Dutton pushing for citizenship loss powers

Daniel McCulloch
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton wants to crack down on dual nationals convicted of terror crimes

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has introduced legislative changes making it easier to cancel the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terror offences.

"This bill is designed to protect the integrity of Australian citizenship, to ensure that we have the necessary powers to keep Australians safe," he told the lower house on Thursday.

The proposal gives the minister discretionary powers to sever a dual national's Australian ties if they have rejected their "allegiance" to the nation.

This includes taking part in terrorism, being part of an overseas terrorist group, or being sentenced to at least three years in prison for terror offences.

But as the government attempts to make the citizenship loss laws even harsher, the public servant responsible for monitoring Australia's national security laws has poked holes in existing legislation.

James Renwick has identified "uncontrolled and uncertain" aspects of citizenship cancellation laws already in operation.

Dr Renwick has no qualm with revoking the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of serious terror offences.

But he has taken issue with "less conventional" powers, allowing citizenship to be stripped from anyone aged over 14 engaged in terrorist conduct, without a conviction or decision by a public official.

Dr Renwick warned the provisions did not sufficiently protect human rights, and were likely to breach international law.

"I have concluded that these provisions do not pass muster under the (relevant) act and should, with some urgency, be repealed with retrospective effect," he said in a report tabled in parliament.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said the report shone an embarrassing light on the minister.

"It shows why national security law can't be left to Peter Dutton, and why we need proper time to consider crucial legislation," he told AAP.

Current laws apply to those sentenced to at least six years in prison since 2015 or at least 10 years after 2005.

The changes could affect anyone convicted of terror offences and sentenced to at least three years' jail since 2003.

A dual citizen might not even be notified their Australian citizenship has been cancelled, if the minister thinks telling them will cause a national security risk.

If so, the minister has to review such a decision every 90 days for five years.

Anyone who has their citizenship torn up can appeal the decision.

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said Labor would consider the proposed laws.

"When it comes to keeping Australia safe from violent extremism and terrorism we should expect and demand a home affairs minister and government that are listening to our national security agencies," she said.