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Foreign Minister discusses his reluctance to change the dual citizenship laws.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

 

Thursday 10 November 2005

Foreign Minister discusses his reluctance to change the dual citizenship laws

 

TONY EASTLEY: Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has played down the issue of removing citizenship from convicted terrorists in Australia, saying the legal issues involved make it difficult to achieve. Mr Downer says if people are left 'stateless' they would not be able to be deported. 

 

Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath began by asking Alexander Downer to outline his stance on the issue of removing citizenship from terrorists. 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, look, it's a difficult issue, because on the one hand, naturally enough people's instinct would be to take someone's citizenship away, if you like, they've betrayed our country by taking up arms against it, us having generously given them citizenship. 

 

On the other hand there are all sorts of international legal issues that would have to be thought through. If you strip someone of citizenship, you of course might leave them stateless.  

 

You might not… they might be dual citizens, and then in theory they could be returned to the country which they have dual citizenship with, if that country would accept them. 

 

So it wouldn't necessarily be a simple matter of just getting rid of people that way. 

 

CATHERINE MCGRATH: What's your position, though? I mean, do you think it's worth pursuing? 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, it's something that the Government has been looking at, as you know. And we've made no final decisions yet. 

 

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Could you end up with people though, roaming the world who have then a greater desire to inflict pain upon Australia? 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I doubt that that would be the case. I mean, you wouldn't be able to remove them from Australia if they became stateless. You wouldn't be able to do that, because with nowhere to send them to you could only remove them to another country if that other country would be prepared to accept them. And you see, in practical terms, that's rather a big 'if'. 

 

So the other thing is, of course, if they've been convicted, well they would be serving, presumably, a custodial sentence here in Australia, and it might be quite a substantial one. 

 

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Mr Downer, to return to our earlier story, the news from Indonesia this morning that wanted terrorist Azahari has apparently been cornered by Indonesian police, and blown himself up, what's the Australian Government reaction to that? 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, it's very important, not that one would wish anybody dead, that it's very important to get Azahari right out of the scene. I mean, this is somebody who has been behind… we believe to have been behind, the two Bali bombings, the Marriott bombing, and the attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. 

 

Azahari and his partner, Noordin Top, are the two most wanted terrorists in South East Asia.  

 

Now let me issue a word of caution and that is that it's very early days, and there have been false reports before, so the Indonesian police are far from confirmed that this was Azahari, but anyway, it would be very good news if he had been taken out of the scene. 

 

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Noordin Top, you just mentioned there, is still on the run. Is there any sign that police are moving in on him as well? 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, they're still looking for him, and to the best of my knowledge, they still don't know where he is. You know, there have been actually on quite a number of occasions sightings of both of them, and there have been attempts to seize them on previous occasions, but so far without success. 

 

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Given that the networks are spreading so much, obviously Azahari would have passed on some of that bomb-making expertise to other people. But having him removed, what does that actually mean? I mean, will that mean the brains of the outfit has been dealt with? 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Yes, well one of the brains of the outfit. As we were just discussing, Noordin Top is another, but certainly Noordin Top and Azahari are the two keys, have been the two keys, to these bombings by what we broadly define as Jemaah Islamiah, in Indonesia. So to take either or both of them out is a very important step forward. 

 

But you're also right, I mean, they have been passing on their bomb-making, or in fact in Azahari's case, passing on his bomb-making skills.  

 

But there are some who believe Azahari was directly involved in these bombing attacks in the sense that he has been there on the scene helping to put together the bombs. Now, that may not have been the case in the first Bali bombing, but it may very well be the case in the others. 

 

So either way, look it's very good news if he's been taken out of the scene, as I put it. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Foreign Minister Alexander Downer speaking there with our Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath.