Thursday, 12 November 2015
Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015; Second Reading
I rise to speak to the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. This is a very serious piece of legislation. It deals with a topic of fundamental importance to our community. Citizenship, the full political and social membership of a national community, is a core human right. Article 15 Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares:
1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Australia was, through the work of 'Doc' Evatt in the earlier years of the United Nations, intimately involved in the formulation and adoption of the declaration. In the following decades, we have become party to several international treaties, which flesh out the content of the right to a nationality, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Citizenship is a very special kind of right. As political theorist Hannah Arendt put it, it can be described as 'the right to have rights'. Arendt, who like other German Jews was made stateless in the 1930s, had a firsthand understanding of just how important citizenship is. In recognition of this, Australia has also become party to international instruments which seek to prevent statelessness, most importantly the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
When we legislate in this place on the topic of citizenship, then we must be very cautious. We must be mindful of our obligations under international human rights laws and of the essential values those laws codify. But we must also acknowledge the special status of citizenship in Australian society, in particular. Australia is a multicultural nation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have lived on this continent for many tens of thousands of years, but the rest of us are migrants and, in the long view, very recent migrants indeed.
Australia and Australianness cannot be defined by reference to race or creed. Citizenship is, and must be, what brings the great diversity of our community together. It is no coincidence that the development of a distinctive Australian citizenship, as opposed to British subjecthood, has run in parallel with the development of a modern, diverse Australian society. Any changes we make to the law of Australian citizenship must strengthen the bond that citizenship provides between all Australians.
This bill provides for an extraordinary sanction—the loss of Australian citizenship and all of the rights that flow from it. This is clearly a very serious matter. That said, it has always been recognised that citizenship involves mutual obligation. Australia owes important duties to its citizens. Citizens owe important duties to Australia, most basically a duty of loyalty. This is made clear in the schedule to the Citizenship Act, which provides for a citizenship pledge reading:
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
Australian law has long provided that, where that duty of loyalty is breached in the most fundamental way, loss of citizenship can follow. Since at least the creation of Australian citizenship in the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, Australian law has provided that dual nationals who fight with enemy states during times of war can forfeit their Australian citizenship.
Much has changed since 1948. Wars are not often declared in the modern era—indeed Australia has not done so since 1948—and the clearest threats we face often come from non-state actors. Accordingly, there has been discussion in this place and beyond since early 2014 about the possibility of updating the Citizenship Act to reflect these changed circumstances.
Under the leadership of the member for Warringah, the government tied itself in knots on this issue. The government engaged in all sorts of wild rhetoric. They sought to exploit the critical matter of citizenship for cynical political advantage, to the extent that members of the former Prime Minister's own cabinet rebelled and we saw a series of extraordinary cabinet leaks and internal fights within the coalition parties.
Labor's position, however, has been consistent. We have said all along that we see the sense in updating the existing law to reflect the circumstances of a new century. We believe that, just as a person who fights for an enemy nation at a time of war, a person who fights with a terrorist organisation hostile to Australia, or who commits serious acts of terrorism, should be liable to forfeit their citizenship in certain circumstances.
But we have always maintained that this update to our citizenship laws must be carefully designed. It must not operate too broadly or have unintended consequences. It must pay due regard to the importance of citizenship. It must not strip an Australian of a fundamental right unless that person has repudiated their right to citizenship by choosing to engage in conduct that is inconsistent with allegiance to Australia. It must accord with our international obligation not to make a person stateless.
While the government under the leadership of the member for Warringah was interested in political posturing, Labor has always been interested in getting the detail of this legislation right. This bill was introduced into the parliament on 24 June 2015 and referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Once again it fell to the intelligence committee to fix the many problems in the bill that was proposed by this government. The committee held public hearings. It heard evidence from relevant agencies, from civil society and from legal experts. It has produced a report of considerable weight and has made 26 substantive recommendations for changes to the bill or clarifications about how it is intended to operate. As a consequence, the form of the bill we debate here today, as amended in response to the report of the committee, is vastly improved from that which was first introduced into the parliament by the government in June.
Improvements were made in each of the three limbs of the bill in respect of section 33AA and section 35, which provide for loss of citizenship by conduct, and in section 35A, which provides for loss of citizenship consequent to a conviction for specified criminal convictions. As regards the two conduct limbs of the bill—sections 33AA and 35—the most important recommendation is that those provisions should operate only with respect to a person who is outside Australia. Labor accepts the need for a means of cancelling citizenship in the absence of a conviction in an Australian court. Most—perhaps all—of those who lose their citizenship under this bill will already have left Australia, often with no intention ever to return. We accept that it is impractical to insist on a conviction in such circumstances. However, the bill in its original form would have allowed for citizenship to be stripped in the absence of a conviction in circumstances where a person was in Australia and therefore available for prosecution in the usual way. The removal of this possibility is appropriate. It recognises that the deprivation of rights as important as citizenship ought ideally occur through judicial process with all of the protections that that process entails.
The committee also recommended very significant changes to the operation of section 35A, the new provision which would allow for the revocation of a person's citizenship consequent to conviction for certain offences. This part of the bill ought at a level of principle present the least concern. By relying on a prior conviction, section 35A contains within its operation the usual protections of the judicial process. However, as originally drafted, this part of the bill overreached very significantly. It went well beyond the kind of conduct which ought to attract the very serious sanction of revocation of citizenship. The government, for reasons unclear to me, included in the original bill a whole range of inappropriate offences. These ranged from the archaic, such as 'unlawful drilling'; to the obscure, such as 'seducing a person serving in the Queen's forces from his or her duty and allegiance'; to the deeply trivial: 'damaging Commonwealth property'. All of this was the core purpose of this bill. It went well beyond the stated intention of the government and it went well beyond what Labor supports: the sensible updating of existing citizenship law. Frankly, it is incredible to me that the government would even introduce into the parliament a bill which would strip the citizenship of a person for, say, defacing a postbox.
In the intelligence committee we cleaned this mess up. As amended, the bill will apply only to serious terrorist offences and to the most serious national security offences, including treachery. This is appropriate. What is more, we have imposed a further discipline on the section 35A power by insisting that it only apply where a sentence of six or more years has been imposed for such an offence. Again, this provides the assurance of judicial oversight. It provides an assurance that this power will only be used where an independent court has ruled that the relevant criminal conduct is of a very serious kind. It ensures that this power will never be applied lightly.
The government asked the committee to consider the retrospective operation of section 35A. Of course, it is unusual to legislate retrospectively, especially with regard to a matter as serious as the loss of citizenship. The committee, accordingly, accepted only a very limited form of retrospective operation. As amended, the bill will provide that the section 35A power can operate only on convictions for the relevant offences secured in the last 10 years and only where a sentence of 10 years or more has been applied.
As we have with each round of national security legislation in this parliament, Labor has also focused on oversight and transparency. The powers this bill provides must not only be appropriately constrained; they must also be seen to be so. The public must be able to have confidence in this law and in its operation by the government. We have provided for oversight and for review of this bill.
These are all very important changes. Once again the committee has proved its value in scrutinising and improving government legislation. Once again Labor has shown that we will take a bipartisan but not uncritical approach to national security matters, that we will work with the government to keep Australians safe but that we will provide constructive input on how that is to be done, and that we will insist on change where change is needed. I note in respect of every one of the matters I have listed that the government has accepted the committee's recommendations.
There is one important matter that the committee was, unfortunately, unable to fully address. As is recorded in its final report, the committee heard evidence from a number of leading constitutional experts. Those experts raised serious concerns about the constitutional viability of the bill. Naturally, Labor was concerned by this. We want this bill to work. We want it to be free from constitutional risk. We asked the government to answer the criticisms made in evidence to the committee by releasing to us its legal advice on the bill's constitutional prospects, provided by the Solicitor-General. The government refused. In lieu of the advice, the Attorney-General wrote to the committee to assure us of the government's strong view that the bill is constitutionally sound. I note that yesterday the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, was asked about this matter. He said he, too, was confident about the bill's constitutionality. The Prime Minister said:
… the Government's advice is that the laws, if challenged in the High Court, would be upheld.
I regret that the government has not released its advice, even in confidence, to the opposition. This would have been consistent with the spirit of constructive bipartisanship in which national security has been handled during this parliament. In the absence of that advice though, Labor must take the government's confidence about this bill at face value. We accept the government's assurance to the committee, to the parliament and to the Australian people that this bill will stand a constitutional challenge. I commend the bill to the House.
