Law Council slams citizenship-stripping bill anew

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The Law Council of Australia has again condemned the proposed federal laws giving the home affairs minister the power to strip Australian citizenship from people convicted of terrorism-related offences.

The proposed laws could render people stateless, do not adhere to international obligations, and remain under a constitutional cloud, the Law Council said. The comments came after the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security delivered a split report on Thursday, with the minority report recommending that the bill be rejected in its current form.

“This flawed bill is an overreach of ministerial powers with the potential for serious unintended consequences,” said Arthur Moses SC, Law Council president.  “From the time this legislation was announced the Law Council has voiced concerns about the validity and appropriateness of these new laws.

“National security and keeping Australians safe from terrorism is always a priority, but such laws must be proportional and not erode the rule of law. Vitally, laws that invoke national security concerns must be valid, effective and not create uncertainty. It is also pointless to enact laws that carry such a high risk of constitutional challenge. Disappointingly, the majority report released today does not address the Law Council’s serious concerns,” he said.

The minority report took into consideration the issues the Law Council put forward against the bill. The Law Council said that there is constitutional uncertainty of the basis and scope of the bill. It is also concerned that a person could be stripped of citizenship while they have no other citizenship if the home affairs minister believes the person will not be rendered stateless.

The Law Council is also concerned that the removal of the six-year threshold could net low-level offending and cause citizenship removal. The retrospective application of the bill will also contravene fundamental notions of justice, fairness, and rule of law, the Law Council said.

“This bill would create uncertainty as to who is an Australia citizen and could lead to disputes with other countries who disagree with the decision of the home affairs minister,” Moses said. “If the rule of law is compromised, we risk jeopardising many of the freedoms we are looking to defend. We implore the Parliament not to pass this bill.”