Senate debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020


Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2020; Second Reading

3:30 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Australian Greens will be opposing this legislation. The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2020 will repeal the self-executing provisions that currently operate to automatically remove a person's citizenship. This would normally be a good thing and something that we would welcome and support. However, the bill also provides an alternative scheme that allows the minister to make determinations to remove a person's citizenship, but—and this is critical—the safeguards in place to ensure that a person is a dual citizen before their citizenship is revoked are weakened by this legislation. The minister already has far too many discretionary powers over people's lives. This is a government and a minister that has attacked and weakened the rule of law in Australia and has undermined the separation of powers in this country, and now the minister wants to be able, with the stroke of a pen, to render people stateless.

This bill responds to recommendations by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor that current sections in the Migration Act that provide for an automatic loss of citizenship should be repealed with retrospective effect. However, in doing so, this bill will increase the danger that people will be rendered stateless by weakening safeguards in place to ensure that a person is in fact a dual citizen before his or her citizenship is removed. The potential for this legislation to render a person stateless was raised by several submitters to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry, including the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law. In its submission, the Castan centre expressed concerns over the so-called safeguards against statelessness, arguing that they:

… do not provide sufficient protection to remedy the risk that a person may be rendered stateless as a result of the operation of the citizenship cessation provisions.

This is because, unlike in the existing legislation, a determination may be made by the minister even if the minister is incorrect.

As argued by the Australian Human Rights Commission in their submission to the PJCIS inquiry, proposed sections in this bill that are provided as safeguards in fact change the question of whether a person would be rendered stateless from a question of fact to a question of subjective satisfaction of the minister. The Australian Greens agree with that, and we also agree with the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia who opposed this proposed introduction of subjectivity by arguing:

As citizenship is an objective fact, and the potential for devastating and long lasting impact on a person, their family and community—

of becoming stateless—

… the threshold for this determination of cessation of citizenship should not be changed from fact to the Minister's satisfaction.

In their submission to the PJCIS inquiry, the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness warned:

The Bill's proposed amendments risk rendering the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (Cth) (the Act) inconsistent with Australia's international legal obligations.

This includes Australia's obligations under both the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. In that 1961 convention, article 8.1 provides:

A Contracting State shall not deprive a person of its nationality if such deprivation would render him stateless.

But that is exactly what Australia, a signatory to the convention, would be able to do on the whim of a minister under the provisions of this bill.

Moreover, the minister would be able to make these subjective decisions to ruin lives and tear families apart by declaring someone to not have citizenship and render them stateless without any judicial or merits review of his or her decision. I want to talk about the diminished judicial review aspect. The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills raised concerns regarding the court's ability to judicially review subjective citizenship cessation determinations made by the minister and noted that under this bill:

… in a judicial review application, a court would not consider whether or not the alleged conduct had, as a matter of fact, occurred.

Despite all the answers and all the information provided in the response to the committee by the minister, the committee remained concerned that this bill would:

… allow the minister to cease a person's citizenship for conduct that could constitute a criminal offence but without any of the protections associated with a criminal trial, such as the requirement to prove the requisite intention to commit an offence.

This, the committee rightfully argued, could 'unduly trespass on a person's rights or liberties'. This includes the potential for this legislation and its removal of judicial oversight of citizenship cessation powers to render a person stateless, which could lead to indefinite detention in an Australian immigration detention facility.

I also want to speak about the lack of merits review. This legislation also denies people subject to a citizenship cessation determination access to a merits review. When this was raised as a concern by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, the minister essentially defended this provision by arguing that, as a member of parliament and responsible to parliament, a minister's decision should not be reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This lacklustre excuse was rightfully not accepted by the committee. A merits review for decisions by the minister to remove citizenship based on conduct was also recommended by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, which argued:

… there should be merits review in the SAD as to whether there could have been or is reasonable satisfaction as to the existence of the requisite conduct for citizenship loss.

These decisions that could have such profoundly devastating effects on people and their families should be subject to judicial and merits reviews that consider facts and not the minister's satisfaction or the reasonableness of his or her decision.

