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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13292


Ms PRICE (Durack) (16:40): I would like to start off by saying what a privilege it is to be an Australian citizen and to be in this chamber today. The Remembrance Day ceremony at the War Memorial this year was truly memorable—although we did get a little bit wet—and it highlighted the fact that we truly do live in the best country in the world. We have freedoms that millions of other people from around the world can only dream of. Australians have died so that we can enjoy our Australian way of life. We are now coming to terms with the recent Paris, Beirut and Mali terrorist attacks. It is clear that no place is immune from the threat of this evil. Australia and other world leaders must coordinate their efforts, both politically and from a military perspective, to defeat those who choose to do us harm and to whom human life has no value. This is a matter of urgency—we must ensure that our borders and our Australian way of life are protected.

I am pleased to speak on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. The Review of Australia's Counter-Terrorism Machinery chillingly found that the terrorist threat in Australia is rising. I wish I had the same level of uplifted view of what the world might be as the member for Fremantle, but unfortunately I do not. Specifically, the number of Australians joining extremist groups overseas is increasing, the number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremists is increasing and the number of potential terrorists is also on the rise. Australian security agencies are currently managing over 400 high priority counter-terrorism investigations. This has more than doubled since 2014. Therefore now is the time to act, and act this government will.

This bill will deal with the threat caused by dual citizens who act in a manner contrary to their allegiance to Australia. Let me make the point that if you are doing no wrong you have nothing to fear from this bill. As I have said, the time to act is now. About 110 Australians are currently fighting or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. And they are only the ones we know about. About 190 people in Australia are providing support to individuals and groups in the Syria-Iraq conflicts through financing and recruitment or are seeking to travel. Again, these are just the ones we know about. This bill will provide for the loss of Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals engaged in terrorism-related conduct. It amends the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to insert a purpose clause setting out the fundamental principles upon which the amendments are based. It also outlines circumstances in which dual citizens cease to be Australian citizens through their engagement in terrorism-related activities. The bill has been widely consulted on, having been referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for inquiry and report, with the committee tabling its report last month. It made a number of recommendations which have been included in the bill—it is in line with the bipartisan recommendations from the committee.

As I am sure has been said many times during this debate, citizenship should be respected and not taken for granted. This bill is a necessary and an appropriate response to the increasing likelihood of a terrorist threat. This bill is so important to my electorate of Durack because my electorate is so sparsely populated. It is so large—and I know there are other electorates like it—we require a helicopter to muster cattle, and we also have billions of dollars of resources projects dotted around the coastline and inland. I would have more volunteer sea rescue bodies than any other Australian electorates, and Durack would have more visits from the Royal Flying Doctor Service because of the number of towns in this incredibly remote electorate.

We need to make sure Australia remains a safe country. As a federal member, I have an obligation to keep safe not just my constituents of Durack but other Australians as well. This government was elected to deliver a strong, prosperous and innovative economy for a safe and secure Australia. The Turnbull government is 100 per cent determined to protect the community from those who are engaged in or are supporting terrorist activities and who seek to do us harm. This bill enables the government to strip Australian citizenship from dual nationals who participate in terrorism or terrorist related activities. As I say, if you have done no harm, you have nothing to fear. This bill will ensure that the over 300 towns and communities in my electorate of Durack and over 90,000 constituents remain safe.

As I said at the start of this speech, last week we commemorated one of our most important days on the Australian calendar: Remembrance Day. Around Australia, including in Durack, we all took a moment of silence. So, from plumbers and tradies in the north and farmers in the mid-west and the wheat belt to small business owners in the Gascoyne, all stopped to pay their respects to those who put their lives on the line to ensure that Australia is the great country we all love today and that it continues to be so. Those very same people illustrated that they would rather show their respect and appreciation and perhaps lose a phone call for another job or perhaps give up half an hour of work, and I think this speaks volumes about Australia and the people of Durack that they too want to keep Australia safe.

We cannot go soft on terrorism. We must keep Australia safe and keep the standards that we apply to allow people who we choose to enter this country and remain in this country. I am sure it has been said a number of times in this debate: we know it is not rocket science but it sure is common sense. It is plain and simple common sense. We must not weaken, we must strengthen, the laws of who can and cannot come into this country. Someone who loses their citizenship automatically receives an ex-citizen visa. If they are onshore, they lose their Australia citizenship—that is what is proposed in this bill. That visa may then be subject to cancellation on character grounds. This bill will legislate that a declared terrorist organisation will be a subset of those who are listed for the purposes of terrorism offences under the Criminal Code.

As I said in this House earlier this month, only those sitting on this side of the House have a track record when it comes to immigration policy. So effective is our stop-the-boats initiative that the Labor Party virtually endorsed it at their national conference in June this year. The bill we are discussing today will further strengthen Australia's border control and ensure we maintain our high migration standards. There is no doubt that society has changed, and we as legislators must move with society.

I commend this bill to the House.