I very much embrace the opportunity to speak on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. This is a serious bill and this is a bill that many of us have wanted for a long time. It was initiated entirely from this side of the House, from the government, and was not proposed by anyone else in this parliament. It is my view, and that of many here in the Parliament of Australia, indeed of many across the country, that citizenship has meaning and that, whilst there are rights involved, it is the responsibilities that come with citizenship that are most important, and that matter is what this bill addresses.
It is right that for those who engage in such despicable behaviour and anti-Australian criminality related to terrorism we should have the ability to withdraw citizenship. What we know is that the number of Australians joining extremist groups overseas is increasing, as are the number of sympathisers and supporters of such extremists. This means that the pool of potential terrorists is getting larger. I know that even in Perth there are those active in talking up the cause of jihad, and I thank the AFP and ASIO for their superb work in countering this threat to the nation.
As has been said, there are currently more than 400 high priority counter-terrorism investigations, a number that has doubled since early 2014. In the last 14 months, 26 people have been charged from 10 counter-terrorism operations. The numbers are increasing, and those who deny the threat are extremely foolish. It is also known that more than 100 Australians are currently fighting or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. It has been said that there are around 190 people in Australia who are supporting terrorism in the Syrian or Iraqi conflicts through financing and recruitment or who are seeking to travel to engage in those conflicts.
Unfortunately, not all of the traitors to this great country, who fight for Daesh and other extremist terrorist groups, die pointlessly and before they cause harm to the people they persecute and brutalise. For those who do not die, earlier this year we, the government, started developing amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 in order to provide for the loss of citizenship in the case of dual nationals engaged in terrorism related conduct. It is the view of the government that some citizens have taken action, and some will take action in the future, that is not compatible with the common values of our society and that those actions are fundamentally at odds with the Australian community and, therefore, they have broken faith with the nation.
The original bill has been looked at by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and, on 4 September, 27 recommendations have been proposed. These will be coming and there will be further action on two additional points. The bill contains a number of elements. The first element is renunciation of citizenship by conduct. This renunciation by conduct is provided for under section 33AA. It provides:
… a person who is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia renounces their Australian citizenship if the person acts inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia by engaging in—
specified conduct. That conduct includes overseas terrorist activities 'using explosive or lethal devices' and committing a 'terrorist act'. It also includes an involvement in training:
… connected with preparation for, engagement in, or assistance in a terrorist act;
(d) directing the activities of a terrorist organisation;
(e) recruiting …;
(f) financing terrorism;
… … …
(h) engaging in foreign incursions and recruitment.
Obviously, the conduct provisions in this element are limited to individuals who have engaged in the conduct offshore or engaged in relevant conduct onshore and left Australia before being charged and brought to trial in respect of that conduct.
The second element extends the law that already allows for the automatic loss of citizenship where a person serves in the armed forces of a country that is at war with Australia. The extension applies to a person who is also a citizen of another country, who is overseas and fights for or is in the service of a declared terrorist organisation. Obviously the provisions do not apply to acts that are unintentional, under duress, or for the purposes of independent humanitarian assistance.
The third element of this bill includes a new section, section 35A, which provides a power to the minister to determine a person's citizenship has been lost once they have been convicted of a relevant offence. It should be noted that the loss of citizenship is not automatic upon the conviction. Where a person is convicted of treason, espionage, terrorism or international terrorist activities using lethal devices et cetera, provided that the person has received an overall sentence of at least six years for an offence with a maximum penalty of 10 years or more, a determination is made by the minister provided that the minister is satisfied that the conviction demonstrates that the person has repudiated their allegiance to Australia and that it is not in the public interest for the person to remain an Australian citizen. I would also say that judicial review is available to persons affected by the provisions for loss of citizenship in this bill. Of course the Federal Court and the High Court have jurisdiction.
With regard to retrospectivity, I absolutely support the need for this to be part of this bill. The parliamentary joint committee recommended that conviction based provisions apply retrospectively for relevant offences that occurred prior to the commencement of the bill. That is good, and this provides the opportunity to deal with terrorists such as Abdul Benbrika for his 2009 conviction regarding his leadership of a terrorist group that planned attacks in 2005 against Crown casino and the MCG.
I find the progress of this bill, and what appears to be its imminent passing, particularly satisfying. This is very much the sort of critical legislation for national security and safety that we need to advance. I have long believed this to be required. Personally, I first raised this issue in the parliament on 26 October 2009 when I said:
I think it is also very sad that there are some people in this country that have taken up citizenship and seek to change this country in a fundamental way. By that I mean those who have recently been convicted in the Sydney terrorist trial are from families that have come to this country and used the superior freedoms and liberties of this country while finding fault with this country and seeking to change it with their extremism and fundamentalism. I think it is all very well that we have the ability to grant citizenship, but what we should have is the ability to withdraw that citizenship from those who seek to betray this nation with acts of murder and terror.
In my address in reply speech on 18 October 2013, I also said:
On a related point, all would be aware of recent commentary in the media about persons holding Australian citizenship going to train for war and fighting as a mercenary or volunteer in Syria. Several years ago I spoke in parliament with reference to those who had been granted Australian citizenship as refugees only to travel to places like Yemen to undertake terrorist training. Those people represent a great threat to the security of this country. Similarly, we should view anyone who travels to Syria to take up arms with great suspicion. When people raise their right hand and make the oath or affirmation of citizenship it does actually mean something. When they pledge their loyalty to Australia and its people and that they will uphold and obey our laws, their pledge to this nation is broken when they take up arms and attribute that to some religious authority. I therefore encourage the immigration minister to examine the options of the withdrawal of citizenship for those who break their pledge to Australia. I appreciate the difficulties in ascertaining the facts, but those who already hold the citizenship of another nation and who break faith with this country through crime should be held accountable, and the withdrawal of citizenship should be an option. I supported this option before I was elected and I support it now.
Since then I raised the issue with the former Prime Minister Mr Abbott on 12 September 2014, 16 July 2014 and on 15 February 2015. I also spoke in our party room about this in March 2014 and May 2014. On 16 June 2014, I also spoke about Islamic State and said:
What also concerns me is that there are likely to be Australians who have signed up to be part of such an evil organisation, and I certainly commend the government on their attempts to stop people leaving this country by cancelling passports to stop their involvement. I would also say that where such people have dual citizenship they are exactly the sort of people from whom we should remove Australian citizenship. We do not want them in this country in the future.
On 3 September 2014, I said:
The truth remains that we do have traitors in this country. They are Australians who believe in Islamic State and in violent Wahhabism. These people, and their supporters, must be stopped and prosecuted before they leave Australia or provide support. Dual citizens must have their citizenship revoked. Terrorists are traitors to this nation, they are a threat to this nation and they must be dealt with very firmly in order to protect this nation from terrorism.
Similarly, I also spoke on this topic on 14 July 2014 when I moved a motion on this specific subject. I thank Minister O'Dwyer for her speech on that motion as well. That motion read:
That this House:
(1) notes the increasing instances of Australian citizens taking up arms for foreign military and extremist causes including, but not limited to, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, representing a threat to good order in international affairs and the safety of Australian citizens;
(a) that by taking up arms or supporting such causes, those citizens have failed to comply with the pledge they made when they became an Australian citizen, to uphold the laws of Australia; and
(b) those who have taken up arms or supported such causes, and
were born Australian citizens but have a second also repudiated their allegiance to Australia; and
(3) urges the Government to amend the Australian have Citizenship Act ' to allow the revocation of the status of citizen for those who take up arms, or provide material and/or financial support for military/extremist causes, except where such action is at the direction of the Government.
I also specifically spoke on the issue on 16 July 2014, 1 October 2014, 5 March 2015, 24 March 2015 and on 26 July 2015.
So it is with a significant background that I wholeheartedly endorse this bill. But before I conclude I would also make mention of another proposal I put to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection some time ago. My proposal was about a new preamble for citizenship ceremonies, and I put it forward because it is my view that the current preamble to the pledge of Australian citizenship is too much like the oath or the affirmation itself. What it needs to be is a fundamental statement that makes very clear what new citizens are committing to. I therefore reiterate the preamble that I think should be stated before anyone takes the pledge. The proposal reads: Australian citizenship represents full and formal membership of the community of the Commonwealth of Australia. Every Australian citizen has rights and protections, but also serious responsibilities. Persons on whom Australian citizenship is conferred accept these obligations: (a) loyalty to Australia, its people and laws above all other nations, peoples and laws; (b) commitment to the Australian democratic model of government and renouncing all other systems, be they political or religious; and (c) to respect the rights and liberties, of all people regardless of gender, race or religion, as all are equal before the law as Australians.
