Australia

New laws will strip Australian extremists of citizenship

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Extremists will be stripped of their Australian citizenship and potentially deported under proposed new laws outlined by the government today.

Australians convicted of terrorism offences could be stripped of their citizenship and deported as long as the Home Affairs minister is “reasonably satisfied” they are citizens of another nation, under changes announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday.

The prime minister said he wanted the sweeping reforms passed by Christmas, in the final parliamentary sitting weeks of 2018, meaning opposition and crossbench MPs will only get two weeks to consider the laws.

The reforms would significantly lower the bar for deportation. Currently, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton can only strip citizenship from those with a prison sentence of more than six years for a terror offence.

Scott Morrison outlined the tough new laws on Thursday.
Scott Morrison outlined the tough new laws on Thursday.
SBS News

Under the changes, any conviction would be enough. And the minister would only need to be “reasonably satisfied” they were citizens of another country.

Revocation of citizenship has been reserved for dual-citizens to make sure Australia does not render a person stateless.

“The current wording of the law, we believe is unrealistic,” Mr Morrison said.

“Terrorists have violated everything about being what an Australian is all about. It's a crime against our country, not just other citizens,” he said.

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Dutton addresses media
Dutton addresses media

“This is something that can't be tolerated, and for those who would engage in this sort of activity, and they have citizenship elsewhere, and we have reason to believe they do, they can go. That is the message.”

The government will also push for changes to how it deals with citizens who try to return to Australia after fighting with a terrorist organisation overseas.

Currently, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton can only strip citizenship from those with a prison sentence of more than six years for a terror offence.
Currently, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton can only strip citizenship from those with a prison sentence of more than six years for a terror offence.
AAP

It will seek a new regime of ‘temporary exclusion orders’, where it will be a crime for them to return unless the government explicitly orders it.

Once in Australia, the exclusion orders will allow the government to “impose controls” like an obligation to report regularly to police, obey curfews and not use certain technology.

Earlier, Mr Dutton said there were plans to deport deport terrorists who are entitled to citizenship in another country.

"You can take citizenship away from somebody as long as you don't render them stateless," Mr Dutton told 2GB radio on Thursday.

"We've cancelled visas at a record rate so that we can kick criminals out of the country, and we should be cancelling citizenship of terrorists and people that would seek to do us harm, because we don't want them here."

The hardline plan could face Constitutional risks, as it is illegal to render somebody stateless. Some countries do not recognise dual nationalities, while others would automatically recognise citizenship when a person has been stripped of their Australian ties.

The two major parties have a tradition of bipartisanship on national security matters, and Labor said it would consider the details of the plan through the cross-party Intelligence committee. 

"Labor supported the changes to the Citizenship Act in 2015 which delivered existing powers to strip those convicted of certain terror offences of their Australian citizenship," shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said. 

"Labor always puts the safety of Australians first and approaches national security in a bipartisan manner. There is nothing more important than keeping Australians safe, and we will always listen to the advice of our security agencies on what they require to keep Australians safe."

"We will examine this legislation on its merits through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security process, once it is presented."

Three men accused of plotting a terrorist act in Melbourne have faced court after being arrested during raids.
Police say three men accused of plotting a terrorist act in Melbourne had their passports cancelled earlier this year.
AAP

News Corp earlier reported the majority of the 400 terrorists being monitored by ASIO are either dual citizens or could be dual citizens, based on the birthplaces of their parents or grandparents.

And yet, only six dual-national terrorists have been stripped of their Australian citizenship.

Liberal MP Jason Wood, who chairs a parliamentary committee on migration, is fed up.

"If you've put your hand up to say you uphold the rights and responsibility of Australian citizenship, but the next minute you want to talk jihad all day, it's a breach of contract and you need to go," he told the Daily Telegraph.

Liberal MP Michael Sukkar also believes it needs to be easier to revoke the citizenship of people "who represent a threat to our values".

"A good place to start would be to expand the scope of deportation to include terrorist sympathisers," Mr Sukkar said.

"This should include those on a security agency watch list, as well as people who repeatedly associate with known terrorists."

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