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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13343

Mr PASIN (Barker) (20:37): Before I begin, I congratulate the member for Page on his excellent contribution to this debate. I rise today to speak in support of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. This is a bill which reinforces the importance of Australian citizenship. Citizenship matters. Citizenship is fundamental to our constitutional democracy. It is the expression of our rights and our responsibilities. It is an institution.

We derive the word 'citizen' from the Latin word 'civitas', which was the ancient Roman term for 'city'. To be a citizen is to belong to a body politic, and, whilst it is an ancient system of human interaction, it is one which has delivered the modern freedoms we enjoy today. To be a citizen is to swear undying allegiance to a nation. Citizens enjoy both the opportunities and the challenges confronting their nation, and Australia is no exception in this context. Citizenship of a nation is imbued with a set of rights. No Australian citizen is above another, and absolutely none are above the law.

A fortnight ago, I stood on the grassed roof of Parliament House with a group of children visiting from my electorate of Barker. I told the young students from Monash Primary School in the Riverland that this was a place built into the hill, not on top of it, to emphasise the equality that all Australian citizens enjoy by virtue of their citizenship. I told them that this sort of arrangement was not always the case, as we stood looking at the copy of the Magna Carta just down the hall from the chamber, and I told them of the progress of our British forebears from a feudal society to a vibrant, democratic nation-state which embraces its own modernity. I told them of how the Australian citizens who came before them worked hard to build this Commonwealth and that they too had a part to play in the story of our nation.

As Australian citizens we are given boundless opportunities. We are born into a lucky country and, whilst not all of us receive the dividends of that luck, we have designed a society which safeguards our disadvantaged. Australians enjoy one of the best education systems in the world. We have a comprehensive healthcare system which leaves no citizen behind. We have a social security system which delivers equality of opportunity and seeks to rectify structural disadvantage across our nation.

Our nation is so successful that we have the capacity to send our citizens abroad to teach, to mentor, to safeguard the weak and to combat those who would seek to dominate their fellow men. Our people are widely recognised for our optimism, our sense of humour, our fairness and our ambition. We are a nation that punches well above its weight. We are considered a middle power on the international stage and we respond frequently and rapidly to help our neighbours when they experience natural disasters. Ours is a strong and healthy nation.

The democratic system that we have was built on the firm foundation of citizenship. Citizenship is the cornerstone of our society. It is the manifestation of the social contract we have with our government. But in this modern world we are faced with a new wave of disengagement with civic life. A minority is taking their citizenship for granted. Australian citizenship is one that is coveted the world over. It was the desire for a new life, one of hope and opportunity, which spurred my parents to pursue citizenship of this beautiful nation. It is the same motivation which draws people from all over the world to Australia each and every year, regardless of culture, race or creed. Australian citizenship delivers hope.

Yet, as we have seen over the past few weeks, sadly, there are people in this world—and, indeed, some in this country—that hate our way of life. They hate our freedoms and they despise our liberties. These people are so filled with hate that they seek to dislocate our society through acts of terror. We have seen attacks in the centre of Paris, attacks which were aimed directly at the home of liberty.

These criminals and their medieval world view have no place in the 21st century. Using fear and hate, they try to destabilise our confident Australian ethos and seek to force us to capitulate to their strategic objectives. Try as they might, they cannot. They will not shake our resolute and unbreakable commitment to our values and to our way of life. This government remains strong in the face of such acts of terror and responds with a steady and measured hand.

This bill brings our citizenship laws into step with the reality of a 21st century world view. We have seen the new face of an ancient evil in the proliferation of so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. We have seen how their brutal, barbaric tactics, spread through modern and pervasive technologies, have lured people from across the globe to their feudal base in the Middle East. While the foreign fighter phenomenon is not new, a range of factors, including the number of individuals currently involved in conflict in places such as Iraq and Syria and the relatively high proportion from Western nations, are an increasingly concerning reality.