We, along with many other expert stakeholders, also hold significant concerns regarding delegated legislation, sentencing, retrospectivity, procedural fairness and lowered thresholds such as the maximum penalty for terrorism offences that trigger the citizenship cessation provisions being lowered from six years imprisonment to three years imprisonment. Sadly, I won't have enough time in this speech to cover everything that is poor or lacking in this appalling piece of legislation in detail, but I do want to address the constitutionality of this bill and its attack on Australia's doctrine of the separation of powers. The Law Council has yet again—gee, they must be sick and tired of doing this—had to warn this government of the likelihood that one of its bills is unconstitutional. In its submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, the Law Council said that it 'remains concerned' that a discretionary decision made by the minister in the absence of a judicial ruling:

… represents executive overreach, and notes that the High Court has held that Chapter III of the Constitution embodies the doctrine of the separation of powers, relevantly meaning that 'the judicial power of the Commonwealth' may only be vested in Chapter III courts.

This is a government that wields its powers of citizenship as a weapon against people whose conduct it doesn't like. This bill gives powers to a minister who has consistently shown that he cannot be trusted to use them responsibly. This is a minister who has no respect for the rule of law and who has at least twice been threatened with contempt of court for refusing a court's direction. This is the minister, Minister Dutton, who was criticised by Federal Court Judge the Hon. Justice Geoffrey Flick for his 'unapologetic reluctance to take personal responsibility for his own noncompliance with the law'. This government might trust Minister Dutton to do the right thing, and the Labor Party clearly trusts Minister Dutton to do the right thing, but I draw their attention to that criticism from Justice Flick and his observation that the current minister, Minister Dutton, has an 'unapologetic reluctance to take personal responsibility for his own noncompliance with the law'. This bill creates dangerous powers in the hands of any minister, but in Minister Dutton's hands they could be disastrous.

The Australian Labor Party, in Senator Keneally's contribution, says, 'Shame on the Greens for not supporting this legislation.' She made that comment because, as she observed, ASIO has argued for these provisions. Well, I say: shame on the Labor Party, who, along with the LNP, display a whimpering acceptance of the views of Australia's intelligence and security apparatus. ASIO do not make the law in this country; we make the law in this country. It might be news to Senator Keneally, but you don't have to slavishly accept everything that ASIO say in terms of law reform in this country. It's our job to make the law, not theirs. They're entitled to their opinions as everyone is, and I welcome ASIO's contribution to the debate, but the simple fact is ASIO have their blinkers on. They want increased powers because they want to be able to control the behaviour of more Australians. That is understandable for ASIO, but it's not understandable for senators in this place to slavishly have the same view.

Unfortunately, the LNP-ALP duopoly on national security is undermining the rule of law in Australia and leading us down the dangerous path to a police and surveillance state in this country. We remain the only liberal democracy in the world that does not have a charter of rights or bill of rights. I'm not surprised that the LNP does not support a charter of rights or a bill of rights, but I am surprised and disappointed that the Labor Party did not take a policy to the last election supporting a charter or bill of rights. In fact, in the previous parliament Labor voted against a Greens motion to establish an inquiry into what a charter of rights might look like in this country. We need a charter of rights in Australia. We desperately need to enshrine the rights of our people so that we can start standing up against the dark journey that this country is on: heading down the path to a police and surveillance state.

The absence of a charter of rights, the bipartisanship on national security, the collusion between the ALP and the LNP on every single national security bill that has come before this chamber in my five years in this place and the many other things: the erosions of rights and freedoms and liberties that we are seeing—all those things collectively is how fascism starts. If you don't think fascism can happen in Australia, I simply refer you to human history. We should not ever consider we are immune from the dangers of fascism, and I think it is highly arguable that, in fact, Australia is in early onset fascism as we debate this bill. For that and for many other reasons, we'll be opposing this legislation.

3:45 pm

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is a really important bill for Australians in more than one sense. For good, law-abiding Australians, it offers another important tool in the box of the security agencies of this country to help keep out those who hate Australia, who hate Australians and who hate the values of freedom and tolerance that make this country great. But, for those who are dual citizens of Australia and another country and who would seek to do the wrong thing, whether through terrorist acts overseas, fighting with the armies of terrorist militia overseas or treason, sabotage, espionage, foreign interference and offences associated with planning, preparation and carrying out terrorism here in Australia, they will face its brunt. This vital reform will be undertaken through the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill, which the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security considered in tandem with a statutory review of the regime that was previously in place in this place for cancelling the citizenship of dual citizens who engage in these types of acts.

