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 42)
Southport, Queensland, Australia
Political partyNational Party (Federal)
Liberal National Party (State)
Other political
Residence(s)Yeppoon, 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 and again at the 2022 Australian federal election. He was 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 parliament.[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[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] His father Bryan worked as a manager at Woolworths and sales representative with Nestlé, while his mother Maria worked as a teller with the Commonwealth Bank.[7] His brother John is a mining executive, and managing director of Winfield Energy, which had a significant interest in the Rolleston coal mine until 2020.

Canavan grew up in Slacks Creek in the City of Logan.[7] He attended Chisholm Catholic College, where he was active in Edmund Rice Camps.[8] While at University, Canavan identified as a communist until a political disagreement with volunteers for the International Socialist Organisation.[9] He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Economics (Hons.) from the University of Queensland.[10] After graduating from university he moved to Canberra to work at the Productivity Commission.[7] He was a senior research economist (2003–2008) and later director (2009–2010),[10] briefly moving to Brisbane as a senior executive at KPMG (2008–2009).[7] From 2010 to 2013 Canavan served as chief of staff to Senator Barnaby Joyce, at the time serving as shadow minister for finance.[10][11] He later turned down an offer to move to Andrew Robb's office, despite Joyce's demotion to a less senior portfolio.[7]

Political career[edit]

Canavan in November 2019 with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

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.[12] He sits with the National Party in the Senate, although he had been a member of the Liberal club during his latter days at UQ.[9]

In the First Turnbull Ministry, Canavan served as the Minister for Northern Australia between 18 February and 19 July 2016.[13] He was the first member of cabinet born in the 1980s.[7]

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.[5] 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.[15] 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.[16][17]

Canavan has served on the "Inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia", which delivered its interim report in December 2020.[18]

High Court citizenship challenge (2017)[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 Scott Ludlam, Larissa 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]

Matt Canavan at a Start Rockhampton Ring Road rally, 2022

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 MPs who voted for the motion, which was defeated with 36 votes against.[28]

Canavan is a climate change denier[29] and a prominent supporter of fossil fuels, particularly coal,[30][31] and has strongly opposed investment in renewable energy.[32] He has been referred to as one of the major players in the LNP split over climate and energy policy, frequently advocating for more coal power plants, despite their higher costs and higher emissions than alternative energies.[33] Canavan has rejected that climate change contributed to the catastrophic 2019–20 Australian bushfire season, despite evidence to the contrary.[34] His views have been rebuked by climate scientists and other members of Parliament, including Nationals MP Darren Chester.[35][36] 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, he 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."[37]

Many of Canavan's comments have been characterised as racist, or racially charged.[38] In October 2020, he shared a picture on Facebook and Twitter that showed a vehicle with a sticker that stated "Black Coal Matters" on it, intended as a parody of the American social movement Black Lives Matter. This was posted in the wake of major racial tension following the murder of George Floyd, and Canavan was met with heavy backlash on social media.[39][40] He later defended the post as a "joke", and declared that the Black Lives Matter movement deserves "ridicule".[41] In August 2021, Canavan received widespread criticism when he took issue with the announcement that the children's entertainment group the Wiggles had recruited a further four members, who were ethnically diverse, saying in an interview with The Australian newspaper: "The Wiggles are free to do what they like. It was nice while it lasted. But you go woke, you go broke." His comments were perceived as racially insensitive.[42][43]

In November 2021, Canavan was one of five Coalition senators who crossed the floor to vote for Pauline Hanson's proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Status (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill 2021, which would have prevented people who willingly refused the COVID-19 vaccine from being subject to any kind of mandate or consequence.[44][45] His support of the bill drew criticism and accusations of being anti-vaccine.[46] Canavan called for the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be halted, contrary to the policy of his own government and views of his colleagues.[47]

Canavan has spread misinformation linking COVID vaccination to excess deaths in Australia.[48]

Personal life[edit]

Canavan met his wife, Andrea, at university while volunteering with Edmund Rice Camps.[8] As of 2017, they had five children together and lived in Yeppoon.[49] They also own a property in Barmaryee and a house in Macquarie, Australian Capital Territory.[50]

Canavan has said he "rediscovered" his Roman Catholic faith while preparing for his wedding.[8]