To conclude, I say that this country has been successful because of the fundamentals upon which it was founded and the fundamentals that continue to guide us. This cannot be the subject of any form of compromise in the form of an apologist approach for political correctness. We should be proud of this country. It is a great country which has always stood up for the weak, the defenceless and the besieged. The strength of our country is in our traditions, our institutions and our values. The will of our country to act when the hard decisions need to be made comes from the collective faith of the great Australian culture, which is the culture of the majority forever grounded in the belief of the supremacy of the democratic tradition; a majority culture that will forever be guided by the one and only set of secular laws; a majority culture that supports those who aspire to improve themselves, while also being there to support those who need it and cannot provide for themselves. This is a majority culture that has a strong belief in the principle of personal responsibility. It has a strong belief that all citizens and residents have rights, but never without responsibilities. This country has a majority culture of Judeo-Christian values, and there is nothing wrong with that and nothing to be apologised for.
This bill is about accountability. When it comes to citizenship, those who take up that citizenship are responsible for their actions, and there is a consequence for their lack of loyalty to this great country. I therefore commend the bill to the House.
I rise to speak on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. In all matters of national security, Labor have given bipartisan support. But the Labor Party will never be a rubber-stamp for the government. We take security very seriously. We are the party of John Curtin, who led this nation through World War II. We are the party of Ben Chifley. We have a strong tradition of looking after national security. There are people like Gough Whitlam, a flight lieutenant in the Air Force in World War II, or the great Tom Uren, a prisoner of war in Burma—someone who actually saw the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan and then, because of those experiences, went on to become a great warrior for peace. So we understand security. This legislation requires great scrutiny. Labor will continue to apply proper scrutiny to any changes to legislation proposed by the government. Obviously, that is the crucial role of an effective opposition party.
This piece of amending legislation has been thoroughly scrutinised by not only Labor but the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. I note the Labor representatives on that committee: the deputy chair, Anthony Byrne; Mark Dreyfus, a QC and the former Attorney-General; Penny Wong and Stephen Conroy from the Senate; and also Senator Katy Gallagher, former leader of the ACT. Great Labor minds were brought to bear on that committee when they looked at this amending legislation. The committee handed down its final report, a bipartisan report, on 4 December, and it made 27 recommendations for amendments to the bill that was originally introduced by the Attorney-General. These recommendations have been implemented, and I will speak further about those.
Firstly, what does this bill put forward by the Turnbull government seek to do? It seeks to amend the Australian Citizenship Act 2007—in particular, the ability to revoke the Australian citizenship of an individual if they have dual nationality. The Australian citizenship of an individual with dual nationality can currently be revoked under section 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act in circumstances where that person serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia. That provision of the legislation has been in operation since 1948, when that legislation was brought in by that great Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley, who followed John Curtin as Prime Minister—I think there was Prime Minister Forde for eight days in between. Chifley was responsible for some very progressive reforms, such as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Because of the timing of his prime ministership, he was also responsible for the postwar immigration scheme that saw the enactment of the Australian Citizenship Act and that time of great migration to Australia.
It is a very serious proposition to strip an Australian citizen of their citizenship. It was a very serious proposition in 1948, when the original provision was enacted. It is a very serious proposition now, when we are looking at making this amendment. Our citizenship is crucial. It is very important. I go to many citizenship ceremonies, and it is always touching to see the pride in the faces of brand-new Australian citizens. Some have come here because of love; some have come here through hardship; some have come here through economic opportunities and have then become Australian citizens. I always give them five tips at the end of the citizenship ceremony, if I am the presiding officer.
Mr Danby interjecting—
They are not official tips, and I will not go through all five, member for Melbourne Ports, but I will tell you the fifth point that I make. It is done in a light-hearted way, but I say to them that, as Australian citizens, they have to choose an Australian sporting team to support. If they are a rugby-loving person from New Zealand who has just become an Australian citizen, I say, 'I understand why you might want to support the All Blacks, but you've got to find an Australian team to make your No. 1 team in some sport.' But I say, 'I can understand why, if you love rugby, you might make the All Blacks No. 1 and Australia No. 2, but if you ever make Australia your third team in anything, we can deport you.' It is said in a light-hearted way, but it is making a point about loyalty to a new country. When they make that oath, when they take that pledge, they are taking on values that say Australia is now part of their life. It is not about denying their connections with other countries; it is about having to make a new place in their heart for Australia.
When I walk around the streets of Moorooka, where I live, or Sunnybank, where I work, I know that we are an inclusive society. Every face that I see tells me that we can be an inclusive society when we, as a nation, are at our best. I have seen division being cultivated by politicians and other members of society, but I know that, at our best, we are an inclusive society. We are welcoming to new citizens. Inclusion in our society is very important to a sense of belonging for all of us, even for Indigenous Australians.
But, just as in 1948, when the original section was introduced in the act, if a dual citizen puts on a uniform and fights against Australia then they are not showing the allegiance to Australia that a citizen is expected to. They are betraying that pledge, if they became a citizen by way of a ceremony. It was more obvious that an Australian citizen was fighting for a country that was at war with Australia in 1948 and in the postwar world, when many politicians were people who had fought in those wars. The lines on the 1948 map are not quite the same as they are on the 2015 map. The lines are a bit more blurry, the borders perhaps a bit more porous, in some parts of the world than they were in 1948. In 2015, in this digital, interconnected world, it is just as important to protect Australia, particularly from these non-state actors who have caused so much mayhem.
Australia still needs to be protected from not only hostile countries but terrorist organisations—an enemy that operates across porous borders and even, sadly, in the shadows of Australian homes and on Australian streets. It is important that this legislation is amended to accommodate the modern-day threats to Australia in this digital age. The importance of allegiance to the country has been mused about before, particularly by the former Prime Minister. Before the Turnbull coup, the then Prime Minister used to wrap himself in a flag and talk about this in a way that sometimes I think created division in society and caused great stress to certain groups in society. In 1774, Samuel Johnson wrote that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. I have seen people literally wrap themselves in our flag—and I will not name her—so I know that people will exploit political situations under false patriotism because they are trying to divide this nation.
Our citizenship and our true allegiance to country are part of who we are and part of who I am. Citizenship is an essential and fundamental right. We can trace it back to statements and treaties that we signed and back to the great Labor leader Doc Evatt and the declaration of human rights. As I said, it goes to the core of who we are and who I am. We have many citizens in Australia who have dual nationality. Labor will not tolerate any attempt to undermine the status of dual nationals in this country. In fact, the original legislation, which was introduced back in June, would have potentially roped in four, five or six million Australians. Thankfully, the PJCIS made many recommendations to narrow the scope of this bill. It is now a much more targeted response to the issue that it is aiming to address, rather than creating mischief and fear amongst people, such as in my electorate—be they the Vietnamese community in Oxley, the African community in Moorooka, the Taiwanese and Korean communities in Sunnybank or the many other dual nationals in my electorate.
It is very important that the serious action of stripping citizenship of a dual Australian citizen is balanced against the seriousness of the threat to Australia. Labor believes that the provisions of this bill now achieve that balance. A person will only be stripped of their Australian citizenship: if they are engaging in terrorist activities or collaborating with a declared terrorist organisation overseas, if they engage in terrorist activities in Australia but are no longer in Australia, or if they are convicted in Australia of a terrorist offence. No person in Australia will be stripped of their citizenship simply by way of untested suspicions or concerns about their conduct or—heaven forbid—due to political expediency because there is a desire to target a particular person.
Importantly, a person who the minister has determined should be stripped of their citizenship will have the right to appeal the determination—that important separation of powers. Labor believes this is an extremely important safeguard and that it is a fundamental right of all citizens that they be given that judicial protection. The minister will declare which organisations are the terrorist organisations that will be the concern of this legislation. The minister must consider explicit criteria to inform her or his decision. As a further safeguard, any declaration by the minister that an organisation is a terrorist organisation will be disallowable and reviewed by the Intelligence Committee. One of the recommendations of the PJCIS was to explicitly rule out conduct done by way of humanitarian assistance or acts done unintentionally or, even worse, under duress from being caught by section 35 as 'in the service of a declared terrorist organisation'. The bill has been amended to implement this recommendation.
There are also protections to ensure that where a dual citizen has his or her Australian citizenship stripped they will not be left stateless. Firstly, this legislation only applies to dual citizens, so the person must have citizenship with another country. Further, any decision about the revocation of Australian citizenship must take into account whether the person is able to access the citizenship rights in the other country of citizenship or nationality, and the extent of their connection to that country. Obviously, this is a practical consideration, because if a person is stripped of their citizenship, they have to be put on a plane, be accepted by the airline and sent to the other country.