This bill changes the method for achieving that objective. It means that, while we are aiming for the same goal—the cancellation of the Australian citizenship of people who very much object to all that this country stands for—it will now be done by allowing the Minister for Home Affairs to end a person's Australian citizenship if satisfied that their conduct demonstrates, in effect, a repudiation of their allegiance to Australia. The minister would also have to be satisfied it is not in the public interest any more for that person to remain an Australian citizen. The ministerial decision-making model proposed by this bill is an improvement on the current arrangements and, quite importantly given the gravity of these decisions on the citizenship and rights of the individual, an opportunity exists for persons affected by these citizenship cessation provisions to seek judicial review and, in relation to an ASIO qualified security assessment, merits review.

This is the main complaint made by people who don't like this bill: there will be some people who will say they don't like the idea that the general approach to reviewing decisions of this kind is one of judicial review. I really want to address that and say something about just how much opportunity this bill provides for any problems in the decision-making process to be corrected. The availability of judicial review includes the ability for a person who is subject to citizenship cessation to seek declaratory relief from a court that the conduct that it is said forms the basis of the decision to cease the citizenship was not in fact engaged in. Wow, that's a mouthful! It provides a person with a broad and effective opportunity to have the facts of that issue canvassed before a court and to have a court make a determination in relation to those facts.

An honourable senator: A merits review.

No, it's not a merits review, but it is a fabulous and effective way of ensuring that we are protecting the rights of the individual. The situation that is most likely to give rise to a need for review is a factual situation where a person has been the subject of a decision to cease their Australian citizenship on the basis of evidence that gives rise to the minister's satisfaction that the person is the holder of a citizenship or nationality of another country, a country other than Australia, but, for argument's sake, let's assume that information has turned out to be, despite the best and honest efforts of the minister, incorrect. It's a very unlikely scenario, but theoretically it's possible because determining if someone is a citizen of another country can be difficult as you're trying to understand the laws of other countries. If that worst-case scenario were to happen, there is substantial protection of the rights of the individual in the following five aspects of the bill.

Firstly, there is the right of merits review for an adverse security assessment if it's a decision that's been made on the basis of one of those, although I freely admit that the power proposed in 36B of this bill can be exercised in the absence of such an adverse security assessment. There will nevertheless have been an assessment, though, in many relevant cases.

The second protection is the right of judicial review that exists for the decision under proposed section 36B, particularly noting that this will cover circumstances where a minister made a decision that was affected by bias, where a minister considered irrelevant matters or where a minister failed to take into account matters that were relevant. That's how we sort out decisions that are wrongly made.

The third protection that exists under the bill is the right under proposed section 36H to seek revocation of a citizenship cessation decision after receiving notice that it's taken place. That's a power that must be exercised in the event that an individual who's affected can show that they don't have a non-Australian citizenship or nationality or if they can show that they weren't engaged in the conduct that forms the basis of the decision. It also permits revocation of the decision if it's in the public interest to do so. This is a process of course that needs to be made under this bill according to the rules of natural justice. So, if there was the worst happening and a decision was made in error, there are mechanisms in this bill to set it straight. So all the frothing that we get from Senator McKim and the Greens about the great injustice of this begs the question: whose side are they on here?

The fourth matter of protection that is provided by this bill is in proposed section 36K. It affirms the right—

Senator McKim interjecting

Senator McKim might learn a few things if he could be quiet enough to listen. He could learn that the right of an individual to seek relief—like, for instance, declaratory relief—from the High Court or the Federal Court to remedy a decision made in error by the minister, should one be made, on the question of the citizenship or nationality of a person of a country other than Australia remains. Proposed section 36K also provides for the correction of a decision should there be the disallowance of an instrument by this place where that instrument declares a terrorist organisation to be relevant for the purposes of some of our other security laws. That is important because that consideration can be relevant to determining whether or not the person has done the wrong thing in the first place, but it provides for those sorts of decisions to be corrected should that unlikely circumstance arise.

Finally, if all of those quite substantial measures of protection were to fail—again, I suggest it's pretty unlikely, but let's prepare for the worst while working for the best scenario—the minister has a further power pursuant to proposed section 36J to, of his or her own initiative, revoke a determination if satisfied it's in the public interest. The matters for the minister to take into account in determining what constitutes the public interest are listed in proposed section 36E, and it's quite an extensive list.

