(CNN)An Australian cabinet minister is stepping down from his position after discovering he was made a dual Italian citizen without his knowledge.
Resources minister Matt Canavan is the third Australian politician in two weeks to fall victim to the country’s little-known dual citizenship clause, after two Greens party senators resigned earlier in July.
The Australian constitution bars anyone who has citizenship in another country from standing for election.
Speaking at a press briefing in Brisbane, Canavan said his mother had accidentally applied for Italian citizenship for him in 2006, and she only told him about it on July 18.
“I was not born in Italy, I have never been to Italy and to my knowledge have never set foot in an Italian consulate or embassy. Until last week I had no suspicion that I could possibly be an Italian citizen,” he said.
Canavan told journalists he would be leaving cabinet and the ministry while the matter was resolved but would not be leaving parliament yet.
“On the basis of the advice the government has obtained … it is not my intention to resign from the senate. However given the uncertainty around this matter, I will stand aside until this matter is finally resolved,” Canavan said.
Greens leaders resign
Earlier in July, the two deputy leaders of the Australian Greens resigned from the Australian Senate after discovering they were dual citizens.
Scott Ludlam quit on July 14 after he was informed he was a New Zealand citizen by birth. Ludlam had left New Zealand when he was just three years old.
Ludlam’s resignation prompted his colleague Larissa Waters to investigate her citizenship. She announced on July 18 she would be resigning discovered she was a Canadian citizen.
Waters was born in Canada but said in a statement
she had been told incorrectly by her parents she had to actively seek citizenship to gain it.
Section 44 of Australia’s constitution says who “who is under any acknowledgment of allegiance obedience or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power” from serving in Parliament.
Canavan is the first member of the governing Liberal National Coalition to discover he has a dual citizenship.
The three resignations are likely to put pressure on other Australian politicians who have been born overseas to provide proof of their renunciation.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott had long been the subject of conspiracy theories around his citizenship status, as he was born in the United Kingdom, but has since provided proof he renounced it in 1993.
Canavan to the High Court
Speaking beside Canavan in Brisbane, Australian attorney general George Brandis said the former minister’s future would be decided in the courts.
“When the senate convenes on Tuesday week, the government will move to refer the matter to determination by the high court,” he said.
The citizenship crisis is unlikely to affect the makeup of Australia’s Senate however.
George Williams, dean of the University of New South Wales School of Law, told CNN earlier in July while the High Court would disqualify Waters and Ludlam and call for a ballot count-back, it would give the number two person on the Greens ticket the seat.
“It’s not likely that the total number off Greens will change, just that we’ll see people from their party replacing them,” said Williams.
While calls for changes to Article 44 are likely to begin again, any tweaks to the Australian constitution can only be made through a national referendum.
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/25/asia/australian-minister-canavan-resignation/index.html
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