New citizenship laws are unlear and uncertain
Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:39): My question is to the Attorney-General, regarding the dramatically named Allegiance to Australian citizenship laws. Legal experts today have said that the laws are so broadly drafted that people may lose their citizenship for actions that do not in any way suggest they are disloyal to Australia. Was it the intention of the Abbott government that the laws would allow a person guilty of a minor property crime, with no connection to terrorism, to be exiled from Australia, or is this merely a result of poor drafting by your government?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:39): Senator Wright, I do not find anything odd about entitling a bill 'allegiance to Australia', and I am surprised that you do. The purpose of the law is to deal with terrorism. That is what this government is committed to doing. We are committed to doing everything we need to do to keep Australians safe.
I am aware of the commentary to which you refer. Might I point out, Senator Wright, that the relevant provision of the Criminal Code which is referenced in the bill also applies to the destruction of Commonwealth buildings. Of course we are not interested in minor or trivial crime. But you should be aware, Senator Wright, because the Prime Minister has said so many times, that this very building, Commonwealth property, has been the subject of threats from terrorism. One of the most important terrorism raids that resulted in several arrests some years ago was a plot directed to the Holsworthy Army Barracks, other Commonwealth premises. So of course the legislation is going to deal with the protection of the targets of terrorism, which include Commonwealth places.
The legislation, which has received the approval, by the way, of the Solicitor-General, whose opinion I have with me, has been already referred by me to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. On each occasion when the government has introduced national security legislation, we have referred it to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for review. The reason we have done so is that we believe that the parliament, not just the government, has a role in looking at this legislation carefully, and if review of some particular clauses and their breadth is required, no doubt the committee will so observe. (Time expired)
Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:41): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Abbott government's original plan gave the immigration minister sole power to revoke citizenship of dual nationals. Instead, the current bill makes loss of citizenship essentially a bureaucratic decision and gives the immigration minister the sole power to overturn that decision in a process in which the rules of natural justice do not apply. Is the Attorney-General able to deliver a tortuous explanation of how these two plans differ?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:42): Well, Senator Wright, the government has introduced into the parliament only one bill to deal with this matter, and that is the bill that was introduced into the House of Representatives yesterday by my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and that has been referred by me to the PJCIS.
Senator Wright, you are quite wrong, if I may say so, in your suggestion that, under the terms of the bill, citizenship is lost by a bureaucratic process. In fact, the whole point of the bill is the notion that citizenship may be renounced by conduct, by the very act of the person themself, or revoked by conviction by a court of a prescribed serious terrorism related crime. Neither renunciation by conduct nor revocation by a court of law could appropriately be described as a bureaucratic process.
Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:43): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The Attorney-General, much to the chagrin of his colleagues, is famous for his defence of free speech and the right to be a bigot. However, the Allegiance to Australia bill allows a person to be deprived of citizenship merely because of their speech. Can the Attorney justify this extraordinary penalty?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:43): Well, Senator Wright, I am sure the provision you have in mind is the provision that makes it a crime in this country to advocate terrorism. That is the provision you must have in mind, and if you think advocating terrorism has anything to do with freedom of speech, I do not share that view.