Matt Canavan

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Matt Canavan
Matt Canavan 2017.jpg
Canavan in 2017
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia
In office
27 October 2017 – 3 February 2020
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded byBarnaby Joyce (acting)
Succeeded byKeith Pitt
In office
18 February 2016 – 25 July 2017
Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull
Preceded byJosh Frydenberg (as Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia / Minister for Resources and Energy)
Succeeded byBarnaby Joyce (acting)
Senator for Queensland
Assumed office
1 July 2014
Personal details
Matthew James Canavan

(1980-12-17) 17 December 1980 (age 39)
Southport, Queensland, Australia
Political partyNational Party (Federal)
Liberal National Party (State)
Other political
ResidenceRockhampton, Queensland
Alma materUniversity of Queensland

Matthew James Canavan (born 17 December 1980) is an Australian politician. He was elected to the Australian Senate representing the state of Queensland at the 2013 federal election for the term beginning 1 July 2014. He won re-election at the 2016 election. He served as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia between February 2016 and February 2020. He is a member of the Liberal National Party and sits with National Party in federal paraliament.[1]

In July 2017, amid the 2017–18 Australian parliamentary eligibility crisis, Canavan resigned from Cabinet over doubt as to his eligibility to be a member of the parliament, after discovering that he might be an Italian citizen.[2] Section 44(i) of the Australian Constitution prohibits election of dual citizens to the Parliament of Australia. Italian constitutional experts were unable to advise with certainty whether he had inherited Italian citizenship, but the High Court found on 27 October 2017 that Canavan was not an Italian citizen and therefore was not ineligible under s 44(i).[3] He was reappointed to the Cabinet on the same day.[4]

In February 2020, Canavan resigned again from Cabinet to support Barnaby Joyce in his unsuccessful bid for National Party leadership.[5]

Early life and career[edit]

Canavan was born in Southport on the Gold Coast, Queensland. He is of Italian descent; his mother's parents were born in Lozzo di Cadore, in the Italian province of Belluno.[6]

Canavan was chief of staff to former Senator and then member for New England, Barnaby Joyce.[7] He was previously an executive at KPMG and an economist at the Productivity Commission.[8][9]

Canavan's brother John Canavan is Managing Director of Winfield Energy, a private coal company with a significant interest in Australia's second largest coal mine (Rolleston) and financier of an export coal terminal (WICET). He's also a former executive of Peabody Energy.[10]

Political career[edit]

Canavan was elected to the Australian Senate as a member of the Liberal National Party of Queensland, representing Queensland at the 2013 federal election for the term beginning 1 July 2014.[11] He sat with the National Party in the Senate.

In the First Turnbull Ministry, Canavan served as the Minister for Northern Australia between 18 February and 19 July 2016.[12][13]

With the reelection of the Turnbull Government in 2016, Canavan was elevated into Cabinet becoming the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia in the Second Turnbull Ministry.[14] He briefly resigned from the Cabinet between July and October 2016 amid his High Court citizenship challenge.

On 3 February 2020, he resigned again from Cabinet to support Barnaby Joyce in his unsuccessful bid for National Party leadership.[15] He also cited his failure to declare his membership of the North Queensland Cowboys, as the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility within his Northern Australia portfolio, approved a $20 million loan for the Cowboys to build a training centre next to the North Queensland Stadium in Townsville.[16] He denied it was a breach of ministerial standards as under the North Australia Infrastructure Facility Act, he had no power to approve loans but could only reject them.

After his resignation from the Cabinet, he remained as deputy leader of the Nationals in the Senate, along with Bridget McKenzie as leader, as the other 3 Nationals senators were first-termers.[17][18]

High Court citizenship challenge[edit]

Canavan's mother had registered him as an "Italian resident abroad" with the Italian consulate in Brisbane in 2006. Canavan stated that he had been unaware of this until his mother had informed him of it following the resignation of two Greens senators over their dual citizenship.[19] The government took the view that he was not in breach of the Constitution, as the registration had not been made with his knowledge or consent.[20]

Initially, Canavan accepted that he had Italian citizenship.[21] He then renounced it, effective 8 August 2017.[22] On the same day, on a government motion with all-party support, the Senate resolved to refer the matters of Senators Ludlam, Waters and Canavan to the High Court as Court of Disputed Returns. The Attorney-General indicated that the Commonwealth would argue, in favour of Cavanan, that s 44(i) requires a personal acknowledgement of the connection, which had not occurred. Canavan spoke in support of the referral, while stating that he did not believe he was in breach of s 44(i), and said that he would not be voting in the Senate until his position was determined by the Court.[23] Later, four other members of the federal parliament were referred to the High Court, which heard the seven cases together.