There are also important safeguards around children who may be affected by this legislation. We know that children, sadly, can be easily led astray. It is very important that we have safeguards to ensure that we do everything we can to bring these children back on the right path. The PJCIS recommended that the extent that the bill will apply to children be very limited. No part of the bill will apply to children aged less than 10 years, and the provisions around revocation of Australian citizenship will not apply to children under 14 years. Where this provision is being applied to a child, the best interests of the child are a primary consideration. Having been a schoolteacher for 11 years, I know how easily young men can be seduced by love or religion whilst they struggle to find their identity and their role in society.
This bill makes significant amendments to our citizenship legislation. The consequences of this bill ought to have been seriously considered by the government before it was initially drafted and introduced into this chamber in June 2015. Bizarrely, the government left out of the original bill important safeguards—such as safeguards around the application of this bill to children, safeguards to ensure that persons conducting humanitarian assistance or acts done unintentionally or under duress are not inadvertently caught under these provisions, and safeguards to exempt staff members or agents of Australian law enforcement or intelligence agencies from its application. All of these things should have been contemplated by the LNP government before it drafted the bill; they were not. Through Labor scrutiny and the consideration of the committee, these shortfalls have now, largely, been corrected.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security made 27 recommendations, and the government has agreed to implement all 27 of those. However, I do flag the serious question raised by the Labor Party about the constitutionality of this legislation and whether it will survive a challenge in the High Court. During the committee scrutiny of this bill, several peak legal bodies, including the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Bar Association, expressed their concerns about the constitutionality of this bill. The concerns were twofold: (a) whether the Constitution grants the Commonwealth power to legislate with respect to citizenship and the conditions under which that grant is held; and (b) whether there are any constitutional limitations that would apply, particularly considering Chapter III, which includes the separation of powers and the implied right to vote. These are serious concerns, and I still have significant anxiety about these issues. Nevertheless, whether this bill is constitutional is essentially a matter for the government and the Attorney-General. Labor has tried to work with the government on this issue and asked for the advice of the Solicitor-General to be made public. Strangely, the government refused this simple request.
This smug government refused to make the Solicitor-General's advice available even to the committee. The only assurance the government has given is a letter from the Attorney-General to the committee, basically stating 'Trust me', confirming the constitutionality of the bill. This from the Attorney-General who said that people had the right to be bigots, introduced the divorce tax and had the arts portfolio stripped from him! Thankfully, yesterday in question time, Prime Minister Turnbull assured the nation that this legislation will withstand a constitutional challenge, but we will see.
Although Labor has not been given the assurance that we requested, given the national security nature of the bill, we will not stand in the way of this legislation on the issue of whether it is constitutional. That is in essence a matter for the government. (Time expired)
It is with great conviction and sense of purpose that I rise in the House to support this bill. The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 provides the powers required to deliver what is fundamentally the most important responsibility of government—that is, keeping our nation safe and protecting our citizens. The amendments proposed by this bill implement the commitment made by the government to address the growing challenges posed by citizens holding dual citizenship who betray Australia and its people by participating in terrorist activities. It is the responsibility of this government to ensure terrorists who are dual nationals are prevented from returning to Australia. It is also our responsibility to ensure dual nationals who engage in terrorism on Australian soil can be removed where possible.
Australia stands proud in today's world, recognised for defending the values, rights and obligations which will stand us in good stead for as long as we embrace them. As a result of our rich history, today we stand with other strong democracies to help defend and protect our hard-fought freedoms. People of all backgrounds and religions strengthen our country and only together, united, will our future be as strong as our present and past.
No-one would ever dispute that Australia is truly the lucky country. We as citizens of this wonderful land should never take this great nation of ours for granted. As Australians we are afforded the opportunity to live and grow in a free and open society and to share in the common good, and in return we owe Australia a duty to be good neighbours and good citizens. Australian citizenship has meanings which flow deeper and are more subtle than legal permission to live in this country. It defines an individual's relationship to Australia, their embodiment of national pride, personal responsibility, duty and rights.
Australia is known worldwide for its migrant heritage. We are a nation of immigrants. We are also a nation of citizens. The important topic of national security is one that is mentioned to me time after time in my electorate of Dobell. Over the last few years we have been seeing real and emerging threats to our nation and the safety of the Australian community, unfortunately coming from Australian citizens engaged in terrorism.
The review of Australia's counter-terrorist machinery for a safer Australia identified that the terrorist threat in Australia is rising. Alarmingly, it was identified that the number of foreign fighters is increasing, with around 110 Australians currently known to be fighting in Syria or Iraq. The number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremists is increasing, with about 190 people identified to be providing support to the conflict in Syria and Iraq. The number of potential terrorists is rising. As part of the government's response to countering such threats to national security, the government is amending the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to broaden the powers relating to cessation of citizenship for those who engage in terrorism and pose a serious threat to Australia.
The people of the New South Wales Central Coast understand the need to keep Australia safe from those who intend to do us harm. They understand the need for tough laws which ensure dual nationals who engage in terrorism activities are punished and pay the ultimate price—the stripping of Australian citizenship. Most importantly, they recognise and appreciate the tough stance taken by the government on this non-negotiable issue.
This bill will update the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to ensure dual nationals who serve or fight for terrorist groups or engage in terrorism related conduct inspired by terrorist groups lose their Australian citizenship, because quite frankly there is no place for people who engage in these activities in Australian society. Those who are Australian citizens owe their loyalty to Australia, and this applies to those who acquire citizenship automatically through birth in Australia and to those who acquire it through application. Where a person is no longer loyal to Australia and engages in activities to harm Australians or Australian interests, they have severed that bond and repudiated their allegiance to Australia.
The intention of the changes provided by this bill is to protect our community and uphold our values rather than punishing people for terrorist or hostile acts. In his second reading speech on this bill, Hon. Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, stated:
To ensure clarity of these necessary changes, a purpose clause has been inserted into the bill. It states that, by these amendments, the parliament recognises that Australian citizenship is a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, and that citizens may, through certain conduct incompatible with the safety and shared values of the Australian community, demonstrate that they have severed that bond and renounced their allegiance to Australia … The purpose clause uses concepts from the existing preamble in the Citizenship Act.
Currently under the Citizenship Act a conviction for a specified offence is required before citizenship can be revoked. In addition, the power to revoke only arises if the offence was committed prior to the minister giving the approval for the citizenship application or the offence was committed in relation to the person's application to become an Australian citizen. These existing revocation powers are inadequate to address concerns in regard to persons who have acted contrary to their allegiance to Australia through their engagement in terrorism related conduct.
The proposed amendments are intended to provide explicit powers for the cessation of Australian citizenship in specified circumstances where dual citizens who, by acting against the interests of Australia by choosing to engage in terrorism, have by their conduct repudiated their allegiance to Australia. Allegiance is a duty owed by all citizens to their sovereign or state. A citizen's duty of allegiance to Australia is not created by the Citizenship Act but is recognised by it. The concept of allegiance is central to the constitutional term 'alien' and to this bill's reliance upon the aliens power in the Australian Constitution. The High Court has determined that an alien is a person who does not owe allegiance to Australia. By acting in a manner contrary to their allegiance, the person has chosen to step outside of the formal Australian community.
The bill proposes three elements by which a person who is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia will cease to be an Australian citizen. The first element is a new provision whereby the person renounces their Australian citizenship if the person acts inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia by engaging in specified terrorist related conduct. Specified conduct is engaging in international terrorist activities using explosives or lethal devices; engaging in a terrorist act; providing or receiving training connected with preparation for, engagement in, or assistance in a terrorist act; directing the activities of a terrorist organisation; recruiting for a terrorist organisation; financing a terrorist; and engaging in foreign incursions and recruitment.
The second element is that the person ceases to be an Australian citizen if the person fights for, or is in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation. A declared terrorist organisation is any terrorist organisation as defined by the Criminal Code and declared by the minister to apply. The law currently provides for automatic loss of citizenship where a person serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia. This provision has been in force since 1949. This bill expands this section to provide for automatic cessation of citizenship if a person is also a citizen of another country, is overseas and fights on behalf of, or in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation. A declared organisation will be a subset of those which are listed by the Attorney-General for the purposes of terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. The minister will declare organisations that are specifically opposed to Australia and our democratic beliefs, rights and liberties. A declaration by the minister of a declared terrorist organisation is reviewable by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Under the third element, the person ceases to be an Australian citizen if the person is convicted of a specified terrorism offence as prescribed in the Criminal Code. As amended, section 35A provides that the minister can determine a person’s citizenship is lost once they have been convicted in a court of law of committing a relevant specified terrorism or related offence. Loss of citizenship is not automatic upon the conviction. This provision relies on a court having determined criminal guilt. The relevant offences include treason, espionage, terrorism, treachery, sabotage and foreign incursions and recruitment.