So, while some in the academic fraternity or in the lawyers lobby—they're always arguing for more work for lawyers in the merits review sphere—might froth at this bill, the fact is it has a lot of protections for the correction of decisions that are made in error and to protect the individual from potential abuses of power. I think that is really important, because it means we're getting the balance right between making sure we have accuracy and fairness in the decision-making and ensuring our agencies and our minister have the tools necessary to keep Australians safe. It gets the balance right.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security made a series of recommendations for this bill, and those recommendations have been incorporated. I must commend the Labor representatives on the PJCIS for their contributions, because this has been difficult to work through, and we have worked together to get it over the line. The recommendations we made for this bill to be improved were to clarify that the proposed section 36B of the bill requires the minister to be reasonably satisfied of the matters listed in proposed section 36B(1) and that the explanatory memorandum of the bill clarifies the nuts and bolts of the things the minister should take into account when considering what amounts to the public interest—for instance, whether or not there are dependants affected by the decision. Finally, we inserted a recommendation for the PJCIS to review the bill three years after assent so that we can continue to improve the way we go about doing this in Australia, just as we endeavour to do in this bill: improve upon the regime for the automatic operation of law cessation of citizenship that was in place before.

These recommendations are the product of the PJCIS's comprehensive analysis of the bill, and they're reflective of the seriousness with which we approach the very important issue of who forms the body of Australia's citizenry. Citizenship cessation is effectively a modern form of exile, and the committee has ensured that any decision to remove a dual national's Australian citizenship is undertaken with care and takes into account all the relevant factors for each individual's case, from their conduct through to their personal circumstances through to the operation of the law of the country of which they hold their other citizenship.

There will be some people who say Australian citizenship is a right that can't be revoked in any circumstance. There are two things you can say about that. First, no person who is solely an Australian citizen can have their citizenship revoked; they're not captured by this bill. It means that no person will be rendered stateless by this bill—and I think that's an important matter to make very clear in light of some of the pretty inflammatory things that have been said by Senator McKim in his contribution. Second, those dual citizens who betray their fellow Australians by engaging in acts of terrorism and similarly heinous conduct reject the responsibilities that are involved in holding Australian citizenship. They repudiate our values and they dishonour the people of this country. Their loyalties don't lie with this great nation, and it is right that that has consequences.

Membership of the Australian community is a very, very special thing. We share it generously with people from all over the world. But if there are people who hate our democracy, people who hate our freedom and our tolerance and hate it so much that they would harm their fellow Australians, well, then this nation is prepared to take away that gift. I commend the bill to the Senate.

3:58 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2020, which amends the Australian Citizenship Act, and I rise to support the bill. I want to make a few remarks about Labor's general approach to national security in the context of my membership of the PJCIS. I will start by thanking all the members of that committee for the deliberative way they approached this task. I point to that characteristic particularly because I want to talk about the nature of the offer that Labor makes on national security.

We consider that national security is one of the most important tasks that a government must deliver and that a parliament must deliver. What that means, certainly in my own approach to my work on the committee and, I believe, that of my fellow Labor members and senators as well, is that we will never seek to unnecessarily politicise the work that is put before our committee. We think we have a serious obligation to engage with the evidence that is put before us, and that evidence is drawn from our national security agencies and from the many civil society organisations that also engage with and contribute to our committee. To all the people who contributed to the committee's deliberations in this particular case, I thank you.

Labor's support for this bill is not without qualification. Labor members of the PJCIS provided an extensive set of additional comments, which you can read in the report, and I will talk about those a little later in my remarks. Our support for this legislation, at heart, arises because this legislation implements one of the most important recommendations made by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and remedies one of the most important and significant flaws in this bill in a way that is not only very important for Australia's national security but also very important for Australia's legal system.

I want to go to the review undertaken by Dr Renwick, who recently completed his term as the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. I want to place on record again my thanks to Dr Renwick for his service to our country and for his very practical support for the PJCIS during his period in office. Dr Renwick undertook a review of the citizenship cessation provisions, which he completed last year. Consistent with his charter, he assessed whether or not the laws were necessary and proportionate and he found in broad that the laws indeed were. He examined the two means by which a citizen may lose their citizenship and he made two observations. In relation to the provisions that arise from a conviction, the conviction based provisions, he said that this provision passes muster under the INSLM Act and should continue, as it is or will be necessary. But he went on to say, in contrast, that the operation of law provisions do not pass muster under the INSLM Act and they should, with some urgency, be repealed but be simultaneously replaced with a ministerial decision-making model.

