Stripping citizenship is simplistic and dangerous

Abbott has been in several kinds of trouble over his latest idea about stripping terrorists of their citizenship.

Firstly according to the SMH there was a suspicion that The Telegraph had been briefed about the Cabinet proposal. Cabinet met at 7 pm on Monday night. A report about the government plans appeared next morning in the Tele. Cabinet members had not seen the 6-page proposal or document prior to meeting – the second cause of Abbott’s troubles. Cabinet ministers did not appreciate having such an important matter sprung on them.

Thirdly, six ministers, Kevin Andrews, Julie Bishop, George Brandis, Barnaby Joyce, Christopher Pyne and Malcolm Turnbull, spoke against the proposal in a reportedly “tense and sometimes heated” exchange.

The position was explained very clearly by Michelle Grattan, who said that sources had confirmed the Fairfax report:

    The government will soon introduce legislation to give the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, wide discretionary power to strip Australian citizenship from dual nationals involved in terrorist activities.

    The minister – whose decision would be subject to judicial review – could act even though the person had not been convicted of a crime. The measure would apply to many Australians fighting abroad who have dual nationality and to people locally who become involved in terrorist activity.

    About 40-50 of the about 100 Australians foreign fighters are dual citizens. (Emphasis added)

That much seems to have been agreed by Cabinet.

At issue is a further proposal about the revocation of citizenship of Australians where there are grounds to believe the person could subsequently become a national of another country. That proposal is now to be discussed with ethnic community groups. Philip Ruddock has now been appointed as Abbott’s special envoy for citizenship and community engagement. Ruddock and a parliamentary secretary, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, will lead “a national consultation to improve understanding of the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship”.

I’m with Ben Saul, Professor of International Law at The University of Sydney, who thinks the whole proposal is simplistic and dangerous. Saul raises many important points, but essentially if they are Australians, we own them and should be responsible for bringing them to justice under the law.

Moreover, the powers are discretionary, and inappropriate for a minister of the crown to exercise. What definitions of terrorism does the Minister use, and what evidence? Saul says:

    The UN recently found that Australia’s existing security assessment procedures do not comply with international human rights law.

Let’s hope Labor does not support this nonsense to avoid being wedged. Or something.

32 thoughts on “Stripping citizenship is simplistic and dangerous”

  1. Given the way immigration has been politicized in this country I think the immigration minister should not have much discretionary powers at all apart from overruling the department when it wants to deport someone or not accept a refugee.
    I also think that we should be working to stop young idealists from becoming terrorists. The government’s rantings would be inclined to convince a bright young idealist that Australia was hostile to their religion and culture – not a good start.

  2. The government really has to decide whether it wants to win the hearts and minds of young Muslims in Aus or play for the xenophobic voters of Aus. You cant do both and the second option is going to irritate our Islamic neighbours.

  3. I did hear that Germany and Finland, I think, accept rogue Muslim fighters back in order to gain intelligence from them, as well as bring them to justice.

  4. A lot hangs on the definition of “terrorism”.
    There’s more than a few Palestinians who would characterise as terrorists the Australians who have joined the IDF.
    And who could forget that arch-terrorist Nelson Mandela? Anybody joining his cause should have been stripped of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie citizenship? Really?

  5. The government’s rantings would be inclined to convince a bright young idealist that Australia was hostile to their religion and culture – not a good start.

    Bright, young idealists now?
    Well, Monis was 1 of those I suppose.
    Was he involved with terrorists? yes he was.
    A criminal ? Yep.
    Because his religion and culture hates Australia and everything that is not his religion and culture.
    He should have been sent packing, striped of everything and his citizenship, long long ago.

  6. Waleed Aly has a good column on this issue - – if you want to understand the dynamics of this – the state is sacred so those who challenge its sacrality must be excommunicated.

  7. Waleed Aly’s article is quite thoughtful. He sees terrorism as an offence against the collective in us. We feel better if we expunge the perpetrator from the group.

    He says “vengeance”. I think revenge is quite strong in our (meaning Australia’s as represented by the government and no doubt public opinion) motivation. It escapes our notice that revenge is actually unChristian.

    Aly also sees citizen stripping as a lost opportunity. Those who want to come back out of disillusionment with IS should be seen as a resource to help dissuade others.