The amendments in the bill apply to a person who is an Australian citizen regardless of how the person became an Australian citizen, including a person who became an Australian citizen upon the person’s birth. The measures apply only to dual nationals and will not result in a person becoming stateless. The bill only applies to persons who are nationals or citizens of a country other than Australia—that is, dual citizens—and who would therefore not be rendered stateless if their Australian citizenship were to cease. The bill further provides that a person who loses their citizenship for terrorist related activities which demonstrate a breach of allegiance is not able to reacquire Australian citizenship in the future. This is entirely appropriate because such a person has demonstrated that they are not capable of upholding their commitment to our country and are not worthy of the honour of Australian citizenship. The person can never become an Australian citizen again unless the minister exempts the operation of the relevant cessation provision. The minister is required to give written notice of the automatic cessation of Australian citizenship to such persons as the minister considers appropriate.
These changes meet Australia’s international obligations not to render a person stateless. It is important to note that there is discretion available to the minister to exempt a person, including a child, from the loss of citizenship under the bill in the public interest. This includes circumstances that would prejudice national security or where the conduct of a dual national is not directly related to their allegiance to warrant them losing citizenship. A child will not automatically lose citizenship based on their parents' conduct under the new measures in the bill. This is consistent with existing provisions regarding loss of citizenship in the act. A person under the age of 18 years could lose citizenship under these provisions if they have engaged in the relevant conduct themselves. If the person is aged under 18 the best interest of the child is a primary consideration.
The amendments in the bill do not limit the application of judicial review. A person who loses their citizenship under these provisions will be able to seek a declaration from a court that they have not in fact lost their citizenship. As I mentioned previously, the amendments in the bill do not limit the application of judicial review as the Federal Court and High Court both have original jurisdiction over such matters. To ensure we are able to govern competently and efficiently, we must be prepared to react to this changing environment and confirm we have adequate legislation in place to protect our great nation and our citizens. We, as a nation, are dealing with a threat which demonstrates no bounds. Time and time again we see the atrocities delivered by terrorist organisations abroad and at home. To us, the actions undertaken by terrorist organisations are unfathomable. They defy every core being of Australian values and principles. When we see the activities of terrorist organisations provided to us by the media, we are in shock and dismay that a human being could be so callous and cruel to another. These are not the actions of an Australian citizen. Dual nationals who engage in terrorism are betraying their allegiance to this country and do not deserve to be Australian citizens. This is predominately a modern form of treason and Australia will not stand for this type of betrayal.
This bill deals with the threat caused by those who have engaged in terrorist related conduct that is contrary to their allegiance to Australia. Let us not for one minute forget these extremists are fighting against the brave men and women of the Australian Defence Force—men and women who are placing their lives on the line to protect Australia’s values and freedom. This bill formally removes a person from the Australian community when they themselves through their own doing have breached their allegiance to Australia. I am proud to support changes to the act that will mean dual nationals who have been convicted of terrorism related offences will lose their Australian citizenship. These provisions do not leave a person stateless and do not exclude the role of the courts. This will enable a person who has lost his or her citizenship to seek legal redress.
The desired outcome of this bill is to ensure the safety and security of Australia and its people and to ensure the community of Australian citizens is limited to those who continue to retain an allegiance to Australia. I know that supporting this bill will resonate soundly with the majority of Central Coast residents, and I commend the bill to the House
When the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 was first introduced in this House I was truly appalled, and I made the statement to my community that I would not be able to support this legislation. I now accept that substantial modifications have been made to the legislation and its worst excesses have been dealt with. We have been presented with the option of accepting a package that will go a considerable way to dealing with the profound problems of this bill in its original form, or run the risk of passing a very poor and deleterious piece of legislation. We have chosen to accept the package, and I compliment the work of the joint standing committee, particularly the work of Anthony Byrne and Mark Dreyfus, in trying to claw back some of the worst excesses of this legislation. But I see it as my responsibility to flag the very deep concerns I still have about the genesis of the legislation and the legislation as it stands in its highly modified form.
What appalled me about this legislation was not the reasons that were given for its introduction. Quite clearly there had been a longstanding provision in the Citizenship Act that if a dual national participated in the armed forces of an enemy alien that was grounds for losing their citizenship. So it is appropriate, given we now have non-state participants such as ISIS, that we amend the legislation to enable that conduct to also be captured. With the rise in terrorism it is also quite understandable that where a dual national has been convicted of a serious terrorism offence we would want to have the capacity to say that they are no longer entitled to their Australian citizenship. Whether or not that is always wise is debatable, but at least those two provisions are understandable.
What was completely and utterly unacceptable to me was the unfettered power that this legislation gave the minister to be judge and jury under the absurd legal fiction that, somehow or other, when you were sitting in your lounge room and you tweeted something or wrote up a Facebook post that may have incited violence, you had thereby automatically revoked your citizenship—that it was the action you took that automatically revoked your citizenship—and all the minister was doing was engaging in an administrative action in order to let you know that you had done this and to point out that you were no longer an Australian citizen. This is absolutely mad stuff! That is still contained in the legislation, but we have put constraints around the exercise of that power that go some way to reining in the worst potential excesses of that ministerial power.
I want to focus on why we decided to go down the path of this legal fiction of self-actuating conduct that leads you—and not the minister—to be stripping yourself of your citizenship. It comes down to the very important principle of the separation of powers. Legislatures and executives have a range of powers for creating and executing policy, but when it comes to the application of the law to a particular citizen, the separation of powers says that the people that are making the determination on the facts and on whether or not those facts constitute a breach of law must be entirely separate from the law makers or the executive. That is a very important principle.
It is true that there has been some debate over time as to the extent to which this doctrine is entrenched within our Constitution. It would be true to say that in the years leading up to the Second World War, perhaps when Australia was less independent of spirit, that we tended to follow an interpretation that was more similar to that of the British, who allow for considerable deviation from this principle of the separation of powers in their legal and judicial system. What made it more complex in Australia was the fact that we had the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, which was seen to have been an important part of the Australian political landscape. Much of the interpretation of the Constitution as being more British and not requiring the total separation of powers was done to defend this conciliation and arbitration court.
Then, in 1956, we had a landmark case—the Boilermakers' case—which changed that totally. Finally, the High Court Chief Justice at the time, Justice Dixon, who had long held this view, was able to get majority support for the proposition that was much more like the tradition that came out of the French and American legal systems, which strongly promoted the separation of powers. He was able to argue and convince the majority of the court that the very structure of our Constitution—chapter I, chapter II and chapter III—provided for the separation of powers. Chapter III sets out in great detail the things that one requires for the exercise of judicial power. We have a whole chapter devoted to how judicial power is to be exercised. Clearly, the Australian Constitution is a constitution that requires a complete separation of the power of the executive and the legislature from that of the judiciary.
It is important to understand this, because when the Citizenship Act was introduced in 1948, we had the older interpretations of the Constitution that were more British in their character. It was probably not such a live debate when that first provision about serving in the force of an enemy alien was there. This is not just a technical thing. I think it is a profoundly important point that we do not allow ministers to go around and be judges and juries on this, and we do not buy these absurd legal fictions that somehow or other the minister is just writing a letter saying, 'Hey, guys, you might not have realised it, but when you did that thing last night, that was a terrorist act, and now you're out as an Australian citizen.'
I compliment the work that was done by the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to constrain the range of things the minister could do, requiring ministers in most cases, despite some unfortunate exemptions, to provide reasons, and providing that appeals processes should be entrenched. The absolutely unfettered power that the original iteration of this bill gave the minister has been clawed back.
I have had some conflict with some of my colleagues on this, who say, 'You've got to presume that the government acts in good faith.' I have some German ancestors who came out in the 1870s. When I was in Germany earlier this year, they were saying, 'What is all this stuff about what happened to the German community after the First World War?' I said, 'A few people were interned, but nothing much.' I was surprised to find out about the absolutely appalling process that went on that led to 6,000 German Australians not only being interned during the war but then being forcibly deported after the war. At that stage Germans were in fact the third largest ethnic group in Australia. All of this was a surprise to me, even though I had German ancestry.
