Senate passes Bill to give courts power to strip citizenship

Senate passes Bill to give courts power to strip citizenship

The Senate approved a new law granting courts the authority to strip Australians with dual citizenship of their citizenship for serious offenses, with support from all parties. But the Law Council of Australia’s and other legal professionals’ concerns have gone unanswered.


The Bill included a new provision granting the courts the authority to deny Australian citizenship to dual citizens in cases of serious offenses, as well as the repeal of the provisions the High Court of Australia had ruled unconstitutional following the decisions in the cases of Alexander v. Minister for Home Affairs and Benbrika v. Minister for Home Affairs.

“The High Court’s decisions in these cases mean that a new citizenship cessation regime is needed,” said Minister for Home AffairsClaire O’Neil in her speech to Parliament.

According to the final Bill, major convictions that “demonstrate that the person has repudiated their allegiance to Australia” may result in the removal of citizenship for citizens 14 years of age or older. This covers incidents of terrorism, espionage, inciting rebellion, interfering with foreign affairs, and crimes involving the use of explosives or other deadly weapons.

On the other hand, law experts and other Members of Parliament have criticized the Bill, alleging insufficient consideration in the decision-making process and accusing the government of rushing these amendments.

Independent member for North Sydney Kylea Tink stated on social media, “This legislation is a massive deal!! Yet we’ve just been told that, despite today not being a scheduled sitting day, this Bill will be voted on tonight!”

The Australian Law Council also voiced concern, saying that more investigation into the Bill is necessary.

Law Council of Australia President Luke Murphy stated, “Any measures aimed at revoking the citizenship of an Australian engage the key legal principles on which our democracy was founded. Therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament and Australian citizens themselves should carefully consider such measures, reserving them for the most extraordinary cases.”

‘Any measures pursued to remove the citizenship of an Australian engage the key legal principles on which our democracy was founded, and therefore demand careful consideration’

“At the very least, this Bill should be referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) to allow proper scrutiny – before, not after, the Bill passes. Such scrutiny would regard the relevant decisions handed down by the High Court that underpin the Bill and the extensive reports and recommendations of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and PJCIS on citizenship cessation.”

The rule Council of Australia also emphasized that the definition of “serious offence” is too vague and too broad, and that the new rule also applies to juveniles who are 14 years of age or older, which runs counter to international law’s emphasis on minors’ rehabilitation.

The Law Council is also concerned about proposed amendments that, according to Murphy, would significantly broaden the list of serious offenses that would give rise to citizenship deprivation powers to include less serious acts of terrorism and other unrelated federal criminal offenses, such as slavery and offenses similar to it, such as forced labor, servitude, and deceptive recruiting for labor or services.

Jason Donnelly, a barrister and member of the NSW Bar Association Human Rights Committee, agrees that more research should be conducted on the law. However, he disputes the Law Council of Australia’s conclusion that citizenship can be revoked in some circumstances, stating, “In any circumstance, the government or the courts should not revoke citizenship.”

‘Neither courts nor government should have the power to strip citizenships in any situations’

Donnelly observed that the conviction “demonstrates a repudiation of the values, democratic beliefs, rights, and liberties that underpin Australian society.” He noted that these broad ideas are among the considerations taken by courts and are not specifically defined by Australian law. However, he also pointed out that the Bill runs the risk of putting minorities at risk of social exclusion in local communities, which would fuel mistrust in a system that punishes its citizens differently. Donnelly believes that the Bill may make certain populations feel unfairly singled out.

“If people have citizenship here and have lived here and have connections here and so on, then it’s the responsibility of our country to deal with the terrorist threat that they may pose,” said Ben Saul, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism and Challis Chair of International Law at the University of Sydney, in a recent interview with Al-Jazeera.

“There are other counterterrorism laws to address any other security threats that they may face, and that could be through criminal prosecution here and putting people in jail if they’ve done something wrong.”

The Federal Government states that the Bill satisfies all human rights examinations; nonetheless, there are concerns that future revisions might be necessary due to the absence of consultation.

With 109 votes for the bill and 11 against, it passed both chambers.

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