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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13279


Mr GOODENOUGH (Moore) (15:47): The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 proposes amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to ensure that individuals holding the citizenship of one or more nations in addition to their Australian citizenship—dual nationals—and who contravene Australian laws by participating in armed activity with terrorist organisations, or engage in terrorism-related actions sanctioned by terrorist groups will stand to lose their Australian citizenship.

Recent tragic events in France have focused international attention and galvanised global resolve to combat terrorism. This represents a crackdown on individuals who fail to comply with the oath or affirmation subscribed to at citizenship ceremonies, which requires citizens to be loyal to Australia and obey the laws of our nation. It prevents hardened criminals trained in insurgent techniques, such as the use of improvised explosive devices, from re-entering our borders with radicalised ideas and deadly skills. These measures are intended to spare the taxpayers of Australia from the significant costs of long-term incarceration in maximum security correctional facilities, and access to welfare. In the main, the persons affected were originally foreign nationals who acquired Australian Citizenship and subsequently betrayed our nation.

The principal international instrument relevant to dual citizenship is the 1930 Hague convention. A first point of principle in this convention is that dual nationality was considered undesirable. Even though the Hague convention was drafted at a time when the ideal was generally perceived as being that every person should have one citizenship only, dual citizenship has long been recognised in international law.

The world environment and attitudes have changed considerably since the Hague convention was signed by Australia, and especially over the last 10 to 15 years. There is vastly greater mobility of people and increased incidence of people living and working in foreign countries for extended periods. Australians, like others, are often required to acquire citizenship overseas for business, social and cultural reasons, obtain employment or to reside with non-Australian citizen spouses. There is greater acceptance in the modern, globalised world, that individuals may be citizens of more than one country and satisfactorily meet their duties as citizens in relation to each country. However there are currently more than 39 countries that prohibit their nationals from holding dual citizenship.

As a child migrant to Australia I was for a time a dual-citizen, as the minimum age for renouncing citizenship in Singapore is 21 years of age. After attaining the age of majority, I formally renounced my Singaporean citizenship, through the Singapore High Commission here in Canberra, more than 10 years ago when arranging my passport at the time of making my first overseas trip as an Australian citizen. I knew that my first allegiance was and still remains to Australia. Little did I know at the time that renunciation paved the way for me to be elected to this House, satisfying section 44 of the Australian Constitution.

Under the provisions of this bill, dual nationals who are convicted of specific terrorism-related offences will potentially face the loss of their Australian citizenship. These offences are detailed in section 33AA of the act, which provides that a person who is a dual national or citizen of a country other than Australia renounces their Australian citizenship if they act inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia by engaging in specified conduct including: engaging in international terrorist activities; using arms, explosive or lethal devices; engaging in a terrorist act; providing or receiving training in connection with the preparation for, engagement in, or assistance in a terrorist act; directing the activities of a terrorist organisation; recruiting for a terrorist organisation; financing terrorism or a terrorist; or engaging in foreign incursions and recruitment. The provisions will apply to individuals who have engaged in relevant conduct offshore, or who have engaged in relevant conduct onshore and left Australia before being charged and brought to trial in respect of that conduct.

Furthermore, the provisions apply to conduct engaged in: with the specific intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause; with the intention of supporting, promoting or engaging in a hostile activity in another country; or on the instructions of a declared terrorist organisation. A proposed new section 35A provides a power for the minister to revoke a person's citizenship once they have been convicted of a relevant offence and upon consideration of other relevant criteria. Loss of citizenship is not automatic upon conviction.

At a time when our national security and law enforcement agencies are involved in more than 400 high-priority counter-terrorism investigations and surveillance of multiple suspects, the need to protect our national security is of paramount importance. Since September 2014 there have been three terrorist attacks inspired by Islamic State within Australia. Six planned attacks against innocent civilians within Australia have been disrupted. This alarming trend is rising. Within a recent nine-month period alone the same number of Australian citizens have been arrested in counter-terrorism operations as were arrested in the 14 years since 2001.