Why did it happen? We had a war. When we have a war, do we say, 'If you have got an ancestor that comes from a country that we are having a war with, you are automatically an enemy'? We are talking about people who in many instances were second and third generation Australians, who were subjects of Australia, and they were absolutely dumbfounded. They wanted to go and fight for Australia. After the war, after the Treaty of Versailles—after it all finished—these people, often second generation Australians, were deported. The determinations of the minister of the day, dealing with why people of German ancestry were interned, state not that these people were a threat but that the British-born people in the area were not comfortable with them and that it would be really good example to intern them; it would make the British-born people feel much more comfortable in their community. I say this just as an example of what happens when you have unfettered ministerial control.
I support us having the provision to strip of their dual citizenship people who have another nationality and who have in some way behaved appallingly and have not valued those fundamental principles that are important in Australia. But this is never a decision that should be made by a minister. This is always a decision that should be made by the court. I am entirely comfortable with those parts of this legislation that require there to be a proper intervention of the judiciary, a proper examination of the facts, a proper examination of whether or not those facts constitute a breach of law. But I am not comfortable with putting ministers in the position where they can play with this thing that is our most precious birthright—our citizenship—and make political judgements on that.
I hope there is an early High Court challenge to this, because it is not just a technical matter. It is not one of those section 51 matters: have we crossed the boundary of the carve-up of state and federal power? It is not one of those dry provisions. This goes to the fundamental nature of our society and of justice, where we believe that we have to have a separation of powers to ensure that that great force of the state that is there to protect us is not used at the political whim of a minister.
The way this debate has emerged has really been very sad. I am reluctantly supporting this legislation because it constitutes a great improvement on a deeply flawed piece of legislation. I will certainly be supporting anyone who finds themselves on the receiving end of a ministerial decision and who feels that that is something that should be challenged in the court. That is not because I do not believe that we should be able to say, 'If you do not value Australian rights, you lose your citizenship,' but it should be the job— (Time expired)
I strongly support the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. For those who do not know, the electorate of La Trobe is in Victoria, in the outer eastern suburbs. We cover the Dandenong Ranges, a beautiful part of the world, and in the south we are very fortunate to have suburbs such as Berwick, Beaconsfield, Narre Warren and Narre Warren South. There is a very large multicultural community in the south of my electorate, particularly in the suburbs of Narre Warren and Narre Warren South.
Sadly, in La Trobe, and surprisingly, we are not immune to the threat of terrorism. We have had arrests in our suburbs, which I will go into a bit more later on. Just up the road, in Endeavour Hills, we had the tragic situation where two police members were stabbed during a terrorist attack. At the same time I acknowledge that, when it comes to legislation such as this, we need to consult widely with all of our multicultural community. I have worked very closely with the Afghan community, in particular, and they have been exceptionally supportive of the government taking action when it comes to the threat of terrorism. Those who escaped Afghanistan to get away from the Taliban, to get away from terrorism, have said to me that the last thing they want to see is anything like this happen in Australia.
Even parents have said to me, at one of my multicultural functions, that they were very concerned that their sons, in particular, were potentially going down the path of getting involved in violent extremism. They were asking for help. This is something which we took on board and we have worked with Dr Anne Aly from Curtin University. We ran the first full myHack program in Victoria, which is a hack-a-thon, where the participants were predominantly Muslim. They are so passionate about protecting Australia and they are so passionate about stopping young people, whether of Muslim or any other religion, from going down the path of extremism, including those who get involved in white supremacy. This was a way that the Muslim community, young people, in my electorate, came up with ideas to prevent other young people going down the wrong path.
I very much look forward to the winning proposal, which is called 'the formers', which is a website where former extremists and also former victims put up their stories to encourage others, when it comes to extremism, to not go down their path. Victims are able to show other people what it is like to be a victim of terrorism, hate or bigotry—any of those sorts of issues.
This bill concerns something that all members of parliament are very passionate about—citizenship. Australian citizenship is something that must not be taken lightly—with it, come great rights and responsibilities. Some of those rights include the right to vote in free, democratic elections and being able to freely discuss political matters. With rights, come responsibilities and duties owed to being an Australian. Citizenship is a pledge to do many things. Our pledge to citizenship reads—and these get read all over the country each week to new citizens:
From this time forward, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its peoples, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
It does not say, 'Don't respect your previous heritage.' It just says: respect and acknowledge that you are now, jointly, an Australian citizen. Obviously this pledge means that you should not get involved in terrorism activities against Australia or its allies.
As far as I am concerned, those who decide that they no longer want to uphold their right and responsibility of having Australian citizenship, have no right at all to be an Australian citizen. They do not respect the laws and liberties of Australia, nor, it would seem, do they want to abide by, obey or uphold them.
The purpose of this bill is to ensure that those who take up arms against Australia, or those who support it through other financial means who are dual citizens, are stripped of their Australian citizenship and deported. Since the election of the Liberal government, we have heard and seen and read about various Australians heading over to conflicts in Syria and Iraq to take up arms in the death cult, Islamic State or Daesh. They know what they are doing. They have seen the videos. They have decided that this is the path that they want to pursue. At the moment, I believe there are 110 Australians fighting or engaging with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraqi.
Not only have we seen Australians leave to fight overseas, we have had to deal with acts of terrorism on our own borders. Headlines across the nation have shown faces and names of those who have decided to leave Australia to fight. This list is quite extensive. The majority have come from either Victoria or New South Wales. There has been, as I mentioned before, a number of incidents around my electorate and also in the electorate of Holt. I will not go into the details of certain incidents, because they are subject to court cases, but, sadly, I have to say that we have been the focus of terrorist-related activity.
Since 11 September 2001, we have always feared the real threat of terrorism within our community. We saw attacks in London and Madrid. But as the years went on it seemed that many Australians believed we were immune. My background was with the Victoria Police Counter Terrorism Unit, so I knew we were not immune and that it was just going to be a matter of time.
Then came 2014. We saw one of the first attempted attacks on our shores, as I mentioned, at the Endeavour Hills police station. No longer are the police regarded as the protectors; they are now, tragically, the targets, as are those who wear the military uniforms protecting Australia overseas. As a result of this, Victoria Police—and my background is in the Victoria Police—have a policy of not wearing uniforms whilst not on duty, always carrying a firearm, always wearing protective vests and patrolling in pairs or groups of three. The reason for this is that the terrorist threat is very real. In fact, it has been publicly stated that in Australia there are 400 persons of interest who authorities are watching.
I also read today that finally the state Labor government has upgraded security measures at the Endeavour Hills police station and the Narre Warren police station. These police stations look after the residents in my electorate and also those in Holt.
Then we had, on 15 December, the very tragic incident in the Lindt cafe in Sydney, in Martin Place. For those involved, the hostages, that is something they will never forget.
Very sadly, on 2 October this year, we saw the death of Curtis Cheng outside the Parramatta police station. He was what those working for Victoria Police call an unsworn person. Curtis was just going about his work. He had finished off for the day. Tragically, his life was taken. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. I am very well aware of the dangers the police men and women face. Every day now is a testing day for them.
One of the best ways to deal with offenders is to remove them from society. This is one of the aims of this bill: to remove and prevent the re-entry into Australia of those who wish to commit acts of terrorism, who have taken up arms against Australia and who are dual citizens. If they are travelling over to Syria or Iraq and taking up the cause with Daesh, do we really want these people coming back to Australia? They are now fully trained up to conduct terrorist related activities. They should not come back here.
These people are doing whatever they can to undermine the rights and freedoms of Australians. They are actively working to do harm to those who live in Australia and Australians abroad, and they also pose a threat to almost every aspect of our lives and community. Those who are at war with Australia are not armies of other nations but terrorist organisations. The bill ensures that those who do these things and who are dual citizens do not come back. This is one of the best ways of keeping Australia safe. If we can keep out of Australia those who are willing to take radical action, we are keeping our country safe.
The offences which must be committed before a person loses their dual citizenship are being involved in a terrorist act, training with terrorists, direct activities with terrorists, recruiting for terrorist organisations, financing terrorism or financing terrorists. Obviously, they are very significant offences. Almost all of these Commonwealth offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Should these convicted criminals who are dual citizens ever be released from jail, they will be deported, meaning that they will never see another day in Australian society.
Also, it should be noted that these offences will be retrospective. These are recommendations. The amendment bill applies to dual citizens who have already been convicted of a specified offence with a sentence of 10 years or more handed down within the last 10 years. This is important to capture those people already convicted of very serious terrorism offences who have clearly repudiated their allegiance to Australia.