  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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c d e f Kelly, Joe (1 August 2016). "Matt Canavan: the 1980s kid in the cabinet". The Australian. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  8. ^ a b c Ng, Emilie (20 September 2016). "Queensland Senator Matthew Canavan found God in holy matrimony". The Catholic Leader. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  9. ^ a b Ludlow, Mark (26 May 2017). "Matt Canavan, a communist turned economist in a bushie's hat". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  10. ^ a b c "Senator Matthew Canavan". Senators and Members of the Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  11. ^ "Toowoomba's first Senator to speak up for regions". The Chronicle. 10 September 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Senator CANAVAN First Speech". 16 July 2014.
  13. ^ "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.
  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. ^ "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.
  16. ^ "Michael McCormack defeats Barnaby Joyce to remain Nationals leader". ABC News. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  17. ^ "Anthony Albanese says public wants 'practical' action on climate change – as it happened". The Guardian. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  18. ^ Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia (December 2020). Never again: Inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia - Interim Report. Commonwealth of Australia. ISBN 978-1-76092-197-2. PDF
  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. ^ "Nationals MP Trevor Khan lashes out at colleague Matt Canavan over same-sex marriage".
  28. ^ "Australian Senate vote not passed, 16th Nov 2017, 12:15 PM". They Vote For You. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  29. ^ "Canavan hardens climate stance despite Liberal drubbing". 26 May 2022.
  30. ^ Warren, Chrisopher (12 August 2021). "Not my problem: how climate denial works in the 2020s". Crikey. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  31. ^ Slezak, Michael (13 July 2017). "Stop trying to save the planet, Matthew Canavan tells Queensland government". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  32. ^ Alvarez, Simon (14 March 2018). "Tesla's South Australia battery is 'Kim Kardashian' of energy, says minister". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  33. ^ "Matt Canavan declares net zero by 2050 is 'all over bar the shouting' after PM tries to quell divisions | Australian election 2022 | the Guardian".
  34. ^ "'There is no link': the climate doubters within Scott Morrison's government". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  35. ^ "Federal election 2022: Coalition climate change split emerges as Nationals Senator Matt Canavan labels net-zero goal 'dead'".
  36. ^[bare URL]
  37. ^ Pitt, Helen (2 December 2018). "Matt Canavan says students should learn geology. It's called earth & environmental science". The Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  38. ^ "Senator, MP blasted over 'disgusting' Taliban tweets".
  39. ^ Williams, Carly (6 October 2020). "Nationals Senator Matt Canavan Stands By Racist 'Black Coal Matters' Slogan On Ute". Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  40. ^ Gillespie, Eden; Blakkarly, Jarni (6 October 2020). "'Black Coal Matters': Nationals senator slammed for 'racist' slogan". SBS World News. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  41. ^ Burt, Jemima; Culliver, Paul (8 October 2020). "'Black Coal Matters' car sticker defended by Queensland senator saying BLM movement deserves ridicule". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  42. ^ Molloy, Shannon (22 August 2021). "Senator slams new 'woke' Wiggles". — Australia's Leading News Site.
  43. ^ "'Go woke, go broke': Australian MP Matt Canavan dismisses racial diversity on children's show". The Times. 23 August 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  44. ^ "COVID-19 Vaccination Status (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill 2021".
  45. ^ "Scott Morrison faces Senate revolt over Pauline Hanson bill". 22 November 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  46. ^ Karp, Paul; Martin, Sarah (22 November 2021). "One Nation anti-vaccine mandate bill rejected despite support from five Coalition senators". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  47. ^ "Canavan scolded by Regional Health Minister for vaccine rollout suspension call". 16 March 2021.
  48. ^ "Why the simplest explanation for excess deaths in Australia during the pandemic is likely the best". ABC News. 13 October 2022. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  49. ^ Connors, Matthew (3 January 2017). "It is a case of fifth time lucky for the Canavans". The Morning Bulletin. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  50. ^ Karp, Paul; Remeikis, Amy (11 February 2020). "Matt Canavan leaves two properties worth more than $1m off 2019 declaration of interests". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 30 January 2021.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded byas Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Minister for Northern Australia /
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia

Keith Pitt
Preceded byas Minister for Resources and Energy