In the High Court, government lawyers argued for Canavan and others that s 44(i) requires some personal acknowledgement of another citizenship, which had not occurred; in its judgment on 27 October 2017, the Court rejected this interpretation of the sub-section. For Canavan, it was argued in addition that his registration as an "Italian resident abroad" in 2006 had been incorrect in supposing that he was an Italian citizen and that, although a change in Italian citizenship law when he had been two years old could appear to have conferred Italian citizenship upon him, it could not be shown to have done so.[24] The Court accepted these points and held that Canavan had never been a citizen of Italy; accordingly, he had been validly elected.[25]:para 86[26]

Political views[edit]

Canavan opposes same-sex marriage.[27] In 2017, when Cory Bernardi moved a motion to ban abortion on gender grounds, Canavan was one of ten elected representatives who voted for the motion, which was defeated with 36 votes against.[28][29]

As the Resources Minister, he has been strongly supportive of the Carmichael coal mine and has questioned the importance of climate change mitigation.[30] In contrast to former South Australian state premier Jay Weatherill, Canavan is dismissive of the Hornsdale Power Reserve having referred to it as: "the Kim Kardashian of the energy world".[31] He is known as one of the climate "doubters" in the Morrison government, and denied that climate change caused the catastrophic 2019–20 Australian bushfire season.[32]

In response to a protest in November 2018 where high school students walked out of class to protest the Australian government's inaction on climate change, the Senator responded "I want kids to be at school to learn about how you build a mine, how you do geology, how you drill for oil and gas". He also stated "The best thing you'll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue."[33]


  1. ^ "Senators-elect: terms commencing 1 July 2014". Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 11 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  2. ^ Belot, Henry (25 July 2017). "Matt Canavan resigns from Malcolm Turnbull's ministry over Italian citizenship". ABC News. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  3. ^ Wickham, Ben. "Senior Deputy Registrar" (PDF). High Court of Australia. High Court of Australia. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Australian PM seeks to calm nerves after he loses majority over deputy's dual citizenship". National Post. 27 October 2017.
  5. ^ Sarah Martin and Paul Karp (3 February 2020), "Matt Canavan quits cabinet to back Barnaby Joyce for National party leadership", The Guardian
  6. ^ "Citizenship Register". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Toowoomba's first Senator to speak up for regions". The Chronicle. 10 September 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Former Can-Do adviser among six confirmed Qld Senators". Daily Mercury. 2 October 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  9. ^ "LNP selects top three for senate bid". Brisbane Times. 24 November 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  10. ^ "Matt Canavan's family obsession with coal". Australian Financial Review. 23 August 2019. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  11. ^ "Senator CANAVAN First Speech". 16 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Ministerial Swearing-in Ceremony". Events. Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. 18 February 2016. Archived from the original on 1 March 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  13. ^ Kelly, Joe (1 August 2016). "Matt Canavan: the 1980s kid in the cabinet". The Australian.
  14. ^ Anderson, Stephanie (20 July 2016). "Election 2016: Malcolm Turnbull unveils ministry with Christopher Pyne, Greg Hunt on the move". ABC News. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  15. ^ Sarah Martin and Paul Karp (3 February 2020), "Matt Canavan quits cabinet to back Barnaby Joyce for National party leadership", The Guardian
  16. ^ "Matt Canavan forgot he was member of the North Queensland Cowboys when NAIF gave them a $20 million loan". Illawarra Mercury. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  17. ^ "Michael McCormack defeats Barnaby Joyce to remain Nationals leader". ABC News. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  18. ^ "Anthony Albanese says public wants 'practical' action on climate change – as it happened". The Guardian. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Transcript of statements on Senator Canavan's citizenship, Brisbane". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  20. ^ Massola, James (25 July 2017). "Resources Minister Matt Canavan resigns from cabinet following doubts over dual citizenship". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  21. ^ Whitbourn, Michaela; Remeikis, Amy; Massola, James (25 August 2017). "Matt Canavan and Malcolm Roberts change their stories in High Court citizenship hearing". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  22. ^ Williams, Pamela (23 August 2017). "Nationals senator Matt Canavan renounces Italian citizenship". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  23. ^ "Senate Hansard". 8 August 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  24. ^ Remeikis, Amy; Karp, Paul (12 October 2017). "Matt Canavan claim that Italian citizenship is 'doubtful' should be rejected, court hears". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  25. ^ Re Canavan [2017] HCA 45 (27 October 2017).
  26. ^ Koziol, Michael (27 October 2017). "High Court citizenship verdict: Nationals deputy Fiona Nash falls but Matt Canavan clings on". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  27. ^ Senator Matthew Canavan (12 August 2017). "A change to the Marriage Act would remove fundamental rights". Retrieved 19 August 2017.[non-primary source needed]
  28. ^ "Australian Senate vote not passed, 16th Nov 2017, 12:15 PM". They Vote For You. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  29. ^ "From croissants to communism: Bernardi uses Senate motions to make ideological points". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 16 November 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  30. ^ Slezak, Michael (13 July 2017). "Stop trying to save the planet, Matthew Canavan tells Queensland government". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  31. ^ Alvarez, Simon (14 March 2018). "Tesla's South Australia battery is 'Kim Kardashian' of energy, says minister". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  32. ^ "'There is no link': the climate doubters within Scott Morrison's government". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  33. ^ Pitt, Helen. "Matt Canavan says students should learn geology. It's called earth & environmental science". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2 December 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Josh Frydenberg
as Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia
Minister for Northern Australia /
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia

Keith Pitt
Preceded by
Josh Frydenberg
as Minister for Resources and Energy