian citizenship in 2005.

The Queensland senator said he would not go into “personal details”.

“They are not relevant to my position in the Senate. It was a tough time for our family, but we stood together very strongly, I’m proud we did, and I’m not going to go into further details of that matter.”