There is a pending bill in Parliament cited as the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Act 2015, that will strip Australian citizenship on dual nationals by reason of national security grounds.
Nobody disagrees with the reason. However, on closer scrutiny the bill attracts criticisms from constitutional lawyers and other groups for the way it is drafted.
Purpose of the legislation is “because the Parliament recognizes that Australian citizenship is a common bond , involving reciprocal rights and obligations, and that citizens may, through certain conduct incompatible with the shared values of the Australian community, demonstrate that they have severed that bond and repudiated their allegiance to Australia.”
And what is the Pledge of Allegiance say?
“From this day forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
Whose rights and liberties I respect, and
Whose laws I will uphold and obey.”
Section 33AA Renunciation by conduct of the proposed amendment bill states that renunciation and cessation fo citizenship applies to the following conduct:
a) engaging in international terrorist activities using explosive or lethal devices;
b) engaging in a terrorist act;
c) providing or receiving training connected with preparation for engagement in, or assistance in a terrorist act;
d) directing the activities of a terrorist organisation;
e) recruiting for a terrorist organisation;
f) financing terrorism;
g) financing a terrorist;
h) engaging in foreign incursions and recruitment.
The power to strip citizenship is exercised by the Minister.
Should the citizenship of a person is revoked a child of that person also loses his/her citizenship.
According to constitutional lawyer George Williams, the bill is “one of the most poorly drafted” and warned it would catch many Australians who have “nothing to do with terrorism.” It removes, “natural justice rights and allows no public notification for stripping citizenship from dual nationals”
Law Council President Duncan McConnel, expressed his concerns as:
• “the mechanism for revocation of citizenship is clumsy, its drafting seems driven by a need to avoid constitutional invalidity rather than a workable, simple mechanism with some protection of rights;
• The conduct or behavior that leads to automatic loss of citizenship is very broad and imprecise. It means it would be very hard to know if someone had done something to trigger loss of citizenship until they get the notice from the Minister.
• There is only a very limited review. A person faced with loss of citizenship should have the opportunity to explain or even defend their actions and for a reasonable decision for the Minister to follow. The Court should supervise the loss of such a fundamental and important privilege.
• A proper decision-making process leading to revocation of citizenship would provide a means safeguarding children and people who would be rendered stateless by such a decision..
• The law should not apply to past conduct, except where it relates to a conviction obtained after commencement.
The submission from the Islamic Society of Queensland raised the question of whether there was a need for such legislation. It also said that the “definition of terrorism in the public discourse” did not take account of the “seriousness of right wing extremism”.
We would like to hear your Fair Dinkum comment.
2. Gabrielle Chan, , 4 August 2015, “Innocent Australians risk getting caught up in laws to strip citizenship – expert, theguardian
3. Law Council, 6 August 2015, “Citizenship Stripping Legislation “Flawed”
4. Cameron Atfield, 17 August 2015, Sydney Morning Herald