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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13331


Mr WHITELEY (BraddonGovernment Whip) (19:42): I rise this evening to speak on an incredibly important bill. The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 is a bill which is consistent with the values and interests of the Australian people. Citizenship is not an entitlement; it is a privilege. It is an absolute honour, in fact. Australian citizenship is made all the more precious through our excellent quality of life, robust democratic system and level of personal freedoms that are the envy of many across the world. Australia is a beautiful place full of productivity and peaceful people. Across this great nation you will find vibrant multicultural communities made up of ethnicities from all over the world. We are bound together by one fundamental truth: we are Australian citizens.

As citizens we are all equal under the law. We all receive the right to vote, to have a say in how our country is run and administered. We have the right to throw out a government if we do not think they are performing to standard. We have access to comprehensive social services and healthcare systems which help us all in our times of need. Our children are given the opportunity to read and write, to learn and to grow, through our excellent schools. We are supported finically through our tertiary institutions. Australians are aspirational and ambitious and we have shaped a society which harnesses that drive and develops its potential. These privileges are ensured through our Australian citizenship. These privileges are the hard-won results of generations of Australians who have gone before us. Young men and women have gone out into the world and made sacrifices to ensure safety for those of us here at home.

Barely a fortnight ago on Remembrance Day, I, as well as many others, stood and reflected on the sacrifices made by so many for what? For our nation and for our citizenry. We enjoy the safety of professional and resolute Defence and police forces. Echoing George Orwell, we sleep soundly in our beds at night because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. The men and women of our security services keep us safe, and their professionalism should not be understated or forgotten. These are the privileges that come with citizenship. They are willing to defend us and those freedoms because citizenship means something. Citizenship is an undying commitment to a nation and to its values. A citizen takes responsibility for the body politic, defending it with their life if need be. That is a message which must be conveyed and understood, as the threat of a globalised terrorist network has once again surfaced.

Since this legislation was introduced into this place, we have seen a wave of attacks on and in countries around the world. We watched with horror as wicked men acted on their perverted ideology, taking the lives of some 130 innocent people in Paris, the heart of liberal democracy. Whilst we are all saddened and angered by such attacks, we must remain resolute, determined and focused in our struggle. We stand with our brothers and sisters in the pursuit of freedom across this world and do so against the headwinds of hate and intolerance that are mobilised by those would seek to exploit fear rather than address it. The provision of national security is the first and foremost role of government. It is the primary responsibility of this government to keep our citizens safe from harm. It is no illusion that threats against our way of life are very real. They are present in our society and must be defeated. This message should not be one of alarm but, rather, one that sobers our minds as we come to grips with the realities of a globalised world. We must remain eternally vigilant, as this is the price of liberty. It seems that in this 21st century we must remain ever vigilant of the threat within as well as the threat without.

Whilst I have every faith in the industry of our professional and determined security forces, there is a role that legislators such as us must play in responding to this threat. This bill is a part of that response. This bill will amend the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to provide for automatic cessation of Australian citizenship, including Australian citizenship by birth, of a person who is also a national or citizen of another country where that person: renounces their Australian citizenship by engaging in specified conduct inconsistent with their allegiance to Australia; fights for, or is in service of, declared terrorist organisations outside Australia; or is convicted of a specified offence under the Criminal Code or the Crimes Act 1914. This government has taken a measured and appropriate stance in this bill. National security in the 21st century can only be assured through the continued adaption of our legislative framework.

Since the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria surfaced, we have seen a new wave of young Australians engaging in activities which are fundamentally at odds with our national values and our national interest. It is not acceptable to those who do subscribe to our values for such individuals to maintain their citizenship as Australians. Daesh is not the only group that is pulling young Australians into their midst. The globalised world is fractured when it comes to criminal organisations such as Daesh, and the government maintains an exhaustive list of groups which are considered to be terrorist in nature. It is important, as the flow of people, information and ideas continue to be facilitated by increases in technology and solidified in socially networked communities, that we set the parameters of what is and what is not acceptable when it comes to the actions of Australian citizens. We must take a stand as a community and say that we do not accept that taking up arms against our values through fighting for groups which employ medieval barbarity and evil in the pursuit of the strategic goals should go unpunished. This government is willing to make the necessary changes to protect our citizens and the promise our citizenship holds.

Civic responsibility is a concept which is at the heart of the values of this government, and I do believe it is also at the heart of everyday Australians. It is entirely reasonable to remove the citizenship of someone who reneges on their civic responsibility through fighting for an enemy of our nation and of ourselves. With rights come responsibilities. How often have we heard that? Our citizenship guarantees us so many privileges yet it also demands of us that we act accordingly and deliver on our commitment to this nation, its values and its interests. We have been decisive in this bill. Automatic loss of citizenship will be triggered whether the conduct takes place inside or outside Australia. The loss of citizenship will be immediate upon the person engaging in the relevant conduct. The minister must give notice that a person has ceased to be an Australian citizen once the minister becomes aware of the person's conduct that gave rise to that outcome, but this notice does not affect when the loss of citizenship takes place. The bill makes clear that this notice may be given at such time and to such persons as the minister considers appropriate. This bill provides that a person automatically ceases to be a citizen if they are convicted of a specified offence. This provision relies on a court having determined criminal guilt. The relevant offences include treason, espionage, terrorism and foreign incursions.

This bill provides that a person who loses their citizenship for undertaking terrorism related activities which demonstrate a breach of allegiance is not able to reacquire Australian citizenship in the future—and most Australians would say, 'Thank God for that.' This is entirely appropriate because such a person will have shown that they are not capable of upholding their commitment to our country and are not worthy of the deep honour of Australian citizenship. This bill delivers on the responsibility that this government has in protecting our citizens from the agents of our enemies now and into the future. We remain resolute in our enduring and ever-present duty to protect the freedoms and liberties of our people. This government will take the possible step, and will have the intestinal fortitude, required to make the right decision in this national security space.

Ours is a Commonwealth built on tolerance, freedom and industry. Those who take up arms against our society are our enemies. Each and every person must be held to account for their actions and, as such, those who are our enemies cannot and should not be our citizens. I stand proud of this government's effort in responding to changes in the national security space, and I stand in awe of the dedication our national security professionals have to our safety. This bill will deliver outcomes for our nation, and I commend it to the House.