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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13330


Mr WILLIAMS (Hindmarsh) (19:37): It is a great honour for me to speak about the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill because there are some very important elements to this bill to do with the current challenges we face due to terrorism internationally. We know the awful circumstances of Paris and of other terrorist attacks around the world over many years now, not just in these last 12 months. The act of terror in Paris was an attack on the freedom of the Parisians, which is the antithesis of everything the murderous butchers from IS reject.

American comedian John Oliver spoke about the attacks last week and, while I will clean up his comments a bit, he said:

France is going to endure, and I'll tell you why. If you're in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good … luck, because go ahead, bring your bankrupt ideology.

I think this is a very important point. While culturally there are differences between Australia and France, the attacks on France are attacks on the Western way of life.

We are not perfect and as a society we will strive to get better, but the cowardly attacks on France have further illustrated the need for the changes that this bill presents. While we are talking about France, there have also been attacks in Mali, and there were attacks in Beirut not long ago too. There are constant attacks around the world on people's individual liberties where terrorism is striking in cowardly ways.

We as a society are not perfect, as I said before, and we will strive to get better. This bill is not a knee jerk to the deadly attacks around the world but rather the result of diligent consideration aimed at ensuring the safety of Australia and Australian citizens. 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, the number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremists is increasing and the number of potential terrorists is rising. Our security agencies are currently managing over 400 high-priority 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. That is more than one-third of all terrorism related charges since 2001. Around 110 Australians are currently fighting or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. About 190 people in Australia are providing support to individuals and groups in the Syria and Iraq conflicts through financing and recruitment or are seeking to travel to those countries.

The government announced earlier this year that it would develop amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to provide for the loss of Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals engaged in terrorism related conduct. Supporting and engaging in terrorist activities against Australia's interests is a breach of a person's commitment and allegiance to our country, a bond that should unite all citizens. It is a very special privilege to be an Australian, and citizenship should be respected and not taken for granted. The new powers in the bill are a necessary and appropriate response to the evolution of the terrorist threat.

I just want to touch on some international examples to show that the Australian government has done appropriate research and consultation with governments and agencies around the world. In 2014 the UK passed legislation which expanded the government's power to revoke the citizenship of a naturalised person. Under the new laws, a person can be deprived of citizenship if the home secretary is satisfied by a number of conditions. Canada has recently passed legislation expanding the basis on which citizenship may be revoked and the process by which this may happen. The new laws were passed by parliament in 2014 and came into effect earlier this year in May. Under the new legislation, the citizenship and immigration minister may revoke the citizenship of a dual national who is convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received. Previously, revocation of citizenship in Canada involved three steps.

In closing, there is a place in our society for Muslims. The people of IS or Daesh do not represent Muslims any more than Martin Bryant represents Australians. This bill is not about penalising any group in society, only about ensuring that there is no place in our society for those who wish to create terror. I commend this bill to the House.