Thursday, 3 September 2020
Consideration of Legislation
I seek leave to move a motion relating to the consideration of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2020
Leave not granted.
Pursuant to contingent notice standing in the name of Senator Wong, I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely, a motion to give precedence to a motion relating to the consideration of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2020.
The government have indicated to the opposition that they want to see the citizenship cessation bill passed through the parliament before we leave this chamber this week. This is a bill that deals with terrorist conduct. This bill is an important national security bill. It is an important piece of national security legislation dealing with terrorist conduct and the removal of citizenship from dual citizens who engage in terrorist conduct. This is an important tool in our national security apparatus to ensure that our national security agencies have the capacity and the ability to remove dual citizenship from those dual citizens who engage in terrorist conduct.
This is a reform that is long overdue. The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor has recommended, in unequivocal terms, that the current model of citizenship loss be immediately repealed and revoked—that the automatic loss of citizenship for dual citizens who engage in terrorist conduct does not serve our national security interests. That is the recommendation of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. It is also the advice of ASIO. ASIO has advised the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that the current law does not always serve the national interest, that the current law does not always provide the best outcome from a national security perspective.
The government introduced this legislation in the House of Representatives some eight months ago. It went to an inquiry of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. The PJCIS delivered its report on Tuesday, because the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, had indicated to the opposition that the government would pass this legislation through the parliament this week—through all stages in both chambers. The government said it was incredibly important that we get this legislative reform done.
The opposition, the Australian Labor Party, supports this bill. We support this change. We have, at every juncture, provided support to the government to facilitate the passage of this legislation. In the House of Representatives, we indicated that we would be willing to interrupt legislation to bring this legislation on. The government did not take us up on that offer. However, yesterday, the bill did pass through the House of Representatives. We now only have hours to go before we leave Canberra for weeks. We will not be back here until October. This legislative reform, which deals with terrorist conduct by dual citizens, improves the process by which citizenship is taken away from Australian citizens who are dual citizens or who have a right to citizenship in another country. The process by which they lose their citizenship is improved in a way that ASIO wants, that the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor requested, which said it needed to be repealed, revoked and replaced with a decision-making model.
This is an important piece of national security legislation. It is an important tool for our national security agencies in safeguarding the Australian community from those who would seek to do us harm. By moving this suspension of standing orders, I send in the clearest possible terms a message to the Australian community and to members in this Senate that the Australian Labor Party stands ready to facilitate this legislation and ensure its passage through this chamber today so that when we leave this parliament—
Honourable senators interjecting—
I note that there's laughter on the other side. Such is the disdain, apparently, some may have for our national security agencies and their legislation. What is serious about this bill is that ASIO has said it is important we get this done, so we are moving this suspension of standing orders to ensure that we have time in this chamber to debate and pass this important legislation.
I have never seen such a self-indulgent stunt, wasting the Senate's time, in my entire career in this chamber. I have to tell you, after 13½ years in this chamber, that is the most self-indulgent, unproductive waste-of-time stunt from anyone on any side. You really take the cake. There's been some big competition, I have to tell you, but you really take the cake. This bill that Senator Keneally wants to bring on now is the next bill after the one that we're about to debate.
You are now wasting 30 minutes of the Senate's time, when we could have dispatched the Payment Times Reporting Bill 2020 and got into the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2020, important national security related legislation, which we introduced—it is our legislation—and which we want to be passed today. You are standing in the way of it being passed today. You are delaying the work of the Senate through your games—your self-indulgent, embarrassing, wasting-the-Senate's-time games. It's because it is all 'look at me'. This is the approach of these senators: 'Look at me. I have to make myself relevant. I have to get myself in the middle of this. I've got to make it look as if somehow I'm helping to facilitate this.'
Let me tell you: I doubt that there will be many non-Labor senators who will be supporting this. I suspect that Labor senators will only support this stunt because they're bound by caucus rules. Otherwise, I would be very interested in what Senator O'Neill, for example, thinks about this particular self-indulgent stunt, and I'm very interested in what some of these other senators think about this self-indulgent stunt. Senator Keneally is disrupting the business of the Senate so that she can move the bill up by one in the order of business. Anybody who watches the operations of the Senate knows that, of course, in the ordinary course of events, we were going to get to this today; we were going to be able to pass it today. If the Labor Party really is serious about wanting to pass this, there is a constructive way to engage with the government—in the way that, quite frankly, we often do with the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate—where we can put certain procedural arrangements in place to ensure that we don't leave tonight unless and until this particular legislation is passed.
But—do you know what?—we've got two important pieces of legislation to deal with. We have the Payment Times Reporting Bill 2020 and the Payment Times Reporting (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020 that need to be passed, and we need to, of course, deal with our reform in relation to Australian citizenship cessation arrangements, and this stunt by Senator Keneally has done nothing—nothing whatsoever—to facilitate their passage or to accelerate their passage. All it has done is delay their passage.
But what it has done, of course, is put a spotlight on Senator Keneally. Senator Keneally was hoping that it would put a positive spotlight on her. But, of course, all it has done is show everyone that in these sorts of matters it is always about Senator Keneally herself, personally. She wants to put herself into the limelight in a completely unproductive fashion. We are now wasting 30 minutes of the Senate's time because of this sort of completely unproductive and unnecessary attempt to disrupt the business of the Senate.
The Greens are not going to facilitate this suspension, for the very simple reason that we do not support the bill. We do not support the legislation. We don't want it brought forward, because we don't want it to pass. So, while we are about to vote with the government on this suspension, the reasons for the position that we are taking are very different from the reasons that the government is taking.
I want to take a very short opportunity to explain why it is that we don't support this legislation. Under this bill, the threshold for depriving dual nationals of citizenship on national security grounds will be lowered and there are inadequate protections provided to reduce and prevent the likelihood of people being made stateless. This legislation, should it pass, will mean that, with the stroke of a pen, the minister will be able to render people stateless. Labor is suggesting that its approach is in support of human rights. But make no mistake: because this bill will lower the threshold for determining dual citizenship and will provide inadequate protections against statelessness, this bill is actually contrary to Australia's human rights obligations. There is diminished judicial review, there is no merits review of ministerial decisions that may make people stateless and this legislation is inconsistent with Australia's international legal and human rights obligations.
We're not going to facilitate this suspension and, even though we will be voting on the same side of the chamber as the government, it is for very different reasons.
Very briefly, in response to the Leader of the Government's outburst on this suspension motion, it was our view—a view that was shared by the government, as we understood it—that this bill should be dealt with this sitting session. We are in the last hours of this—
Well, if you had taken a look at the speaking list for the Payment Times Reporting Bill 2020, you would see that the bill, including the amendments, would take us up to 11.45, the hard marker. We were giving the government the opportunity to agree that this should be prioritised and dealt with, to make sure we got this done before other matters before the Senate today. That was the idea of Senator Keneally. That was the reason she moved this today. It's pretty straightforward. If the government wants this done and wants it guaranteed to be done, this is a sensible way of timetabling the program. We think there is a risk that it won't be done, because the payment times legislation does have a lot of speakers. There are amendments and it could take us up to the hard marker. That was the reason we did it. It's quite sensible. I don't think it needed that kind of response from the government, frankly, particularly on a bill that they want done.
Senator Cormann interjecting—
We would have had just a few minutes to deal with it, reorder the program and get on with it.