CANBERRA -- When the Greens lost two senators for being dual citizens and thus breaching the Australian Constitution, it looked like carelessness. But it is now not just their negligence alone -- the dual citizenship issue in the migrant nation that is Australia appears to have ensnared a Cabinet minister.
Rising Turnbull Government star, Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan has stunned political watchers by blaming his mother, while admitting he has an unresolved dual citizenship case.
He claims he's never been to Italy or been inside an Italian consulate or embassy, but said late on Tuesday he was advised last week that he holds Italian citizenship after his mother registered the family in 2006 without his knowledge or consent. He hasn't resigned form parliament, but stepped down from his Cabinet position while he works out his situation. The High Court is expected to have a thing or two to say.
It has quickly shown how unwise it is, in political circles, to throw stones in glass houses. Especially if you are the Prime Minister with a one-seat majority.
Malcolm Turnbull, on Channel Nine's Today show, was able to say the voluntarily departed Greens senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam were "negligent" and "sloppy".
"It is pretty amazing, isn't it, you have two out of nine Greens senators didn't realise they were citizens of another country?" Turnbull said to host Karl Stefanovic last Wednesday.
"And it shows incredible sloppiness on their part."
Hello, Matt Canavan.
As Turnbull advised the Greens last week, there's a box to tick about potential breaches of section 44 of the Constitution where you are nominating to run for Federal Parliament. Those people running are signing a legal document.
Have a think about it. The question is, basically, could you be in breach of S44 of the Constitution? With Australia's multicultural society and relative youth of nationhood, there's a fair-to-even chance.
And, crucially, what Canavan's case has shown -- on first blush, and taking him on his word that he never personally sought Italian dual citizenship -- is this issue of not allowing dual citizens to run for federal parliament much broader than first thought?
The erstwhile Minister was not born in another country. He was born in Australia. Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam are gone because she was born in Canada and he was born in New Zealand. It did not matter if they'd spent much time there since, or at all. Rules are rules.
Canavan is under a major cloud even though he was born here. Surely, this opens a constitutional sore, this thing that the Prime Minister is not at all inclined to change, up to more federal politicians?
And with his hair's breadth one-seat majority on the House of Representatives, Malcolm Turnbull appears extremely fortunate that only Senators have been caught up in this so far.
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