  8. Wow, Waleed Aly the Mohammedan being an apologist for other Mohammedans, I’m shocked !!

    Mainly because he’s a sunni and if he ventured outside Australian territory ( liberal democracy ) to ISIL territory ( sharia ) he would be killed.….

  9. Jumpy: Monis came here as an adult. Not a bright young idealist. Being young and bright doesn’t protect you from being stupid and reacting against people who you think are hostile to your religion etc.

  10. Mainly because he’s a sunni and if he ventured outside Australian territory ( liberal democracy ) to ISIL territory ( sharia ) he would be killed.

    Australia as the only Sunni refuge? Who woulda thunk it.
    And I think you probably intended “Shia” when you wrote “Sharia”. (Just trying to be helpful)

  11. Addendum:
    Oh dear.
    Intrigued by Jumpy’s profound grasp of Islamic groupings I checked with Wikipedia (the pedants friend) and found that ISIL is in fact on the Sunni side of the divide.

  12. jumpy if you read Aly, he’s not partisan or an apologist at all, and certainly not an idiot.

  13. hehe, thanks zoot.
    Aly does share the same religious beliefs and ideological principals as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qa’ida, Al Shabaab, Jamaah Islamiyah and others of his ” side of the divide ” within the “religion of peace ”
    If I had stated that fact it may have been dismissed out of hand.
    Please forgive my little ruse.

    The Taqiyya is strong in Waleed.

  14. Please forgive my little ruse.

    You can stop rubbing your head Jumpy, we all saw you waving.

  15. Let’s stop wasting time on trivia. My wife rudely pointed out that one of my grandmothers migrated from the UK. This means that all Dutton has to do to take away my citizenship is to claim he suspects me of being a terrorist and point out that anyone with UK grandparents has a right to go back to the UK.
    But it gets worse. UK law says that Cameron can take away the citizenship of anyone who could get citizenship somewhere else. So the UK could send me back to Australia on the grounds that three of my grandparents, both my parents and I were born in Australia had/have Australian citizenship. Someone like me could spend the rest of their life on a plane shuttling between Aus and the UK just because someone like Dutton doesn’t like me.
    Stop laughing, this is serious. How many others of you have parents or grandparents who came from the UK?

  16. Stop laughing, this is serious. How many others of you have parents or grandparents who came from the UK?

    Adam Goodes ?

  17. Jumpy: Don’t know about Adam. However, its about the last ancestor from Britain. Not the ancestor who arrived long ago. Adam may be vulnerable so he needs to be careful what he says.
    Just having an Aboriginal or Convict ancestor doesn’t mean Dutton can’t get you.

  18. Can we deport Jumpy for his lack of general knowledge and poor maths? Would any country consider him an asset?

  19. Can we deport Jumpy for his lack of general knowledge and poor maths?

    I’m just riffing with the hyperbowl Karen, but hey, fugit, go ahead and try.

    Would any country consider him an asset?

    Being an asset doesn’t appear to be part of our or any western jurisdictions immigration criteria any more, so irrelevant just like your opinion of me.

    ( I think I’m warming to you Karen, such a pretty name too. )

  20. Oh, isn’t it ” poor math ” without the s.
    Or am I thinking that because my math teacher was a Yank chick ? And in a ” state skool ” 🙂

    Never mind, OT.

  21. The ABC reports that

    Two-thirds of the Federal Government’s backbench is putting more pressure on senior Cabinet ministers to abandon their opposition to possible new citizenship laws.

    We could have an interesting conflict between the Sydney Telegraph faction and those that have serious convictions about how the law should be practiced.
    My take is that we don’t need another form of punishment to deal with criminals. Adding removal of citizen ship simply isn’t necessary, particularly if the decisions are being made outside of our legal system.
    I just hope that the Labor party will show a bit of backbone on this issue.

  22. John

    My take is that we don’t need another form of punishment to deal with criminals. Adding removal of citizen ship simply isn’t necessary, particularly if the decisions are being made outside of our legal system.

    With you there.

    I just hope that the Labor party will show a bit of backbone on this issue.

    Why would they?
    They’re cut from the same Nanny state/Big brother cloth that craves more power over the citizens. Take the data retention and use laws. ( I agreed with the greens on this one )

    A boot on your neck, be it a left one or right, is just as oppressive.

  23. Cori Bernadi said:

    Senator Bernardi said no-one wanted to stop terrorism and extremism more than he did, but he described the proposal as a “step in the wrong direction”.

