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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13284


Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (16:12): Today, I rise not only to support the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 but to strongly support it. This bill provides three new ways for a dual national to lose their citizenship. In this current geopolitical climate, where nations like Canada and the United Kingdom are adopting new measures to protect their communities from terrorists and their supporters and sympathisers, the coalition government is committed to keeping our community safe from those who seek do us harm.

The events in Paris and the airliners that have been brought down by terrorists show a disturbing state occurring across the globe. It is also disturbing that, in only nine months, 23 Australian citizens have been arrested in counter-terrorism operations. It is even more disturbing that our security agencies are currently managing over 400 high priority counter-terrorism investigations. My constituents in Paterson deserve to feel safe as they go about their everyday lives—as, indeed, do all Australians. If someone leaves our sovereign borders to join a terrorist organisation abroad, they have spat on the face of our nation and the democratic rights, freedoms and benefits that this nation provides to them. These are the very freedoms that our forefathers fought to secure with blood that has been spilt for our golden shores. And they spit in our face!

There is no doubt that terrorism is a growing threat to the Australian people, and we want to get this right. That is why the government asked the Hon. Philip Ruddock MP and Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells to chair the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to review this bill. This government takes citizenship very seriously. For too long, we have focused on giving those who may pose a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt. Currently, extensive processes with lengthy investigations mean that our security agencies cannot act with the speed and precision required to prevent a potential attack.

This bill provides three new ways in which dual nationals can lose their citizenship. For the first time, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection will oversee the automatic revocation of citizenship for persons engaging in relevant conduct. Relevant conduct pertains to a person who acts inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia by engaging in terrorist conduct. The current loss of citizenship provision for a person fighting in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia will be extended. Importantly, under this bill, a person's citizenship will automatically cease if they fight on behalf of or serve a terrorist organisation overseas. This extension of the existing rules is critical and crucial, as terrorist organisations such as the ISIS death cult are not countries or states.

The proposed measures in this bill will be automatic. After being briefed by the relevant intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection will issue a notice that the person has ceased being a citizen. It is not a decision of the minister alone; it is acting on the expert advice of our agencies. It is important to note that the minister can determine when it is appropriate to notify the person to avoid any interference with investigations. This process removes the need for the minister to act based on a formal security assessment. Tragically, as we have learned repeatedly in the last twelve months, individuals planning terrorist attacks on Australian people often have no training and can act very quickly. These days, lone-wolf-style attacks only require a knife, a camera, a phone and a victim.

As I mentioned before, this government is focused on getting this right. That is why the bill was referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. As part of the process, members of the public were invited to make submissions on the bill. The consultation examined residency requirements and the citizenship test and pledge, as well as the possibility for certain Australian citizens to lose privileges such as social security payments and consular assistance. Submissions closed in mid-July during the parliamentary winter recess.

After a person's citizenship ceases, the process to return them to their country of nationality would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Suitably, the bill contains provision for ministerial discretion to exempt a person if it is in the public interest to do so. Children of parents who have their citizenship revoked will not automatically lose their citizenship; however, they could lose their citizenship if they engage in relevant conduct themselves. Importantly, a person who has his or her citizenship revoked will be able to seek a judicial review of the facts. This bill is about sensible yet strong action against those who seek to cause harm to the Australian community by engaging in terrorist conduct.

The bill follows the same path as some of our closest political allies around the world, with many nations facing the threat of terrorism by organisations like ISIS, as we saw in Paris. In 2014, the United Kingdom passed legislation that could, under the direction of the UK's Home Secretary, deprive a person of their citizenship on a number of grounds. These grounds include conduct that is not conducive to the public good and engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the UK's vital interests. Under this legislation, the Home Secretary must have reasonable grounds to believe that the person could acquire another nationality. Similar to the bill before this House, the United Kingdom's legislation cannot render a person stateless. Canada and the United Kingdom ratified the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in 1966 and 1978 respectively. Australia ratified this convention in 1973. In this current climate, it is imperative that we stay one step ahead of would-be terrorists.

As was mentioned in the national security statement earlier in the year, the number of Australians joining extremist groups overseas is increasing. The number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremist groups overseas is increasing and, disturbingly, the number of potential terrorists in Australia is increasing. The government's highest priority is keeping the community safe from those who seek to do us harm. This is a topic I am incredibly passionate about for a plethora of reasons. Our national security is paramount and must remain on the forefront of our discussions within this House.