Of primary concern is the potential threat these individuals pose to domestic security upon their return—a very real threat, especially if they retain their citizenship and the freedom to re-enter Australia at will. The United Kingdom, Canada and France have all employed citizenship revocation as a legislative framework to mitigate this threat. We know that around 110 Australians are currently fighting for or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. We know that about 190 people in Australia are providing material support to individuals and groups in these countries and in these conflicts, through financial and recruitment practices, or seeking to travel to the conflict zone. There is a very real risk that these members of terrorist groups may decide to return to Australia. Indeed, as we are increasingly seeing, many are doing so. We cannot stand idly by as foreign fighters return to this country and enter our communities to spread their poisonous ideology.

We know that our industrious and professional security agencies are already actively monitoring some 400 priority cases domestically. This bill will further strengthen our security forces' capacity to deal with Australians who go overseas to partake in foreign conflicts. We must hold these people to account because citizenship is a two-way street. Australian citizenship guarantees extensive rights and liberties but, in return, it demands certain responsibilities. One of our responsibilities as citizens of Australia is an unquestioning allegiance to our nation, its interests and its values. Allegiance is a duty owed by all citizens to their sovereign state. A citizen's duty of allegiance to Australia is not created by the Citizenship Act but it is recognised by it.

This bill recognises the importance of that relationship and, as such, effectively delivers three mechanisms for automatic loss of citizenship. Of course, we are speaking here of the automatic loss of citizenship for those who hold dual citizenship. As for me, I would be happy to see individuals with sole Australian citizenship stripped of that standing if they were to take up arms and fight for a foreign nonpower such as Daesh or the Islamic State but, of course, our international conventions prevent us from doing that. Going back to those three mechanisms, the first is a new provision in which a person renounces their citizenship if they act inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia by engaging in certain terrorist conduct. Second, there is an extension to the current loss of citizenship provision for a person fighting in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia. The extension provides that a person ceases to be a citizen if they fight for, or are in the service of, a specified terrorist organisation overseas. Third, there is a new loss of citizenship provision if the person has been convicted of a specified terrorism offence by an Australian court.

This government makes no apologies for taking a firm stance when it comes to the integrity of the Australian citizenship system. The security of our nation is the priority of this government. The reality is there are people out in our society today who are actively aiding our enemies at home and abroad. It is not something we should fear but it is something we must address. In supporting terror and barbarities, such individuals directly attack our values and our way of life. Such individuals forfeit all rights to the maintenance of Australian citizenship and it is that right that we are prepared to take from them.

This bill is not a free pass for governments to render people stateless nor is it an opportunistic grab for power. This bill is a necessary response to the new realities that face our national security. Not only is the position we are taking in this bill reasonable but it is consistent with the position taken by some of our closest allies, including the United Kingdom, France, Canada and America. It is simple: if you, as a dual citizen, go abroad and fight against this nation and its interests, we will strip from you your Australian citizenship. As we speak, there are Australian Defence Force personnel in the Middle East risking their lives so that this evil that has taken root in Iraq and Syria does not spread to our shores. To be Australian is to adhere to our way of life and to subscribe to our values.

This bill deals with a threat caused by those who have engaged in terrorist related conduct that is contrary to their allegiance to Australia. It formally removes Australian citizenship from a dual citizen who takes up arms against Australia. It comes down to this: we live in the greatest country on earth. We live in a vibrant, multiracial society with a robust democratic system of government which maximises freedoms and delivers equality of opportunity. Those who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq on behalf of our enemies wholeheartedly believe that the way we live is fundamentally wrong. They believe in a monocultural society which is subjugated to the whim of a few religious leaders. They believe in stoning women to death for the offence of being raped. They believe in selling young girls into sexual slavery. They believe in crucifying nonbelievers and treating humans like property. They do not believe in religious freedom nor in freedom of speech. They have perpetrated mass murder and continue to groom our young to do their bidding for them. Not only do they continue to perpetrate these crimes against humanity but they pervert ideology to justify their action. They want to plunge us squarely back into the Dark Ages. These are truly evil men and women.

The message this government is sending is clear: if you are dual citizen and you take up arms with these barbaric war criminals, you are not Australian. You will not be an Australian citizen; we will take that privilege from you. Indeed, we will strip it from you. I am proud to support this bill. This bill is taking the protection of our nation to the next, higher level, and I commend it to the House.