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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13297


Mr TAYLOR (Hume) (17:02): I rise today to speak on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. In doing so, I think it is worthwhile to begin by stepping back and asking ourselves, 'What is the motivation for this bill?' In doing that, I went to the purpose clause, which mentions three critical concepts. One is reciprocal rights and obligations, the second is shared values and the third is allegiance to Australia. It is worth quoting the purpose clause because I think it is well constructed. It says:

… the Parliament recognises that Australian citizenship is a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, and that citizens may, through certain conduct incompatible with the shared values of the Australian community, demonstrate that they have severed that bond and repudiated their allegiance to Australia.

Before I speak to some of the detail, we need to clarify what those shared values are because, fundamentally, this will be a very important act of parliament, if passed, which is aimed at preserving those values. In the wake of the Paris atrocities, we are hearing a great deal about Western values. In many of our national debates about citizenship, nationality, sovereignty and even immigration, we also hear a lot about these so-called shared values that are sometimes referred to as 'Western' values. But let's be specific, indeed, let's be loud and proud about what those values are because, in discussing them, we are not just talking about our way of life or our lifestyle; we are talking about the fundamental freedoms and assumptions that underpin our society. They lay the very foundations for our tolerance, our inclusiveness and our diversity.

What are those values? Unsurprisingly, they are referred to expressly, in one way or another, in our Constitution, or, in recent years, they have been implied by the High Court in interpreting that Constitution. That Constitution makes it very clear that our founders assumed that, in this country, there would be a right to a fair trial, that property held could not be taken by the government without fair compensation and that there should be freedom of religion and separation of church and state. These, of course, are our core freedoms of modern, liberal democracies. Added to that are the remaining core freedoms which the High Court has found by implication in our Constitution. One is the freedom of political communication—in effect, freedom of speech. Related to this, of course, are the freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom of association.

Our Constitution also implies that citizens have a right to vote. In other words, democracy cannot be taken away by this parliament. None of these fundamental freedoms can be taken away. Underpinning all of them is the assumption that our system operates under the rule of law, that every person is equal before the law and that every person is subject to the law. Our system works with the extraordinary checks, balances and conventions that are absolutely inherent in the Westminster system. With the gift of the separation of powers from the United States to help it along, it ensures that these freedoms can never be taken away. Our core political institutions were founded on an assumption that we will never lose sight of these freedoms.

I would argue strongly that these first generation freedoms that I have described have made us great, just as they have made our friends in places like the United States, Canada, France and the United Kingdom great. Without these freedoms, many things we all take for granted would fall away. These include the right to be free from discrimination and the right to access to welfare for the vulnerable. If, for example, we did not have well-established, predictable property rights, how could our market based system thrive and provide the revenue for important welfare support? If we did not have a proper, identified role for courts and parliaments then what would stop parliaments legislating to prevent courts from reviewing the decisions of the executive branch of government? If we did not have courts enforcing our laws, fairly and without fear or favour, would anyone bother to pay tax? These fundamental freedoms are real. They make us what we are. They work.

Coming back to the bill before the House, I ask: why is it important to assert these values in the context of a bill which promotes and embraces the idea of 'allegiance to Australia'? It is important because the people who seek to harm us here in Australia and to harm our friends and allies explicitly reject those freedoms. These terrorists do not want to kill us for the sake of killing us. They do not want to harm us because they have nothing better to do. It is much more categorical than that. These people reject outright our fundamental freedoms. They do not believe in a separation of church and state. They believe that church and state are one and the same. They do not believe in political freedoms whatsoever. You can forget a fair trial; indeed, you can probably forget any trial at all. Women can forget the right to be free from discrimination or the freedom to marry whom they choose. You marry whom you are told to marry and when you will marry. You are utterly subjugated to your husband—a husband who is, in turn, subjugated to the caliphate. We need to explain this to Australians. We need to explain it without rancour. If Daesh were to achieve its goals, it would destroy our system, our beliefs and our foundations.