    “The principle that someone with only Australian citizenship can be stripped of that citizenship, without a court of law, by ministerial directive, for an offence, I think is a very dangerous precedent because who’s to say the range of offences won’t be expanded in the future,” he said.
    “This is the sort of power creep that I think is very dangerous from any Government.”

    Looks like LNP opposition to the citizenship proposal is not just coming from the left wing of the party.
    I think it is dangerous power creep applied to dual citizens as well.
    One of my sons became a dual citizen in his forties to help him get research grants in the US. His ancestry goes back to at least the second fleet with a great great grandmother being the last immigrant ancestor. His citizenship should not be threatened by any Australian government.

    Nice to see you and I agreeing Jumpy.

  24. Nice to see you and I agreeing Jumpy.

    You, Bernardi and I.
    Now there’s a mixed bag of nut !

  25. It is obvious that our ever-wise government hasn’t learnt a confounded thing from its blunders and lost golden opportunities in the David Hicks farce. Nor have the government’s opponents gained much wisdom since the Haneef case. It would be safer for all of us if both sides toddled off and played ultra-violent computer games in their bedrooms until mummy and daddy told them to turn out their lights and go to sleep.

    This isn’t a game of political point-scoring. This is the real world – and real people get killed if a government doesn’t get things right …. and maybe good people will get killed anyway even if the government does get everything right.

    A lot of discussion all over the place ignores how the head-hackers themselves see the threat to strip them of their Australian citizenship. Does that scare them? Or enrage them? Or amuse them? Or will it give them an other weapon with which to attack us? Or encourage them?

    For myself, I would love to see Australia review its ALL its international agreements, starting with those which cause us harm …. and then strip all thrill-killers with Australian citizenship of their citizenship (with, of course, two “escape clauses” which would allow certain slavers and murderers to redeem themselves over an extended time).

    So the sweet darlings end up stateless? Well, bad luck – it was their deliberate choice to commit murder and mayhem – and there are thousands of innocent stateless people who wish they could have had the luxury of a choice before becoming stateless.

    Just because it is the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, there is no sense in becoming so over-obsessed with lofty principles that it costs the basic survival of innocent members the citizenry. (And I’m sure that point-of-view will not be appreciated by some people).

    It is quite possible to uphold human rights AND to have effective measures to frustrate terrorists and other oppressors. We don’t need any more hairy-chested “get tough” measures but we do need well-considered practical measures that make terrorism both unattractive and unprofitable.

  26. A long time ago I read a criticism of US liberals that went something like:

    If the government introduced the cutting off of the hands of criminals the liberals would campaign to exclude some groups from this punishment instead of campaigning against cutting off of hands as a punishment altogether

    (OK, I cant remember what the example was but you get the drift.)
    We have fallen into the same trap here over the introduction of “taking away citizenship” as a new punishment. Somehow the government has got us arguing about which Australian citizens can lose their citizenship and how the decision will be made instead of whether taking away citizenship makes sense.
    Lets ask a few key questions about taking away citizenship for reasons other than obtaining citizenship fraudulently:
    -Is it more effective than other punishments? – I doubt it is seen as a real threat by the target group.
    -Is it fair? – No, the proposal only affects a limited number of Australians and is hardly fair to the countries we want to dump our failures on.
    -Does it help build a united Australia? No, it discriminates against newer Australians and can be seen as yet another snide attack on Muslims
    -Does it help reduce the terrorist threat? No. If anything it gives potential terrorists another reason for feeling their community and religion are being picked on.
    OK. It may actually help boost support for Abbott but this is not enough to justify its introduction.

  27. Agreed – to strip citizenship in the age of the nation-state is to create a category of non-persons. The felony is being compounded by the proposal that this should be at the discretion of the Minister. After several centuries of struggle to place checks on arbitrary executive power we are losing ground rapidly.

  28. As John Davidson said here, Amanda Vanstone has ripped into the Abbott Government:

    “Cutting down our democratic protections to get at the enemy is profoundly dumb,” ……”

    We end up doing the enemy’s work for them, and from within.”

    John says:

    Shorten should be rejecting the proposal on a number of grounds including Amanda’s argument.

    He should also be attacking the proposal on unfairness grounds. What could be more [unfair] than a new form of punishment that can only be applied to some Australians but not others?

    It is not enough to waste time arguing about who can and can’t be punished using this law.

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