CANBERRA -- Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said “good luck” to dual citizens who have engaged in terrorism, with parliament poised to pass new citizenship stripping laws.
The powerful parliamentary committee investigating proposed anti-terror laws has supported the government’s proposed laws to cancel Australian citizenship from dual nationals who have been convicted of terrorism offences.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security has also backed the government’s bid to apply the laws retrospectively, but only in limited circumstances.
Joint Committee Chair, Liberal MP Dan Tehan said the legislation would give security agencies the tool they need.
“This bill modernises our treason laws to deal with the new threat of home-grown terrorists,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“If you repudiate your allegiance to Australia and you are a dual national, you will lose your citizenship.”
The Prime Minister said the laws must pass.
“Our position is, if you are a dual national and you have committed terrorist crimes against our country, you don’t deserve to be part of the Australian family. Simple as that,” Abbott told reporters in Wodonga.
“If you are a terrorist, you have committed crimes against the family of our nation and you have another citizenship, ‘Good luck to you, you are welcome to it’, but you are no longer entitled to Australian citizenship."
The proposed laws designed to allow the deportation of convicted terrorists and stop foreign fighters from coming back to Australia.
Australian officials estimate there are more than 120 Australians currently fighting in the Middle East for Islamic State and there are around 170 Australia-based terrorist financiers and recruiters.
ASIO is said to be pursuing more than 400 high priority cases.
The legislation, which is expected in the next sitting of parliament, has bipartisan support according to Labor’s Anthony Albanese.
“My understanding is the committee report is unanimous, that's a good thing because we need to make sure that national security is above partisan politics, “he told Channel Nine’s Today.
The citizenship cancellation would be subject to judicial review.
Earlier this year, the government had to back down from plans to give the citizenship stripping power to the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
Constitutional lawyers and groups including the Human Rights Commission have warned the bill in its current form could be subject to a challenge in the High Court.
Labor says it had great concerns about the constitutionality of the laws when they were originally presented in parliament on June 24, but Immigration spokesman Richard Marles said those concerns have been allayed.
“We believe that the legislation introduced by the Government and with these recommended changes represent a faithful updating of those laws.”
Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he hopes there will be no challenge.
“Let's hope the lawyers get out of the way here because this is too serious an issue to delay too much longer,” he told Today.
Tehan said laws are sound.
“We had reassurances from the Attorney-General,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“He sent the committee a letter providing a synopsis of the advice of the Solicitor-General.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she has concerns about the citizenship laws being applied retrospectively.
“Well, as a matter of principle, I don't support retrospectivity, but there may well be circumstances in relation to the citizenship situation that would warrant consideration of that, but as a matter of principle, I wouldn't support retrospectivity, “she told reporters in Perth.
“However, we would need to look at the number of convicted terrorists and what their citizenship status was before we could make a definitive statement on that.”
Tehan said the Joint Committee looked at the issue of retrospectivity very carefully.
“Making any law retrospective is not something that any Parliament does lightly," he said.
‘”But it was our view if you have been convicted and sentenced for a terrorism-related crime of 10 years or more through your actions you have repudiated your allegiance to Australia and, therefore, this bill should apply to you.”
The Parliamentary Joint Committee recommended 27 changes to the bill, including a proposed exemption for the provision of neutral and independent humanitarian assistance, and acts done unintentionally or under duress.
It has also addressed government backbench concern about children of terrorists, recommending that the citizenship bill not apply to children under 10 years of age, and parts of the bill not apply to children under 14 years of age.