Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:15): My question is to the Attorney-General. Like many others, the Attorney-General has celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta this week, praising it for limiting the arbitrary power of the Crown. Does it then pain the Attorney-General to have to simultaneously promote new citizenship laws which will drastically increase the arbitrary powers of the executive, or is the minister oblivious to what appears to be staggering hypocrisy?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland-Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:16): I am very proud to serve in a government which adheres to the principles of Magna Carta and adheres to the principles of the rule of law fiercely. Those principles, I might remind you, include the freedom of the individual. They include principles like low taxation. They include principles like constitutional governance and of course they include the principles of the rule of law. There is no inconsistency whatsoever between the fierce and tenacious defence of those principles and strong laws to keep our people safe from those who would do us harm particularly in this new era of global terrorism.
You are right when you say that the government will be introducing amendments to the Citizenship Act shortly. Those amendments, we expect, will be introduced next week and they will, as the Prime Minister has announced, provide for the loss of citizenship by dual Australian citizens who are involved in terrorist crime. And I can tell you that overwhelmingly that is what the Australian people want us to do, it is what the Australian people expect us to do and, although the opposition have been somewhat equivocal on the question, we understand that that is what the opposition wants us to do as well. There is no inconsistency whatsoever between adhering to the principles of Magna Carta and keeping our people safe. Indeed, it was to keep the people of that realm safe that Magna Carta was enacted some 800 years ago.
Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:18): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Bret Walker SC has said the government's intention to put the sole power to decide citizenship in the hands of minister Peter Dutton is 'constitutionally unthinkable' and a misreading of his advice. Given that it is a minister's job to be popular but a judge's job to be right, how can the Australian people trust any government which wants to bypass the courts?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland-Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:18): Let me read you what Mr Bret Walker said in his report on 28 March 2014 on page 75. Let me read it to you in full, and you work it out for yourself:
Taking into account Australia's international obligations, and the national security and counter-terrorism risks posed by Australians engaging in acts prejudicial to Australia's security, the INSLM-
that is, Mr Walker at the time supports the introduction of a power for the Minister for Immigration to revoke the citizenship of Australians, where to do so would not render them stateless, where the Minister is satisfied that the person has engaged in acts prejudicial to Australia's security and it is not in Australia's interests for the person to remain in Australia.
That is word for word what Mr Walker said in March last year, and we are following that advice to the letter.
Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:19): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. A leaked question time brief yesterday exposed these laws to be all part of one great big game of chicken for the Abbott government. Attorney-General, is national security another 'by hook or by crook, whatever it takes' area for this government? Indeed, are there any human rights or freedoms this government will not trade away for political advantage?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland-Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:19): National security is not a game of chicken. National security is about keeping our people safe. Do you know that in 2013 there were more people around the world killed in terrorist crimes than in any year since statistics were first collected in 1948? You obviously know that last December Australians tragically suffered the deaths of two of our citizens in the Martin Place siege. The Australian people not only expect governments but, frankly, expect parliaments-including you-to enact laws that will deal with a threat the severity of which you and your political colleagues continue to deny but which this government has shown the mettle and the strength to thwart.