The values and freedoms that we sometimes take for granted must exist in a just and humane society where the role of law and justice is maintained and its integrity preserved. As a nation, we are currently facing one of our greatest challenges to these freedoms through the emergence of a number of brutal terrorist organisations that threaten our basic ingrained freedoms. They threaten our livelihood and they threaten our way of life. As a nation, in the wake of a number of terrorist attacks and attempted attacks, we must rally together with a renewed vigour to stop those threats and to take the necessary measures and steps to counteract them.

If someone in our nation leaves to join a terrorist army abroad, the government does not want that person back; the people of Australia do not want that person back. We will stop the return of terrorists, especially those who are dual citizens, through taking away their Australian passport. This is to protect the people of Australia. If you leave our nation to partake in terrorist activity, we will ensure, as far as is practically possible, that you do not return. There is no place in our nation for terrorists who hate our country—yet have sought all the benefits of this nation—and have then gone and joined a fighting terrorist organisation and betrayed our country and committed a treasonous offence against us and our shores. We have no tolerance for actions such as these. There is no place for people who want to do Australians harm simply because of the fact that we are Australian and we enjoy democratic rights and freedoms.

Those fighting against our Defence forces are fighting against all Australia. It is against the law in our nation to take up arms in order to fight and advocate for terrorism. In the action of leaving our nation to join arms with a militant organisation, radicalised individuals—terrorists—have made an active choice. Through doing this, especially if they are dual nationals, they have renounced their Australian citizenship. They will not be permitted back here.

As a government, we have recently taken stringent measures, through cancelling over 115 Australian passports. These are measures we have taken to stop radicalised Australians travelling to conflict zones. These measures are designed to deter individuals who have been radicalised. At the very heart of our efforts as a government, we are acutely aware that directly tackling the drivers of extremism and the radicalisation process at its infancy, even before this, is where we must consolidate our efforts.

I have had overwhelming feedback from my constituents. I will read an extract from a letter my office received recently:

I am writing to you to plead with your judgement and wisdom, in the matter of these Australian Citizens attempting to return to Australia after fighting against our troops. Traitors, to our Nation. They have proved their intentions by sneaking out of our country. They will only be an enormous burden to our economy and way of life. Not to mention, when in prison, they will recruit more idiots. They have made their bed, now it's time for them to lay in it and stay away.

An extract from an email my electorate office received states:

The stripping of people who want to join criminals/terrorists of their citizenship must be as harsh as possible. Anyone who wants to bite the hand that has fed them for many years do not deserve to return here and become "sleepers" with another agenda.

Some very passionate correspondence I received by letter states:

What's it going take any of you to DO THE RIGHT THING, some innocent person, Policeman/woman, Department of Defence Personnel being beheaded, PLEASE, get some bottle, show strength and do like those in those European Countries which have suddenly realised that some within the Muslin community are BAD, yeas Bad! and have started to get tough by deporting those who offend against their countries laws - WILL YOU, as a Government, DO THE SAME, the way things are going I HAVE A GREAT FEAR, that you won't, and just buckle to the whims and wants of the Muslim population here.

DON'T END UP BEING A WEAK GOVERNMENT, DO SOMETHING, PROTECT YOUR CITIZENS, too late when there is blood on the street! A Very Concerned Aussie.

Those are but some of the comments that have been made, yet those comments were received before what happened in Paris and before the airliner was brought down over Egypt. If these comments made by constituents in my electorate of Paterson are anything to go by, fears about the threat of returning foreign terrorist fighters to Australia are real and present throughout our Australian shores. People are genuinely concerned about the threat of foreign fighters returning to our region and carrying out violent extremist acts here on our soil. These threats have garnered a strong response from our country, and through measures such as the passport legislation we are achieving integrity in the passport process.

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that, pursuant to section 35 of the Citizenship Act, we as a government are creating new circumstances under which dual nationals who are terrorists will forfeit their citizenship. As the Prime Minister announced, one way whereby Australian citizenship is lost is renunciation by conduct, so if you engage in terrorism against Australia with a foreign army, you will automatically forfeit your citizenship. The second avenue is revocation by conviction, so if you are convicted of a terrorist offence there will be an assumption that your Australian citizenship is forfeited, should you be a dual national.

To end, using a line coined by the Prime Minister, 'As Australians, we will never, ever sacrifice our freedoms, but we will defend them.' In representing my electorate of Paterson, in the Hunter region of New South Wales, I not only commend this bill to the House; I strongly commend this bill to the House.