Badly flawed Citizenship Bill should not be passed

The Citizenship Bill currently before the Australian Parliament is badly flawed and should not be passed, the Human Rights Law Centre said in its submission to the Parliamentary Committee investigating the Bill.

“This Bill contains mechanisms to remove citizenship which are excessive, unreasonable and which lack proper safeguards. The Bill, if passed would likely facilitate the arbitrary removal of citizenship in breach of international law,” said the HRLC’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser.

Under the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015, citizenship of dual nationals would automatically be lost if a person is convicted of one of a wide range of terrorism offences or if they engage in certain defined conduct.

“The threshold for loss of citizenship under the Bill is far too low. Some of the offences triggering citizenship loss have maximum penalties of only five and seven years. Citizenship would be stripped even if a court imposed a minor penalty for an offence,” said Mr de Kretser.

“The Bill’s purposes are supposed to be protecting the community and upholding the value of allegiance to Australia, yet citizenship would be automatically lost regardless of the risk posed by the person to the community and whether or not an offence was targeted at Australia,” said Mr de Kretser.

“Emblematic of the poor drafting in the Bill is the fact that citizenship would automatically be lost for the offence of damaging Commonwealth property. This means a person could lose their citizenship if they graffitied a Commonwealth building, had no connection with terrorism and posed no security risk to the Australian community,” said Mr de Kretser.

Mr de Kretser added that under the Bill, citizenship could also be lost in some circumstances without any court order at all.

“If this Bill is passed, it’s likely that people will lose their citizenship for engaging in lower level conduct that was never intended to trigger such a severe consequence,” said Mr de Kretser.

“While the Minister can exempt a person from losing their citizenship, the Minister’s discretion is personal and non-compellable and the Minister is not required to follow a fair decision making procedure. Accordingly, this discretion is prone to being applied in an inconsistent, unfair and unpredictable way, contrary to the rule of law.”

A copy of the submission is here: HRLC Citizenship Bill Submission July 2015. While the HRLC recommends that the Bill not be passed, the submission also contains recommendations to mitigate the worst aspects of the Bill.

For further information contact: Hugh de Kretser on 0403 965 340