One of the big concerns I am hearing from law enforcement is about correctional facilities. I know that in Barwon Prison in Victoria there are a number of terrorists or people who have been involved in terrorist related activity who are now using their time in jail to recruit other people to their cause. Also, I am hearing great concerns that they are being patched over to an outlaw motorcycle gang, which greatly concerns me.
Once these people who have been involved in terrorism and are dual citizens have been released, as far as I am concerned—and this legislation will ensure that—after serving time in prison, they can no longer stay in Australia. It is very hard to have a person who has gone to prison undertake deradicalisation programs. I understand that there will be attempts in New South Wales next year, and I congratulate those efforts. Some people, though, are too far gone. But hopefully at least they can stop others being converted.
This bill aims to protect Australians from those who decide to leave to fight against Australia or those who attempt to, or conduct, acts of terrorism in our own country, as I mentioned before. This government, including the former Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, and I know the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, have been very focused on protecting Australians. I understand that we always strive to get bipartisan support. The first priority of any government is to protect its citizens. That is what we want to do. That is what the public want us to do. We need to ensure, obviously, that when we have terrorism laws we bring the community with us so they understand this. Can I say that the feeling on the streets when people have seen all these awful terrorist attacks, in particular against police, is that they know too well that there is a need. This also sends a very clear message to those who are thinking of travelling overseas and getting involved in terrorist related activity that, if you do, you will not be welcome back.
I congratulate the government for putting this bill up and thank the opposition for its support. Sadly, some of the opposition members have had to come kicking and screaming, as we have heard before. I know that the member for Melbourne Ports is not one of those members. I commend the bill to the House.
I rise to speak on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015.
Those of us who are adherents of the Christian faith are told to love our neighbours. And our neighbouring country is a predominantly—not totally—Muslim country, and we should love those people. For those of you who like reading the 'Good Book' the Good Lord was very specific—he talked about the Good Samaritan. The Jews hated the Samaritans, and today we would call the Samaritans and other people attacking Israel 'Arabs'. He specifically singled the Samaritan out to illustrate his point.
I think one of the finest 'Christians' I have ever known was in fact the Indonesian ambassador. I have never seen a person who works so tirelessly for his fellow man and for his neighbouring country, Australia. He worked for their interests. He is very much a practising and devout adherent of the Islamic faith. I have many people in my electorate who are from Albania. At one stage one of those people was head of tobacco—the biggest industry in Far North Queensland. Another one was head of the Rotary clubs for North Queensland and another one was head of the Queensland Maize Board for North Queensland. This was all at the same time. And a fourth one was head of the sugar industry council up on the tablelands. So that was three major industries and the second-biggest community service group all led by people of this particular faith.
I would not have known which religion they were, nor would I have the slightest interest in what religion they were. The point I am trying to make is that they were just ordinary, average Australians. Unfortunately, both governments have allowed massive amounts of people to come in from the Middle Eastern countries, which have a horrific record—no rule of law, no democracy and a terrible record of violence. In fact, most of the Middle East is on fire as we speak. I read in the media last week—and I have not checked whether it is correct or not—that not a single prime minister in Pakistan's history has served out their term as prime minister, for example.
I think it was as recent as last year that 200 Christian children—little girls—were kidnapped in the North African countries. If they are going to bring in 130,000 people a year from these countries, are they telling me that none of them are going to be those sorts of people? Well, I am not one who believes that the abominable snowman comes from Bedourie. But to take an attitude of being anti the particular people of that faith seems to me to be so terribly wrong.
My life was saved by two Muslim—one a doctor and one a surgeon. One, in particular, laboured on for 20 hours over his shift in desperately trying to save my life. So I am not likely to knock these people!
Having said all of those things, I am staggered by the concept that says we should take boat people in this country. These boat people leave Middle Eastern hotspots to come here and we call them 'refugees'! A refugee flees for his life across the border into the neighbouring country. Would to heaven I had the decency and perspicacity to back what was originally a Liberal proposal which then became the ALP's proposal on the 'Malaysian Solution', because they were typical refugees. They were fleeing from Burma, or whatever the hell the name of the country is these days. They were fleeing across the border. Clearly, these people are refugees—there is a racial group and a religious group and they were both fleeing across the border from persecution.
Now, that is a refugee. A refugee is not a person who gets in a boat in Iraq and decides that he will go right around the globe—have a look at a globe—to a place called Australia. That is not a refugee! A refugee is fleeing for his life across the border. I might also add that a refugee is not a person who starts in Pakistan and wants to go to Germany. In both cases they are crossing a dozen or two dozen countries where they would feel at home in every way.
They are countries that have a totalitarian regime. You might say, 'Well, I don't like that.' Well, if every single country throughout that area has that form of government it is a bit hard for me to digest if you say that you do not like it. Whatever the case may be, clearly, a person who goes past 26 countries to get to where they are going across the other side of the world is surely not a refugee. That is not what he is. Call him something else, but he is not a refugee.
People say, 'Revoke their citizenship.' My only criticism of this legislation is that it does not go one tenth of the distance that it should go. If you feel your affiliation to and belief in the cause of this other country and its belief system so much that you are going to risk your life to fight for it and will attempt to kill other people, then clearly there is not a lot of room left for you to believe in the rights of Australians. These groups are called terrorists, and in our country the exact same terrorist groups—ISIS related groups—resulted in a person being shot in Parramatta. A totally innocent employee of the police force was shot. This was in only the last couple of months.
There was the attempt by a 15-year-old to get agreement to decapitate half a dozen or a dozen people, whatever it was, in the Anzac Day processions. This is all in the last few months. Do you think that it is desirable that people who are fighting side by side with these people and have such profound commitment to their belief system should be allowed back in this country? If they are allowed back in this country, I will tell you where I would put them, and it would be behind bars. That is the only way I would allow them back into this country.
Of course, we are allowing them back in this country. With some, we are revoking their citizenship. Well, there is no mechanism here to get them out of our country. In fact, if you revoke their citizenship and you have them here, I think you have really lit the fuse on a time bomb, to be perfectly honest with you. I think what you are doing is really lighting the fuse on the time bomb.
Let me change tack completely. In these countries, there are really decent people, and I have had an insight through working with the Indonesian authorities on the live cattle trade and my very rewarding efforts—probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life—to get the live cattle industry reopened. I have had extensive dealings, and in that country, as in every other Muslim country, they have extremists. There are decent people there, desperately trying to control those extremists, to stay in power and to keep those people away from power. They know that they are extremely dangerous people. You play into their hands if you allow your country to be a breeding ground for ISIS type persons. You play right into their hands. So this country will not be a breeding ground for ISIS. I applaud the government for moving a little tiny way in this direction, and I hope it will not be counterproductive. KAP, our little party, will be strongly backing the government's efforts, and our criticism will lie in the fact that you are going nowhere near far enough.
I want to change tack completely again. We are selling out the moderate and decent leadership in these countries if we show any succour or comfort to the likes of ISIS. Moderate people, such as in Saudi Arabia, are being undermined on a daily basis by these people. When you say, 'This is terribly unfair,' I ask you: does Saudi Arabia take refugees from these areas or people who have been fighting in these areas? No way, Jose. Does Pakistan? No way, Jose. Does Kuwait? No way, Jose. Does the United Arab Emirates take these refugees and these returned fighters? No way, Jose. So, if they do not take them and we bring them out here and give them a nice little kindergarten where they can foment their trouble and send their people back to undermine the people of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and our own brothers and neighbours in Indonesia, we are doing a great disservice to those heroic people who are trying to hold the line of civilised action against people who, quite frankly, are anything but civilised.
I might add that some of the things fomenting the ISIS crisis are the same things that make me angry in this country—people like the Shah of Iran, who sold his whole country out to big foreign corporations on a daily basis. Anyone that complained got thrown in jail. That is the sort of thing that has bred and played into the hands of these extremist elements.
Having said all those things, I am going to change tack completely now. I went along to hear a lecture by a very famous man who is head of the biggest and most outstanding economics faculty in Australia, with one Nobel Prize winner and one runner-up: the University of Queensland economics faculty. He is a very famous man, and he said we have had three shames in Australia—three terrible black marks on the soul of our country. One was the way that we treated the First Australians, the second was the way that we treated the men who came home from Vietnam—100,000 of them—and the third was what we did to the dairy farmers of Australia. I was sitting next to another person, and I said, 'He left out two.' One was our involvement in the Boer War, where 26,000 women and children were starved to death as a policy. I do not know any precedent for that in human history. Genghis Khan would kill a lot of people. The great conquering warriors would kill a lot of people, but they did not single out the women and children as a means of combat. I cannot find any precedent for that. Maybe it is there and I have not seen it. So I would include that, and I would include as No. 5 our refusal to take any Jewish people in the thirties.