At its heart, that's what the legislation before us does, and it's on that basis that Labor provides support, despite some qualifications, because there are things that we would do differently. The INSLM went through and made some very important observations about the consequences of these operation-of-law provisions in making his case for repeal. He made the argument that they operate in an uncontrolled manner, so a person who has committed the most serious of offences and is an undoubted threat to Australia while remaining a citizen is treated the same as one whose behaviour is at the lowest end of the spectrum of criminal behaviour. He pointed out that they operate in an uncertain manner and it will often not be possible for authorities to know when citizenship has ceased. He pointed out that they lack the traditional and desirable accountability which comes with a person, court or tribunal taking responsibility for a decision. He observed that they potentially cause unintended and not easily contained effects on Australia's relations with other countries. And he also observed they cause confusion and potential legal difficulties for ASIS and ASD when those agencies seek to exercise their powers in relation to Australian citizens, because of the uncertainty they create about who is and is not a citizen. It was for all those reasons he recommended a repeal, and that is the proposition before us.

These reservations were echoed by ASIO's evidence to our committee. ASIO gave a balanced indication, indicating that at some times the removal of citizenship is important and at other times it is not the most appropriate tool, and that a judgement must be made on which occasion citizenship should be removed. In their evidence, they said:

In some instances, citizenship cessation will curtail the range of threat mitigation capabilities available to Australian authorities. It may also have unintended or unforeseen adverse security outcomes—potentially including reducing one manifestation of the terrorist threat while exacerbating another. There may be occasions where the better security outcome would be that citizenship is retained, despite a person meeting the legislative criteria for citizenship cessation …

That's an important qualification and it's an argument for consciously determining whether or not a person loses their citizenship, rather than allowing it to operate automatically, as is presently the case under the Citizenship Act.

As I said, we have some recommendations about the way the government has gone about doing this. We've made a series of recommendations in our additional comments that we consider ought to occur. We think that there were a range of helpful suggestions made by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor about review and the provisions for review. It's disappointing that the government would not engage with those recommendations. We are concerned about statelessness, and we think that there were other ways that the bill might have approached the question of statelessness. We considered that there ought to have been an element of intention when the minister is considering prescribed conduct. These reservations, as I said, are set out in our additional comments. But Labor senators did not conclude that we ought to insist upon these amendments. The core task of the bill, which is to repeal the operation of law provisions, is too urgent to be left any longer. Labor senators, on those grounds, recommend the passage of the legislation.

4:06 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

( I rise to speak briefly in this debate on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2020. This is another instalment of counterterrorism legislation, part of a steady drumbeat of national security measures presented to this parliament over the past two decades. Although the bill itself amends the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, it's first and foremost an intelligence and security measure. And it is a measure that involves major questions of principle and process as it amends the terrorism related citizenship cessation provisions that were introduced in 2015 in response to the threat of foreign terrorist fighters returning to Australia from Syria and Iraq.

Depriving a person of citizenship is a very significant measure, not something that is ever to be considered lightly. The Minister for Home Affairs, speaking in the other place, described the current legislation as: 'An effective legal and administrative measure that has removed dual citizens from the Australian community who fought as terrorists and extremists in Syria and Iraq.'

This bill amends the current legislation by establishing a ministerial decision-making regime with respect to the cessation of Australian citizenship, replacing the automatic operation of law provisions. Under this new legislation, the Minister for Home Affairs will be able to terminate a person's Australian citizenship if satisfied that their conduct demonstrates a repudiation of their allegiance to Australia and that it is not in the public interest for the person to remain an Australian citizen.

The bill does seek to implement a number of recommendations by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. The INSLM recommended a ministerial decision-making model, while retraining the three criteria by which a person may be considered to have repudiated their allegiance to Australia. First, a person can cease to be a citizen if they engage in specified terrorist conduct. Second, a person can cease to be a citizen if they fight for or are in the service of a specified terrorist organisation overseas. Finally, a person can cease to be a citizen if they have been convicted of a specified terrorism offence by an Australian court.

The bill retains provisions that a person is not considered in the service of a declared terrorist organisation if acting unintentionally or under duress or if providing humanitarian assistance. In accordance with Australia's obligation under international law, the bill also provides that no person will have their citizenship terminated unless the minister is satisfied that they are citizens or nationals of another country. In determining whether to cease a person's citizenship, the minister must also have regard to public interest criteria, including the threat a person poses to the Australian community, Australia's international relations and the person's connection with another country or citizenship. There are review mechanisms and a measure of transparency. Senator Stoker talked of those.

