Thursday, 12 November 2015
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, the Labor Party has fallen into its standard zombie shuffle by falling in behind the government on the continued erosion of civil and human rights in Australia by indicating that it will support your deeply flawed Australian Citizenship (Allegiance to Australia) Amendment Bill.
I have hit a nerve. Do you accept that the amendments to the bill recommended by the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security do no more than sand a few rough edges off the legislation and that the bill remains fundamentally flawed due to its retrospectivity and its abrogation of the rule of law? On what basis do you believe it acceptable to strip citizenship from Australian nationals without providing for that decision to be either made by the courts or tested in the courts before it is made?
Senator McKim, I suggest, with respect, that before you start criticising a bill you should acquaint yourself with its provisions. Nothing you have said in your question accurately reflects any provision of the bill. The fact is the bill was referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. That committee made 27 recommendations, and the 27th recommendation was that the bill with amendments be passed. The 26 substantive recommendations were recommendations to enhance the operation of the bill to protect the rights of the individual and to protect the rule of law and to ensure that there was an even greater level of parliamentary scrutiny, in particular through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, than there hitherto had been. The government adopted all of those recommendations. Senator McKim, you say the bill is flawed. I accept that in good faith you may have criticisms of the bill, and no doubt we will debate that matter when the bill comes before the Senate, but it is not legally flawed. That is the advice of the Commonwealth Solicitor-General which was conveyed to the committee—
The question to the Attorney was on what basis does he believe it acceptable to strip citizenship from Australian nationals without providing for that decision to be made by the courts or tested in the courts before it is made. I would appreciate you pointing the Attorney in the direction of that question.
I thought I would mention that to you, Senator McKim, that the Solicitor-General has given advice to that effect. Senator McKim, you asked on what basis does the government, and indeed the opposition, believe that it is acceptable. We believe it is acceptable that if a person renounces their allegiance to Australia by engaging in serious terrorist crimes of which Australian citizens are the innocent victims, that is a sufficient basis. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Do you think, Attorney, that Australians trust Minister Dutton, who could not even be up-front with the Australian people over the recent meltdown on Christmas Island, to decide whether or not they can remain citizens in circumstances outlined in the Australian citizenship amendment bill?
Senator McKim, that is why I said to you that you really ought to acquaint yourself with the provisions of the bill before you criticise it, because that is the very thing the bill does not do—the very thing the bill does not do. It creates an architecture which was constructed on the advice of very senior counsel in which in two sets of circumstances a person with dual citizenship may lose their citizenship. The first category of case is where the person by their conduct renounces their citizenship. That does not depend on a ministerial determination. The second category is where a person is convicted by a court of a serious terrorist crime. In those circumstances the minister, on the basis of the court's decision, may decide to revoke that person's citizenship. In neither case is there a ministerial determination independent of the courts. (Time expired)
Government senators interjecting—
Finally, Attorney, given your government's propensity to trample fundamental civil and human rights because you believe it to be politically expedient to do so, will you commit to another white paper process before introducing further laws in the name of counter-terrorism?
The government makes no apologies for being very concerned to ensure that our criminal laws are written in a way that gives Australians the maximum protection that they need from terrorist crime and gives our police and our national security agencies all the powers that they need to protect innocent Australians. Because we on this side of the chamber care about the values of liberal democracy, we have ensured that those enhanced powers that we have given to the Australian Federal Police and to ASIO are hedged by very significant safeguards, transparency and accountability mechanisms. This includes, in particular, to a higher level than existed heretofore, accountability to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security.