The Australian Bar Association has urged that the newly proposed citizenship bill be reviewed. According to the ABA, the new bill is said to be unfair to individuals that are linked to terrorist organizations since their citizenship can be revoked on grounds that it is unconstitutional. In their submission, the ABA has warned that the drafted bill provisions are too broad for the Allegiance to Australia Bill 2015. The submission was presented to the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence. Also, according to the ABA, the immigration minister is given the extraordinary power to bypass the courts entirely in giving practical effect to revoking of an individual’s citizenship, as stated under the proposed citizenship bill.
Since the proposed changes for the citizenship bill intends to look down upon the court’s judicial powers to find out the truth and impose punishment for various criminal offenses, the ABA further argued that the new bill has all the reasons to be viewed as unconstitutional. Fiona McLeod, ABA’s president, said that an individual can only lose his or her citizenship if they have been convicted of a relevant offense by the Australian court of law, giving an example such as an act of terrorism directed at Australians. Currently, section 5 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, states that an individual’s citizenship can only be revoked if the person is claimed to have served in the armed forces of a country that is viewed as an enemy of Australia.
However, this is not the case with the new citizenship bill or the anti-terrorism law, because it would see individuals who engage in terrorist-related conduct or provide their services to a declared terrorist organization be stripped of their citizenship. In addition, according to ABA’s submission, this new bill could relate to minor offenses, omissions, not leaving out unintentional acts, and could also apply to individuals whose terrorist-related conduct is unproven. The ABA’s president expressed her worries in the new citizenship bill, based on the concern that the rights of Australians claiming that the new bill could have their citizenship renounced unfairly in case they have had contact with terrorist organisations under duress; against their will, unintentionally or inadvertently or have committed minor offenses.
She stated that it was clear that a government official must always make a determination that an offense has actually occurred, but the new bill proposes that citizenship is renounced automatically by the citizen’s conduct; hence the government’s bill uses a legal sleight of hand. Ms. McLeod continued with her statement saying that she was worried about the bill because it poses much threat to loyal Australian citizens who work for humanitarian organisations since they could be negatively affected by the new citizenship bill and even worse, lose their Australian citizenship.
In conclusion, the Australian Bar Association believes that the new bill treats the Australian citizenship as protection against threats to the society; hence the new bill uses citizenship as a tool of punishment, which should not be the case. The ABA also said that the new bill’s approach would be counter-productive to de-radicalisation and social inclusion.
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