Now to you, Mr Deputy Speaker Kelly, and me, the aims and goals of Daesh seem ludicrous and preposterous—but that is not so obvious to everyone. A recent Lowy poll found that only 39 per cent of young people agreed with the statement that 'democracy is preferable to any other form of government'. Only 39 per cent of young Australians believe in democracy. This is a very serious problem. When we speak more generally about our so-called shared values, our Western values, we cannot assume that everyone understands what this means. We certainly cannot assume that every law abiding citizen in this country fully grasps just what these values are, or how important they are to our very being. I believe a great number of Australians have lost sight of why it is so important to defend these values. The last time that we truly defended them was in the Second World War. In that conflict, Australians were in no doubt about what was at stake. And later, during the Cold War years, we were often reminded of those values. They stayed at the front of our minds. But, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and since the demise of the USSR, our memory of failed alternatives to liberal democracy is fading. This is extremely dangerous. It is why Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote last week that one of the most essential things we can do is to win the battle of ideas. This bill actually engages in that battle of ideas, because it sends a clear message to not only those who have abandoned our values but those who actually fight against them—and we will not tolerate that. By repudiating our values, our fundamental freedoms, by fighting directly against those values, you will have repudiated your allegiance to Australia. These people are now forewarned that, if they do go overseas to fight, or if they do engage in terrorist activity here, they will run the risk that they will never come back or that they will be deported.

Any delay in the passing of this bill will give Australia's network of domestic and internationally based extremists the advantage. I agree with Michael Phelan, Deputy Commissioner of National Security at the Australian Federal Police, who says that keeping people who engage in terrorism offshore 'is one less thing the AFP have to deal with'. The Deputy Director-General, counterterrorism, of ASIO concurs. He also directly supports any measure that can keep problems offshore and reduce the direct threat to Australia.

The fact that these measures relate to dual citizenship is incredibly important. Dual citizenship is a legislative permission, granted by the parliament. It is not a human right. Many other countries do not allow it. It only became widely available in Australia in 2002. The former Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Bret Walker, raised a deep concern about dual or multiple citizenship and its implication for Australia's counterterrorism effort. The monitor asserted that it was a mistake in 2002 for the parliament to grant such an entitlement and recommended that multiple citizenship be abolished. That issue may be for another day; but, today, it is important to emphasise that the persons to whom these amendments apply are also citizens of other countries, and therefore claim another allegiance—and, as a practical matter, have somewhere else to go. These amendments will not in any way render any person stateless.

It is worth noting that several months ago, the UN's top counterterrorist official, Jean-Paul Laborde, said:

…if somebody has a double citizenship and one state wants to protect the society, they have to take the measures they weigh are best for society.

In front of us are those measures, and I support them.

The amended legislation will provide three ways in which a person who is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia can cease to be an Australian citizen. The first element is renunciation by conduct—that is the new section 33AA. This provides that a person who is a national or citizen of a country in addition to Australia renounces their Australian citizenship if they act inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia by engaging in specified conduct. That relevant conduct includes financing terrorism and financing a terrorist. Automatic loss of citizenship will be triggered whether the conduct takes place inside or outside Australia.

The second element of this bill expands the existing section 35 to provide for automatic cessation of citizenship if a person is also a citizen of another country and is overseas and fights for, or is in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation. The minister may declare a terrorist organisation for the purposes of section 35, but such a declaration is contingent on that organisation being listed by the Australian government. The minister must also be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation is indirectly or directly engaged in or planning a terrorist act. Importantly, a declaration by the minister of a declared terrorist organisation is reviewable by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

The third element of this bill provides a power for the minister to determine that a person's citizenship has been lost once they have been convicted of a relevant offence and sentenced to a total imprisonment period of at least 6 years. Loss of citizenship is not automatic upon the conviction, and the list of offences is limited to the most serious crimes. We are talking about convictions for things like treason, espionage, terrorism, the use of lethal explosives, and treachery.

In closing, I remind the House that Australian citizens involved in terrorism not only reject our foundational values; they actually set out to destroy them. Most migrants come to this country for a better life. At a recent gathering in Goulburn it was an honour to be introduced to new citizens from India, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands. You could see the excitement in their eyes. Their happiness was evident, in joining the melting pot that is this great nation—to become one of us. I could clearly see and feel in my heart that these new citizens subscribe to the values I have spoken about. They know they will hit the jackpot when they become an Australian citizen. They also expect the Australian government to uphold and preserve the values and freedoms we are famous for. That is exactly what this bill does. I commend it to the House.