The minister must report to the parliament and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on the use of these measures. The bill also amends the Intelligence Services Act to give the PJCIS until 30 June 2021 to review the new provisions. It is here, however, that my main concerns with the legislation arise. I'll just indicate I am supporting the legislation. In deciding whether to deprive a person of Australian citizenship, the Minister for Home Affairs will almost inevitably include reliance on secret information gathered by the Australian intelligence community—the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Signals Directorate or the Australian Federal Police. Our intelligence community has grown greatly in size and in its budget. The parliament has repeatedly extended the responsibilities and powers of those agencies. They have a vastly expanded mandate to protect the Australian people and to gather information and make decisions that may profoundly affect individual citizens.

In the case of this legislation, the advice of our intelligence agencies may indeed result in a person being deprived of their fundamental rights as a citizen. While many members in parliament are prone to heap praise on our intelligence services—and I too acknowledge their professionalism—they are not infallible. They do make mistakes. The case of Mohamed Haneef is but one case where our intelligence agencies got things horribly wrong.

Intelligence is often opaque and ambiguous. Consequently, I have long been of the view—and I mentioned this in my first speech to the parliament—that the parliament's preparedness to increase the powers and authorities of our intelligence services, and of the ministers who exercise control over these agencies, must be matched with an equal preparedness to improve scrutiny of the intelligence community by the parliament. In this regard, it is a major deficiency, unique to Australia amongst the so-called Five Eyes, that our Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is explicitly excluded from being able to review the operational activities of our intelligence community. This is a major deficiency in democratic accountability. On several occasions, I've introduced amendments to the Intelligence Services Act to extend the mandate of the PJCIS to cover operational matters. There should be nothing that is controversial about such a measure. The measures I'm proposing are closely modelled on the provisions governing the role of the Canadian parliament's intelligence oversight committee. So far, both the coalition government and the Labor opposition have declined to support these measures. Even though Labor has expressed in-principle support, they just can't bring themselves to vote for it.

The provision in this bill for a one-off PJCIS review of the administration of these new ministerial powers is no substitute for ongoing review of operational matters—the business end of the intelligence community. I know that the minister may rise and suggest to me that this oversight is covered by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. I have a letter in my office from the IGIS—who I greatly respect—that demonstrates that her purview is in fact limited. She can't review the directions of cabinet, for example, even though those directions may affect policy, may affect international relations and are typically the sorts of things that parliaments have direct responsibility for. We can't subcontract out our constitutional responsibility of oversight, and that is in fact what we have done. I'm not in any way suggesting that the Hon. Margaret Stone is not competent; she is most competent. But it is the parliament's constitutional responsibility to have oversight of all aspects of government.

The government may also stand up and say that this is not the time and the place to consider this, but I would say: just when will it be the time and the place? More effective parliamentary oversight can't be put on the backburner. The need grows greater with every new piece of counterterrorism legislation introduced in this parliament. So today I will give both sides—government and opposition—another opportunity to match their support for increased intelligence and security powers with a commitment to democratic scrutiny and accountability.

4:16 pm

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank those senators who have contributed to the debate on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2019. The bill continues the Morrison government's efforts to address the threat of terrorism and delivers on our commitment to keep the Australian community safe. As we have heard during the debate, the bill's central reform is the replacement of the current 'operation of law' provision for citizenship cessation with a ministerial decision-making arrangement. Importantly, the bill provides that the minister cannot cease a person's citizenship if it would result in the person not being a citizen or a national of any country.

The provisions of the bill will apply to persons who engage in specified terrorism related conduct, who fight for or are in the service of a specified terrorist organisation overseas, or who have been convicted of specified terrorism related offences and sentenced to a period or periods of imprisonment totalling at least three years.

I would like to thank the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for its work on this bill through its inquiry and for its recommendations. The committee's advisory report on the bill made three substantive recommendations, each of which the government has accepted. The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2019 again continues the Morrison government's work to protect Australians and our way of life and to keep our community safe.

Australia is a united and cohesive country, and that is something that we pride ourselves on. In recognising and protecting this unity and cohesion, it is essential that we continue to monitor, update and amend the way in which we deal with those who would threaten it. Behaviour that harms, or seeks to harm, our community, whether that be in Australia or offshore, is in clear opposition to the common bond and shared values that underpin membership of the Australian community.

The bill deserves the support of all in this parliament. I commend the bill to the Senate.

The Acting Deputy President:

The question is that the bill be read a second time.