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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9929

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (21:05): Might I remind you that the only decision the minister makes is to issue a notice. For the reasons I explained at some length last night, the issuance of the notice is not the event upon the happening of which citizenship is lost. The event upon the happening of which citizenship is lost is the engagement by the person in certain defined conduct, which is deemed by the act to be inconsistent with their allegiance to Australia and therefore inconsistent with continuing to be an Australian citizen, subject to the overriding qualification and limitation that, because of the statelessness convention, it can only apply to dual citizens.

So let us get that straight: it is not the minister who takes the citizenship away under section 33AA or section 35; it is the person themselves who renounces their citizenship, and that does not require a judicial process. But, if the minister gets it wrong and makes a mistake in deciding to issue the notice, then the appropriate way to review a ministerial decision of that character is by judicial review through the process of administrative law. That is why the jurisdiction or the High Court under section 75 of the Constitution and of the Federal Court under section 39B of the Judiciary Act is explicitly invoked.

You quoted some figures, Senator. Let me correct you—not to be schoolmasterly, as it were, but simply because I think it is important to get the right figures on the record. There are around 110 Australians currently fighting or engaged with terrorist groups in Syria and Northern Iraq—I think you said 130. There are around 110 at the moment. At least 41, and possibly as many as 45, have been killed, some by suicide, including suicide attacks on others. Otherwise most are suicide by engagement in military conflict. Approximately 30 Australians have returned from the conflict of whom we know. The numbers are a little different from what you have said. If you aggregate as many as 45 that have been killed, the 110 who are there at the moment and the 30 who we know have returned, that is about 185 people. Of course, those are only those of whom we know. There will no doubt be others of whom we have no knowledge and, therefore, they cannot be in these figures, but those are the most accurate figures that the agencies have been able to assemble. I think the figures were last assembled on Wednesday of last week.