Hitler announced that he wanted all the Jews to leave the parts of Europe under his control, and no country would take them. There was the famous case—with three movies made about it—of the ship of shame, which went to almost every port in the world, including in Australia. They applied to berth in Australia and were rejected. So there was nowhere for these poor people to go. No-one would take them or allow them to come in. We are being told we have to take boat people. It is a pity someone was not around in the thirties to tell our nation to have the guts, not have the anti-Semitism that was abroad, and take some of those poor Jewish people. After the war we said they could come in. There was no-one to come in. There was no-one left. Six million had been murdered. There were none left. We, of all the countries in the world, were best placed to take those people.
I do not want this shame upon my country again. At the present moment, the Jewish children going to schools in Sydney and Melbourne have armed guards to protect them. I had a meeting with a rabbi in a major city in Australia. I will not mention the name of the city without his permission; I tried to get it before I came today. They spend $20,000 a year trying to clean the graffiti and the smashed glass from the intimidation that is going on against the Jewish people in this country. When you come to this country, you respect the religions of other people. You do not carry your oppression of those poor people, of whom six million were lost in the Second World War under the likes of the Nazis and Fascists. We do not want that sort of rubbish in here, but that oppression is taking place here today against the Jewish people, and it is about time some people in this place had the courage to stand up. This place lacked the courage in the thirties. Let's try to find the courage in 2015.
A few months ago, our colleague the member for Berowra visited the electorate of Solomon as part of the coalition government's consultation process on Australia citizenship. I would like to place on record my thanks to Mr Ruddock for taking the time to come up north, to make sure that my constituents had their voices heard on this very important subject. I often say that anyone who can get themselves to Darwin in the build-up season is a true friend of the north. So, Mr Ruddock, thank you very much for coming when it was not the dry season.
I also wanted to raise Mr Ruddock's visit to Solomon for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I want to illustrate that the laws before the parliament today are the product of a thorough and genuine consultation process. I understand that sessions similar to the one that was held in Solomon occurred over all parts of the country and that all sections of the community were involved in this whole process. Certainly the sessions in Darwin were well attended by a good cross-section of the community. There were representatives from many of Darwin's multicultural and religious groups at the sessions. There were also several people with no direct or personal involvement in this law, but they had some concerns about some of the scare campaigns that were being put out in the media and so they wanted to make sure that they got their questions answered. The member for Berowra did a great job and he certainly alleviated many of the concerns. So I should thank him again for taking the time to speak to everybody that attended the session. Certainly the feedback that I received after the session was that they felt their concerns were listened to and, even where their views were different, the member for Berowra took the time to listen and work them through.
I also wanted to share this story because the measures we are discussing today should not be controversial measures. The laws before the parliament are amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. They apply the principle—long accepted and already enshrined in legislation—that, if any Australian citizen breaks the vow that they make in accepting citizenship or if they act against Australia through committing acts of terrorism or joining a terrorist organisation, they will forfeit their citizenship.
As I said from the outset, the bill provisions will only apply to dual nationals. The Commonwealth of Australia will not render anyone stateless. Currently, anyone engaged in combat with the armed forces of the country at war with Australia can forfeit their citizenship. The legislation before us today works within that principle, but applies it to the diverse range of threats that we as a nation now face. A person will forfeit citizenship if they engage in terrorist activities; or if they fight for the armed forces of a nation at war with Australia or on behalf of a terrorist organisation; or if they are convicted of a specified terrorism or related offence by an Australian court. They are the boundaries in which their Australian citizenship will be forfeited. The key theme, the guiding principle that ties these three points together is that we are updating the legislation to reflect the changing nature of the threats to Australia and to other nations.
As I said, let us not forget that it has been long enshrined in law that if you are an Australian citizen and you take up arms against Australia you can forfeit your citizenship. However, the legislation that enables that to happen is set up around the idea that our enemies were the military units of nations we were at war with. So if you serve with the army of a nation at war with Australia you can lose your citizenship. The bill that we are considering here today allows that principle to apply not just to war but to acts of terrorism. It also expands to include service in a specified terrorist organisation.
In considering whether we should pass this legislation to my mind it comes down to two key questions. Firstly, do we agree with the principle long established in law that someone who actively tries to destroy and undermine our community should not be afforded the rights and privileges of citizenship? Secondly, if we agree with that principle, do we want to update it to deal with the unconventional threats such as the terrorism activities that we face today?
This bill will update existing law to reflect the changing nature of threats that Australia and indeed the world face because the enemies of Australia are not necessarily countries anymore. In 1942, my electorate was bombed by aircraft of the imperial Japanese military. Nowadays, a bomb on Australian soil is far more likely to be concealed in a backpack, or hidden under a car, and delivered by a terrorist rather than dropped from the air.
What we are seeing around the world, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia, is the emergence of several non-national groups who are forming armies, conducting rebellions, committing acts of terrorism and working against the principles and freedoms that Australia as a nation holds so dear. By way of illustration, let us consider what is currently happening in northern Iraq and Syria. Australian armed forces are in combat against the so-called Islamic State, which is clearly not a state by any measure. As things stand, an Australian citizen holding dual citizenship who travels to that area and fights against Australia will retain their Australian citizenship on a technicality that the Islamic State is not a nation. In the early 1990s, when war was taking place in exactly the same area against the nation of Iraq, an Australian who travelled to serve in the armed forces of Iraq, fighting against Australia and our allies, could have lost their citizenship.
In both situations, the crime is the same. Should we as a nation stand back and allow the person in the first example to return to Australia, live free in the community and enjoy all the rights and benefits of Australian citizenship solely because they were fighting for a terrorist insurgency as opposed to a nation? Again, let me stress, what we are doing here today is applying a principle already in place to non-national threats, including terrorism.
This amendment is merely reflecting that our enemies are not always nations and extending the principle that someone who works against us as a nation is not worthy of protection. I am relieved to see some safeguards within this legislation. I mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating, that we will not be rendering people stateless. I also note that anyone affected by this legislation will have an avenue for judicial review through the Federal Court and the High Court, and that the minister will have power to exempt a person from this legislation where it is in the national interest to do so. When a person chooses to take up Australian citizenship, they take a short, simple oath like this: 'From this time forward, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.'
Whether someone has taken the oath and chosen to break it or whether someone was born into Australian citizenship as a dual national and has chosen not just to turn their back on this country but to attack it, then we as a nation should have no obligations towards them. The oath which I referred to a moment ago underpins our success and coherence as a nation. We are a peaceful and open society and we value our freedom. To anyone who comes to Australia through the right circumstances and chooses to share those values and live alongside us, we extend a very warm welcome. It is vital that everyone who lives in Australia, whether they were born here or whether they chose this as their home, respects the law of the land.
In conclusion, we will not shelter someone who is attacking us. We will not protect someone who takes up arms against Australia and her allies. And it should not matter whether they have taken up those arms here or abroad, under the flag of an enemy nation or under the banner of a terrorist organisation. I commend this bill to the House.
We are Australian either by birth or by choice and most people would agree that citizenship is a defining feature of someone's identity. For many people, it is who they are and for others, including dual citizens, it is often just one part of a broader cultural make-up. For some, it is less about identity and more about the legal and constitutional guarantees and the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of a free and democratic nation. It obviously means different things to different people but the common thread is that it means something. It is intrinsic and it is important.
One of the great privileges, and I am sure all my colleagues here will agree, of being an elected member of this place is attending our local citizenship ceremonies. You only have to witness the emotion that pours out of these new Australians who have made the decision to become citizens of this land to know that it means something; in fact, it means a lot. That is why when we are dealing with proposals such as this that seek to amend Australian citizenship law, we must proceed in a methodical and thoughtful way.
There is no doubt that terrorism remains a serious threat to Australia's national security and the number of Australians fighting with terrorist groups abroad or supporting them from Australia remains deeply concerning. Labor have always said it is appropriate to update our citizenship laws to deal with the nature of conflict in the 21st century. And it has long been Australian law that a dual citizen who fights with an enemy state against Australia will forfeit their citizenship. In modern times, it is appropriate to extend that principle to those who fight for terrorist groups. So it is therefore disappointing that, like so much of the government's national security agenda, this bill, the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015, has unfortunately been characterised by poor process and, in many cases, cheap politics. And I think it is important that we go over some of the process of how this bill got here.