Federal Parliament - Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2019

September 02, 2020

Dr ALYBefore I get into the detail of this bill, the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2019, I'd like to take a little bit of time to speak to the substantive issue of this bill, which is the issue of citizenship. Like all the members of this House, I attend citizenship ceremonies and am often asked to preside over citizenship ceremonies welcoming new Australians to our Australian family. Some of them, of course, have been here years—I think I met somebody who had been here 55 years and had decided to finally take up citizenship—and others a lot less than that. But there is one part of the citizenship ceremony that never ceases to move me. It is an extraordinary part of that ceremony, and that is the pledge of allegiance, because, in Australia, we don't just pledge allegiance to the country. Our pledge is not just to Australia but to Australia and her people. That is an extraordinary thing—that, when somebody takes up citizenship, they are pledging their allegiance not just to this imagined idea of a nation and borders but to the human condition of shared responsibilities, shared values and common goals of the Australian people.

So the conferral and the revocation of citizenship should not be taken lightly. Citizenship is not just the conferral of a formal status, a piece of paper, but a pledge that recognises an act that carries with it rights and responsibilities—above all, the responsibility to fellow Australians, to their wellbeing and, indeed, to their safety and their security. When new Australians take that pledge, they are, as we all are, conferring upon themselves an act of taking responsibility for the safety and security of their fellow Australians.

That said, there can be no greater responsibility of government than to ensure and protect that safety and security, and that is why Labor is not opposing this particular citizenship cessation bill. This bill has been through the PJCIS, and Labor members of that committee welcomed the proposal in this bill to replace the existing operation of the law in citizenship loss provisions, known as sections 33AA and 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, with a new part which requires a ministerial decision-making model of citizenship cessation.

This is the primary reason why we are supporting this bill—because that part of the act that was first introduced in 2015 around the cessation of citizenship was, indeed, a flawed model, as has been pointed out by security agencies and experts along the way. Under those sections, sections 33AA and 35, any dual-national citizen—and I stress that it's dual-national citizens—would lose their Australian citizenship automatically if they engaged in terrorism related conduct that repudiates their allegiance to Australia and, I would add here, to her people, coming back to my opening remarks about the pledge of allegiance to Australia and her people. The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, in his review of the operation, effectiveness and implications of terrorism-related citizenship loss provisions contained in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, made very clear that those provisions operate in an uncontrolled and uncertain manner. The implications in the counterterrorism space, particularly of having provisions that are not subject to rigorous and robust monitoring and are able to operate in such an uncontrolled manner, really undermine the effectiveness of our counterterrorism efforts. So it is very reasonable, but also extremely important, that these sections of the current act be repudiated and replaced with a new model of ministerial decision-making. In accordance with the monitor's recommendations, both of those sections were replaced, and we stress that those must be repealed urgently, which is why we lend our support to this bill.

The bill, however, is not without its faults, and these faults have been made clear today by the member for Isaacs, the shadow Attorney-General. They've also been made clear by Labor members of the PJCIS who issued additional comments on the bill. I stress again, as did the member for Isaacs, that we would not oppose the bill in its entirety because of the urgency of repealing sections 33AA and 35 and replacing them with the ministerial decision-making model.

Some of the other key recommendations in the monitor's report really have not been adopted by the government, including the proposal in relation to the availability of merits review. Labor is concerned that some of the other features of the bill have not been addressed adequately, which is why Labor members of the PJCIS issued some additional comments.

There's a history to this bill. This report marks the fourth time that the committee has issued a report in relation to the terrorism-related citizenship loss provisions of the Australian Citizenship Act of 2007. The first time that citizenship loss was considered was in 2015, at which point the committee issued a very detailed 218-page report with 27 recommendations, following the review of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015, which first introduced section 33AA, section 35 and section 35A into the Australian Citizenship Act. Collectively, those sections would allow for the repudiation of citizenship.

The committee's 2015 report was fairly extensive, as I mentioned—218 pages and 27 recommendations. It considered a whole range of issues and concerns raised by submitters, including things like the meaning and value of Australian citizenship and the effectiveness of citizenship cessation in combating terrorism. That's something that I've spoken about before in this House, in relation to a number of other terrorism related provisions that have been introduced in this House since my time as the Member for Cowan. It also considered Australia's international obligations—again, I think this is something that warrants further consideration—and whether the citizenship loss provisions were constitutional.

Despite also being raised by submitters in each of the committee's three subsequent inquiries, Labor members are disappointed that the committee's three subsequent reports, including this report, have failed to engage adequately with those same issues and concerns. I would reiterate that, to my mind, from the years that I spent studying and researching this issue, these are extremely important issues that we need to be considering in any counterterrorism response. The value of Australian citizenship, the effectiveness of citizenship cessation in combatting terrorism—in fact, the effectiveness of any legislation that's introduced in this House in combatting terrorism—our international obligations and maintaining a proportionate response, are extremely important, particularly in light of the fact that, sadly, we have not seen an end to terrorism and ISIS and the likelihood of other so-called theatres of jihad emerging in different parts of the world.

The rationale for terrorism-related citizenship loss provisions is looked at in two ways: a national security rationale and a symbolic rationale. These two rationales should not be seen in opposition to each other. Indeed, they shouldn't be seen as autonomous or discrete factors when we consider counterterrorism legislation and our response to counterterrorism. As ASIO pointed out in its submission to the inquiry on Australian citizenship loss:

In a globally interconnected world, the location of an individual offshore as a result of citizenship cessation will not eliminate any direct threat they pose to Australian or other interests overseas …

It will not prevent their reach back into Australia to inspire, encourage or direct onshore activities that are prejudicial to security—including onshore attacks.

That quote really does, to me, encapsulate the modern nature of terrorism, where it's not just about physical or hard security but also about the securitisation of values. That is why I say that the national security rationale and the symbolic rationale should not be considered as two very different rationales that we need to pursue, and we need to look at an integrated framework and an integrated response that protects physical things as well as the things that we value around Australian citizenship, including that pledge of allegiance to Australia and her people.

In closing, I point the House to the comments made by the shadow Attorney-General, the member for Isaacs, around the issues that the Labor members of the PJCIS raised and their concerns with this bill. But I also reiterate the importance and the urgency of passing this bill today, to ensure that the sections in the existing citizenship loss provisions that are ineffective and potentially counterproductive are removed and replaced by a ministerial decision-making model of citizenship cessation. I commend the Labor members of the PJCIS for their comments on this and indeed all members of the PJCIS for the work that they've done on this and the bipartisan nature with which national security in this country proceeds.