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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13274


Mrs ANDREWS (McPhersonAssistant Minister for Science) (15:29): I originally started my speech in the last sitting week and I will continue from where I was up to when the debate was interrupted. What I would like to continue with today is making it very clear that the issues that the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Harming Australians) Bill 2015 deals with are very different and very clear cut. I believe there is a very real and widespread consensus in the community that direct, personal involvement in terrorist activities is a very obvious abrogation of one's responsibilities as a citizen.

Citizenship is something we offer to permanent residents as a means of pledging their allegiance to our nation. For those born here, it is a right which also confers a certain range of responsibilities. As the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection said in introducing this legislation:

This bill emphasises the central importance of allegiance to Australia in the concept of citizenship.

Australian citizenship is something to be treasured. It is a common bond which unites us all, whether we were born here or chose to make Australia our home. Australian citizenship involves a commitment to this country, its people and its democratic rights and privileges. Australian citizenship should not be taken lightly.

Unlike many other nations, citizenship is encouraged and available for all permanent residents who meet the criteria. In 2013-14, a total of 163,017 people became Australian citizens by conferral. These new Australians came from at least 190 different countries, which clearly reflects our longstanding and very strong immigration program. Australia has a long, proud tradition of welcoming both migrants and refugees. The Australian public support a generous, orderly, humanitarian resettlement of refugees in greatest need around the world. There is greater confidence in this program now that this government has gained control of our borders and stopped illegal boat arrivals.

I want to focus for a moment on our record because there has been a lot of misrepresentation and an incredible amount of falsehood generated in the media about Australia's immigration program. It is central to the question of citizenship, of allegiance to our nation and, indeed, of the spirit in which we build a thriving, cohesive society. Let's be clear: last year, Australia resettled 13½ thousand people under refugee and humanitarian programs. On a per capita basis, we are the most generous refugee resettlement nation in the world. There are many nations across the world who offer no resettlement program for refugees—absolutely none. Australia is one of the fewer than 30 countries to offer resettlement through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Australia is actively engaged with the UNHCR on the broader humanitarian crisis occurring in many parts of the world. I absolutely refute the notion, very often put forward, that we are not pulling our weight.

I also refute the narrative, in some sections of the media, that our border protection policies are, in any way, hard-hearted. In fact, because of the success of our policy in restoring the integrity of our borders, the coalition government are increasing our offshore humanitarian program by almost 40 per cent. By 2018-19, places in resettlement programs will increase to 18,750. Of course, our government also committed earlier this year to taking in 12,000 extra refugees who have been displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq, and by the true humanitarian crisis created by the rise of ISIL militants in those areas. This is the largest intake of refugees since World War II. It is clearly an important part of our global responsibilities and our humanitarian approach. I certainly want to stress that word 'humanitarian'. The clearest evidence that our policies are, indeed, humanitarian in nature is the fact that we have stopped the deaths at sea. We have ended the policies that resulted in over 1,200 deaths at sea. It is important to remember that busting the people smugglers' model has saved lives. It has allowed us to resettle people who have been waiting in refugee camps. It is, by any measure, humanitarian. We remain, as we have always been, a welcoming nation that offers and encourages citizenship for permanent residents.

However, with this bill, we recognise that Australian citizenship is a common bond involving reciprocal rights and obligations and that citizens may, through their conduct, demonstrate that they have severed that bond and repudiated their allegiance to Australia. The Citizenship Act currently already provides for loss of a dual national's Australian citizenship in very limited circumstances. This bill represents an expansion of the circumstances in which Australian citizenship can be lost. It is part of a multifaceted approach to countering the threats to national security and a rapidly changing world where threats are posed on a range of fronts, including at home. As we have said, the aim of this bill is to protect the Australian community, but it is also about putting stock in the concept of allegiance and underscoring the responsibilities that come with citizenship. These are important discussions that we ought to be having in the Australian community.

I believe sometimes that our brand of relaxed patriotism might be misinterpreted as some form of weakness by those who have contempt for our values and ideals. It most certainly is not. This bill underscores the fact that we have very strong expectations of our citizens when it comes to allegiance to our nation. Any involvement in terrorist activities is clearly against the national interest and in breach of the very basic responsibilities of citizenship.

On behalf of my constituents, I am very pleased to support this legislation and to commend this bill to the House.