Parliamentary Committee Recommends Passing Dual Citizenship Stripping Bill With Amendments

Thursday 10 September 2015 @ 12.39 p.m. | Legal Research | Immigration

Last week the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security recommended the passage of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 (Cth), while adding a number of recommendations that would narrow the application of the Bill’s provisions and improving oversight of its operation.

The controversial bill allows for the revocation of the citizenship of dual nationals involved in terrorism offences.  For more information about the content of the bill, see TimeBase’s earlier article on the key changes proposed by the legislation.

The Committee made 26 suggestions for amendments in their full report.  They noted in their concluding comments both the bipartisan support for the Bill, as well as acknowledging the community concerns raised throughout the three days of public hearings and in the 43 submissions and 7 supplementary submissions received by the Committee.

Key Recommendations

A media release sent out by the Committee summarises the key changes as follows:

  • Limiting the conduct-based provisions for loss of citizenship (proposed sections 33AA and 35) to conduct occurring outside Australia, or to conduct in Australia where the person involved has fled overseas before being charged and brought to trial;
  • For the conduct-based provisions, requiring the Minister to take into account issues including public interest factors, international obligations, whether a prosecution is underway and whether the individual would be able to access citizenship rights in their other country;
  • For the conviction-based provisions (proposed section 35A), requiring the Minister to make a positive decision that a person’s citizenship should be lost, taking into account allegiance and public interest factors;
  • Removing from the conviction-based provisions the offence for ‘Destroying or damaging Commonwealth property’ and a number of other offences that carry a maximum penalty of less than 10 years’ imprisonment or have never been used;
  • Limiting the conviction-based provisions to persons given sentences of at least six years’ imprisonment;
  • Proposing that section 33AA and 35 do not apply to conduct by a child aged under 14 years; and
  • A series of other measures to improve safeguards and provide greater accountability.

According to the Australian Financial Review, Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton has indicated that all the recommendations  would be adopted, meaning the bill should pass with bipartisan support.  The paper also noted that advice from the Solicitor-General as to the constitutionality of the laws in the case of a High Court challenge was not provided to the Committee, although a letter was sent vouching for their validity.

Mixed Reactions

University of Sydney constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey told the Sydney Morning Herald:

‘the changes would “vastly improve the bill” by “confining it more narrowly to pick up the things the government is actually trying to deal with and eliminating innocent people caught up on the edges.’

However, Law Council of Australia president Duncan McConnel told the Sydney Morning Herald he still had reservations about the bill, and 

‘stressed there was still a "fundamental problem" in cases where there was no conviction because somebody – a public servant, intelligence official or bureaucrat – would have to decide that a suspect was indeed a terrorist, yet in the absence of a court ruling.’

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