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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13314


Mr EWEN JONES (HerbertGovernment Whip) (18:19): As the member for Herbert—and I am sure that I speak for most of us in this place—one of the proudest moments I have each month in the city of Townsville is when I attend the citizenship ceremonies conducted by my local Townsville City Council. To stand up there and to read out the letter that Minister Dutton has brought for everyone before they make the oath of allegiance, or whatever we call it, is truly a wonderful thing. My mayor, Jenny Hill, is the daughter of migrants. She is a first-generation Australian. She tells people undertaking the ceremony that she was exactly where they were, and she talks of the pride she felt as her parents became citizens of this great country. To stand there and see these different nationalities come together and become Australian citizens is a truly wonderful moment, each and every month. To hear them recite those words—'From this time forward, 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'—is what this legislation is all about.

The problem we have today is that some people do not take those words seriously when reciting them. We have some people who use our system, our citizenship, our social security system, our good intentions and our trust to foster a hate of our country and our way of life. With a rising number of Australians joining extremist groups overseas and supporting and financing them in Australia, this legislation provides for dual citizens to have their Australian citizenship removed due to their participation in terrorism related activities and outlines the circumstances under which that might happen. What we are saying is: if you take out Australian citizenship and then go and fight for our enemy against us, then we will take Australian citizenship from you. We do not want you back. It is that simple.

What this is not about is an attack on the cultures, textures, flavours and colours that immigrants bring to our country. We are a better country because of the rich heritage of other nations coming here and sharing their home country's values and cultures with us. What this is not about is forcing people to become Australian. A lot of people in Townsville say, 'They should become Australian.' I always say that if, for whatever reason, I had to move to another country and take up citizenship of that country I would respect and love my new country but would never stop loving Australia or the fact that Australia made me the man I am today. I would still tune into the first session of the Boxing Day tests. I would still stop and give thanks every Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. I would still have a lamb roast on Australia Day, and I would still be a Cowboys supporter. These things would not stop me from being a productive and respectful citizen of my new country. So it should be with people coming to Australia from other countries: bring all the things you love, and keep them; be proud of them; celebrate and commemorate them. But you have to be a productive and respectful member of our country. So, when taking out Australian citizenship, new citizens will bring their culture with them but must be prepared to obey the laws of Australia.

Why do we need to change? The Review of Australia's counter-terrorism machinery found that the terrorist threat in Australia is rising. Specifically, the number of Australians joining extremist groups overseas is increasing and the number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremists is increasing. So, we have some serious issues, and we have to take some serious matters into our hands. Our security agencies—and I think we should give a little bit of thanks to the people who do these things, the Border Force people and our security agencies, who do a fantastic job in keeping us safe—are currently managing over 400 high-profile counter-terrorism investigations. This number has more than doubled since early 2014.

Since September last year, when the National Terrorism Public Alert level was raised to high, 26 people have been charged as a result of 10 counter-terrorism operations. Around 110 Australians are currently fighting or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. And 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. Those are big numbers, but when you consider how many people come here every year by way of humanitarian refugee programs and skilled migration, we are talking about a very small minority of people here.

Citizenship should be respected and not taken for granted. I think that is the genesis of this whole debate. As the bill states:

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.

The new powers in the bill are a necessary and appropriate response to the evolution of the terrorist threat. This bill amends the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to insert a 'purpose clause' setting out the fundamental principles upon which the amendments are based; to outline circumstances in which a dual citizen ceases to be an Australian citizen through their engagement in terrorism related activities; to outline circumstances in which the minister may exempt a person from the operation of the bill to provide for reporting on and monitoring the operation of the arrangements in the bill; to provide for the protection of sensitive or prejudicial information in relation to that reporting and monitoring; and related matters.

The bill applies to a person who is a dual national, regardless of how the person became an Australian citizen, including a person who became an Australian citizen upon birth. The bill was referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security on 24 June 2015 for inquiry and report. The committee tabled its report on Friday 4 September 2015. And I must make special mention of the chair of that committee, Dan Tehan, the member for Wannon, who did a fantastic job in making sure that we got a good report out of that.

So, what are the actual details here? Section 33AA provides that a person who is a 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. The relevant conduct includes engaging in international terrorist activities using explosive or lethal devices; engaging in a terrorist act; providing or receiving training connected with preparation for, engagement in, or assistance in a terrorist act; directing the activities of a terrorist organisation; recruiting for a terrorist organisation; financing terrorism; financing a terrorist; and engaging in foreign incursions and recruitment.

The government amendments to the bill provide that the conduct provisions are limited to individuals who have engaged in relevant conduct offshore; or engaged in relevant conduct onshore and left Australia before being charged and brought to trial in respect of that conduct. The amended bill provides that the conduct provisions apply only if the conduct is engaged in with specific intentions, such as the 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. We are not talking about a million people here; we are talking about a very small number of people.

Element two of this bill goes to the provisions for fighting for or being in the service of a declared terrorist organisation. The law has provided for the automatic loss of citizenship where a person serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia since it came into force in 1949. This bill expands the section to provide for automatic cessation of citizenship if a person is also a citizen of another country, is overseas and fights for or is in the service of a declared terrorist organisation. The provisions in relation to being 'in the service of a declared terrorist organisation' do not apply to acts that are unintentional, under duress, or for the purposes of independent humanitarian assistance. Again, we are talking about shrinking down the number of people who are actually exposed here.

Element 3 is a conviction for terrorism and related offences. To be considered under this section, a person must be sentenced to at least six years imprisonment or to periods of imprisonment totalling more than six years. This provision relies on a court having determined criminal guilt. The relevant offences include convictions for treason, espionage, terrorism, international terrorist activities and using explosives or lethal devices, treachery, sabotage and foreign incursions and recruitment. The person ceases to be an Australian citizen at the time a determination is made by the minister. The minister must revoke a determination if a conviction is overturned or if the decision to overturn is upheld on appeal, and no further appeal can be made to a court in relation to the decision. So you do have a judicial oversight.

We are a great country made up of people from all over the world. We lay claim to and are rightly proud that we are the single most successful immigrant nation on the face of the planet. That is because we are a classless society; we take the person as we find them. That is the way we want our country to continue. I am a firm believer in a strong immigration policy, both skilled migration and humanitarian immigration. I am a firm believer that we are a better country for having people from other parts of the world here. In this country, you are given every chance to put in, to have a go, to get ahead and to do better for your children and your family. If you repudiate that helping hand, if you take up arms against us, we do not want you here and we ask, as my Dad always says, that you do not let the door hit you on the backside on the way out.

I support this legislation. I support the work that Minister Dutton is doing in this portfolio. I support my government as we do everything we can to keep our country safe. I thank the members of the PJCIS for all their hard work on this, and these things are not easy. I commend the bill to the House.