WANNON MP Dan Tehan has called for a tightening of citizenship laws, saying people who “arrogantly flout” Australian values and sign up for terrorist campaigns should have their citizenship revoked.
Mr Tehan said Australian citizenship was not a right, but an “extraordinary privilege”, bringing with it the freedom of speech, association and religious belief.
“For those who enjoy our citizenship, there must be an acceptance of our core values; tolerance, pluralism and peace.”
He said Australians who joined terrorist organisations were seeking to destroy those very values.
Mr Tehan, who chairs the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, has called for new laws that would allow Australian authorities to remove the citizenship of terrorists, similar to rules introduced in the United Kingdom last year.
The laws mean UK citizens who join terrorist organisations can now lose their citizenship if they have acted in a way that is “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests” of the state, if removing their citizenship would be “conducive to the public good”, and if the government has “reasonable grounds” for believing they are able to become a citizen of another country.
Mr Tehan said a potential barrier for Australia was the legal question of whether the government would be making people “stateless”.
Australia is bound under the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness not to create citizens who would be considered stateless.
“Signing this treaty has limited our ability to deal with treason, which is the crime of those who join terrorist organisations,” Mr Tehan said.
“This potential problem was seen by a number of other countries including by the UK, New Zealand, France and Ireland, and all lodged notice with the UN at the time reserving the right to strip any individual of citizenship if they have acted against their country.”
He said the treaty was signed by the Whitlam government in 1973 without any reservation, meaning the UN charter contradicted Australia’s domestic laws on treason at the time.
“If we don’t clear it up, legally it will end up in the courts.
“We still have the ability to fix this. Brazil submitted a late declaration in 2009 that allowed them to reinforce their laws. Canada have also introduced similar laws and Norway are also looking at a similar thing.”
Mr Tehan said the aim was to lower the legal threshold for what could be termed making a person stateless.
“It’s something that would be used rarely but it could be used against those who literally want to destroy our way of life.
“Sadly, home-grown terrorism is now a reality. With the rise of social media and its use by hate preachers to groom young Australians, we need to use every tool available to deal with individuals who decide to act against us.
“I can’t talk about individual cases, but a couple of the really bad hate preachers could have their citizenship stripped if they left the country and the would not be able to return.”