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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 10275

National Security

Senator DUNIAM (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:34): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Senator Cash. I ask, as someone who cares and is concerned for the safety and security of Australian citizens, as I'm sure all members of this place would be for our friends, our family and our communities that we represent: why is it important to have strong laws in place that make it easier for those guilty of terrorism offences to lose their Australian citizenship?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:35): I thank Senator Duniam for what is a very important question. The Liberal-National government's top priority is to keep Australia safe. As part of ensuring our national security, it is essential that we are tough on those terrorists who wish to do our nation and our people harm. Senators would know that the government has introduced legislation to strengthen citizenship loss provisions for dual nationals who have demonstrated repudiation of their allegiance to Australia. This helps to achieve two aims: to keep Australians safe from evolving terrorist threats and to protect the integrity of Australian citizenship and, of course, the privileges that attach to it.

The government's changes remove the requirement for a person to be sentenced to at least six years imprisonment if they've committed a relevant terrorism offence to be eligible to lose their Australian citizenship. Senator Duniam, what we are saying is that a conviction for a terrorism offence is all that will be required, and the laws will apply to any terrorist convicted after 12 December 2005. Our legislation also provides that the minister must be satisfied that the person will not become stateless if their Australian citizenship ceases.

Make no mistake, there are people who have betrayed their allegiance to Australia. These are people who have committed barbaric acts—for example, fighting for ISIS. These are people who have plotted to inflict untold harm on innocent Australian children and families in our cities and in our suburbs. I would hope that all senators would work together to support the important changes that the Australian government has put forward.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Duniam, a supplementary question.

Senator DUNIAM (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:37): I thank the minister for that answer and particularly for highlighting how important it is that we all work together for these important measures, so I ask: is the minister aware of any risks to the government implementing these important measures?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:37): Given the information provided in my answer to the first question, one would believe that this should be a bipartisan issue, but unfortunately the Australian Labor Party, under Mr Bill Shorten, are once again being dragged to the left when it comes to Australia's national security. We have seen the Labor opposition just yesterday betraying our national interest by voting for legislation that our intelligence agencies have said could start the people smugglers' business yet again, and now we have the shadow Attorney-General bizarrely putting forward arguments supporting the legal rights of known terrorists to maintain their Australian citizenship and to be allowed back into the community. We make no excuses for our stance on border protection or our stance on national security. We will protect Australia and Australians.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Duniam, a final supplementary question.

Senator DUNIAM (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:38): Is the minister aware of any further risks to our nation's border security that would threaten a return to Labor's disastrous border budget blowouts?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:38): Yes, unfortunately, I am. Again, national security should be a bipartisan issue, but yesterday we saw the Australian Labor Party and Mr Bill Shorten being willing to listen to the Australian Greens over the advice of our national security agencies. It is important to note that 12 people have lost their Australian citizenship due to terrorist conduct, and we are acting on advice to make amendments to further strengthen these provisions. All of us in this chamber should be supporting those amendments. Again, as we said yesterday, and as we re-state today, the Liberal-National government see national security and the protection of our borders as a fundamental responsibility. We will ensure that we keep Australia and Australians safe.