At the beginning of this year the government published a list of 20 terrorist organisations outlawed in Australia under the Criminal Code Act 1995. The listing of an organisation under the Criminal Code makes it an offence to direct the activities of, be a member of, recruit for, train for and receive training from that organisation. It is also a criminal offence to get funds to, from or for or provide support to and associate with members of that organisation.

Under section 102.1A of the Criminal Code, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security may review listings of terrorist organisations. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is currently conducting inquiries to review the relisting of five terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code, including: al-Shabaab; the Kurdistan Workers' Party; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and the Hamas sponsored lzz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

It is estimated that there are up to 250 Australian citizens who have departed from Australia as foreign fighters for terrorist organisations and that between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of the Australians fighting with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq are dual nationals. Approximately 50 per cent of criminals convicted of major terrorism offences are dual nationals. Why should our nation continue to afford the rights and privileges of Australian citizenship to criminals who act against our national interest, endanger our national security and do not meet the community expectations of mainstream Australians?

The advent of international terrorist groups has changed the ground rules. Our country does not have to be formally at war with a sovereign nation; rather, we are confronted with terrorist groups employing the tactics of guerrilla warfare against states. The enemy is difficult to identify and does not conform to established rules or military convention. This has manifested itself in the most brutal and barbaric conduct, including the targeting of innocent civilians, beheadings, crucifixions, torture, bombings, kidnap and rape. As a government we have a duty to ensure that these acts of terror do not spread to the Australian mainland and that we protect our homeland security.

The proposed amendments are necessary to modernise our current laws, which only strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they serve with a foreign army at war with Australia. Section 19 of the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 states that:

An Australian citizen who, under the law of a foreign country, is a national or citizen of that country and serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia shall, upon commencing so to serve, cease to be an Australian citizen.

Despite being involved in a number of armed conflicts since 1949, Australia has not declared a formal state of war on another sovereign nation in that period. Hence section 19 has not been required up to now.

Every new citizen takes the citizenship pledge, which is a solemn oath:

From this time forward, under God, 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.

Swearing or affirming an oath is a legally binding process which must be enforceable at law and actually mean something. There are many thousands of deserving and worthy people waiting in the queue to become Australian citizens. Dual nationals engaged in terrorist activities do not deserve to be afforded the rights and privileges of Australian citizens, such as freedom of entry into Australia, immunity from deportation, access to social security benefits or taxpayer funded legal aid. The public should not have to bear the substantial cost of trials, legal aid and incarcerating these criminals in Australian maximum security correctional facilities for long-term life sentences.

The duties and responsibilities expected of all Australian citizens include: obeying the law; participating in employment and paying taxes; defending Australia by enlisting in the Australian defence forces should the need arise; and voting at elections and referenda. Persons swearing the oath have a legally enforceable obligation to be loyal to Australia, comply with Australian laws and not commit acts which are prejudicial to Australia's national interests. Those who fail to uphold their oath or affirmation must be held to account. The coalition government is introducing this legislation to ensure that this overwhelmingly held community expectation is upheld. It is fair to say that the vast majority of law-abiding migrants wholeheartedly support this legislation. As new citizens, they have chosen to commit their allegiance to Australia and they have little tolerance for individuals who diminish the reputation of the migrant community through their participation in terrorist activities.

Various lobby groups have raised concerns about this legislation, believing that it is too harsh or draconian. When it comes to national security, the interests of the vast majority of Australian citizens must take precedence over the rights of dual nationals who have broken an oath, displayed treasonous conduct and been disloyal to Australia. The provisions contained in the proposed legislation are consistent with Australia's international treaty obligations and will not leave a person stateless. The proposed legislation does not exclude the role of the courts. Persons who have lost citizenship may seek a judicial review on the facts. In addition, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has the power to grant an exemption if there is a law enforcement or security imperative.

In summary, this bill proposes amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to ensure that dual nationals who are convicted of specific terrorism related offences will face the loss of their Australian citizenship. Individuals who are also nationals or citizens of a country other than Australia renounce their Australian citizenship if they act inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia by engaging in terrorist activities using arms, explosive or lethal devices; engaging in terrorist acts; directing the activities of a terrorist organisation; recruiting, financing or providing training for terrorism. In the interests of preserving Australia's national security, I commend the bill to the House.