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Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Page: 11762

Mr PORTER (PearceAttorney-General) (09:44): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Strengthening the Citizenship Loss Provisions) Bill 2018 implements the government's commitment to strengthen our ability to cancel the Australian citizenship of dual nationals who have, through their own actions, demonstrated repudiation of their allegiance to Australia.

The purpose of this bill is twofold: to keep Australians safe from evolving terrorist threats, and to uphold the integrity of Australian citizenship and the privileges that attach to it.

Australian citizenship is a privilege—one that carries expectations of those who hold it. One such expectation is that Australian citizens uphold Australian values and beliefs. Engaging in behaviour with the intent of harming members of our community—both within Australia and offshore—is in clear opposition to those values. Individuals that are convicted of terrorism offences have demonstrated a complete rejection of their allegiance to Australia.

The threat of terrorism is, sadly, very real. Since the threat level was raised to 'probable' in 2014, our police and security agencies have successfully disrupted 15 terrorist attacks. Sadly, we have also witnessed seven attacks on Australian soil, resulting in injury and death.

These events are a poignant and significant reminder that we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent. We face a constantly evolving security environment.

Our police and security agencies are world-class, and it is the role of government to ensure legislation provides necessary deterrence to support our agencies in the face of evolving threats. This government has introduced, and the parliament has passed, 12 tranches of national security legislation since the threat level was raised in 2014 and this bill will strengthen a further important tool in our armoury.

The ability to cease the Australian citizenship of those who seek to do us harm forms an integral part of our ongoing response to international violent extremism and terrorism. It is a key part of our strategy to keep Australians safe. This bill will strengthen our ability to do precisely that. It amends the citizenship loss provisions to reflect the genuine threat posed to Australia by those who commit terrorism offences.

The bill will amend subsection 35A(1) of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to allow the minister to determine that a person ceases to be an Australian citizen if they are convicted of certain terrorism offences, regardless of the sentence imposed. The bill will remove the requirement for a person to be sentenced to at least six years imprisonment for a relevant terrorism offence to be eligible to lose their Australian citizenship. A conviction for a terrorism offence is all that will be required. This will apply to all persons convicted of a relevant terrorism offence after 12 December 2005.

A relevant terrorism offence will now include the Criminal Code offence of associating with a terrorist organisation, an offence punishable by three years imprisonment. This recognises that knowingly associating with a terrorist organisation, on multiple occasions, for the purposes of supporting the terrorist organisation to expand or continue to exist, is itself a serious offence. A person who is convicted of such an offence has demonstrated their repudiation of Australian values through their association with, and support of, a terrorist organisation proscribed under Australian law.

The bill also amends subsection 35A(1) of the Citizenship Act to adjust the threshold for determining dual citizenship, to remove the effective requirement that the convicted person is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia at the time when the minister makes the determination that a person ceases to be an Australian citizen, and replace it with a requirement that the minister is satisfied the person will not become stateless. Currently, the Citizenship Act requires that a person is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia. The bill provides the minister need only be satisfied that the person will not become stateless if their Australian citizenship ceases. It is well established under case law that where statute provides a minister must be 'satisfied' of a matter, it is to be understood as requiring the attainment of that satisfaction reasonably.

For consistency with existing provisions for cessation of citizenship for serious offences in the Citizenship Act, subsection 35A(1) thus requires the minister to be 'satisfied' the person will not become stateless, subject to the implication that this satisfaction is to be reasonably attained.

I note that there are a number of other matters that the minister must be satisfied of before determining a person ceases to be an Australian citizen. These will remain unchanged.

The minister must still be satisfied that the conduct of the person to which the conviction or convictions relate demonstrates that the person has repudiated their allegiance to Australia. The minister must also be satisfied, following consideration of a range of factors, that it is not in the public interest for the person to remain an Australian citizen. Conviction-based cessation of citizenship remains a discretionary power of the minister, based on the public interest.

The bill is consistent with Australia's obligations under international law, including our obligations not to render a person stateless. Cessation of Australian citizenship will continue to apply only where a person will not become stateless.

In conclusion, this bill is designed to protect the integrity of Australian citizenship, and ensure that we have the necessary powers to keep Australians safe. Where an individual engages in conduct that results in a conviction for a terrorism offence, they have indicated, loud and clear, that they have repudiated their allegiance to Australia. And, in light of the evolving terrorist threat, it is entirely appropriate that we strengthen the ability of the minister to strip dual nationals of the privilege that is Australian citizenship.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.