Terror suspects to lose citizenship: PM


Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed people who fight with terrorist groups or are convicted of terrorism offences will be stripped of citizenship.

Australia will block the return of dual citizens suspected of terrorism based on security advice and deport court-convicted terrorists under new national security laws.

The government is also looking at going further and making the laws retrospective, meaning now-jailed terrorists could be deported upon their release.

Coalition MPs on Tuesday gave the green light to the changes to the Citizenship Act, which will be introduced to parliament on Wednesday by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the range of offences that would attract the new penalty would be set out in the bill.

"If someone is convicted of one or more of those offences, well, then their citizenship ... will be forfeited," he told reporters in Canberra.

The children of those who lose their citizenship will also lose theirs to ensure it is enforced with "full rigour".

The Citizenship Act already allows the automatic stripping of citizenship from someone who fights for foreign armies against Australia, but it will be expanded to include banned terrorist groups.

"As Australians, we will never, ever, sacrifice our freedoms, but we will defend them - that's what this legislation is all about," Mr Abbott said.

The joint houses committee on intelligence and security will consider whether the laws should be made retrospective.

Coalition MPs discussed some of the legal grey areas in the bill during a party room meeting on Tuesday.

"No one was against the tenet of the legislation," a coalition MP told AAP.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the opposition supported the principle of having the "best legal tools" to back up the work of intelligence agencies.

"It is also important that we support our communities and minorities in our community with deradicalisation," he told reporters.

Mr Shorten said he would not be shedding a tear over the reported deaths of two Australian terrorists, Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar in the Iraqi city of Mosul in the past week.

Mr Abbott said he could not confirm the deaths but he labelled the two men "evil terrorists".

Terror Expert Greg Barton told SBS the men had been a "double-edged instrument for IS."

"On one hand they've been very active on social media but they've been so reckless and out of control, and so juvenile, that even for a group as brutal as IS, these guys were a liability. They were tarnishing their image, at least in terms of their claim to be brave fighters." 

"What is remarkable is that they weren't know to be frontline warriors. These were not guys bravely charging into battle and there were reports they were killed in a drone strike in Mosul, a place where's you'd think Islamic State fighters would be safest because there's no conflict."

'The courts must have a central role'

The Greens have concerns about the onus of proof being reversed and the involvement of a minister rather than the courts, but will release a final position once the legislation is studied.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman told AAP the prime minister had shown "distain" for the role of the courts.

"The courts must have a central role - that is, Australian citizenship can only be stripped from someone once there has been a criminal terrorism charge heard and determined by a court," he said.

It was possible someone who supported a charity said to be related to a terrorist organisation could be deported.

Mr O'Gorman said it was "inconceivable" another country such as the UK, New Zealand or Lebanon would accept back a person who had been stripped of their citizenship for terrorism concerns.

The potential deportation of children was "punitive and extreme", he added.

That's a concern shared by Associate Professor Anne Aly from Curtin University in Perth who has conducted extensive research on counter-terrorism in Australia.

"The fundamental question here is how is radicalisation decided, who is deciding it, who is making that assessment?" Dr Aly said.

"Based on which model? Based on what level of knowledge? There is still so much that we don't know about radicalisation. There is so much that is out there that is myth, conjecture and assumption and I would hate to think that there are people without the right kind of qualifications, without the right kind of expertise and without the in depth knowledge making assumptions and making decisions about who is radicalised and who isn't".

Dr Aly said the government should instead be focusing its efforts on supporting community-based de-radicalisation and counter-terrorism programs.

She said the tougher laws covering dual nationals could end up being counter-productive.

"If anything, it plays right into the hands of Islamic State who want people to come over and become citizens of the Islamic State and swear allegiance to the Islamic State", Dr Aly said.

"So it's actually very convenient for them that their citizenship of another country is stripped," she added.


Source AAP, SBS

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