Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has quit cabinet amid doubts about his citizenship.
The Queensland senator was born on the Gold Coast but, according to the Italian government, he is a citizen of Italy.
While he has never stepped foot in the country, Senator Canavan’s mother lodged documents with the Italian consulate in 2006 to become a citizen.
“In doing so, it would appear that she made an application for me to become an Italian citizen as well,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.
“While I knew that my mother had become an Italian citizen, I had no knowledge that I, myself, had become an Italian citizen – nor had I requested to become an Italian citizen.”
It was confirmed that Senator Canavan was registered an Italian citizen in January 2007, even though he hasn’t received any correspondence from authorities about his status.
His mother only told him last week about his potential Italian citizenship when Greens senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam both resigned after discovering they were dual citizens.
Under section 44 of the constitution, a citizen of two or more countries is ineligible to stand for parliament.
Senator Canavan said it is not his intention to resign from the Senate, but given the uncertainty around the matter has stood aside until the matter is resolved.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce will act as Minister for Resources and Northern Australia in the meantime.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the government will refer the matter to the High Court when parliament reconvenes in a fortnight’s time.
The government has taken advice from the Solicitor-General and is seeking advice from experts in Italian citizenship law.
“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 told reporters.