Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has indicated that Labor will support increased powers to strip dual nationals of their citizenship after the Federal Government beefed up judicial oversight.
With coalition MPs expecting to see the legislation today, there were signs of last-minute efforts to make the citizenship revocation-related Bill “High Court-proof”.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Attorney-General George Brandis rushed to Sydney yesterday to hear advice from the Solicitor-General about the constitutionality of the proposed laws.
Under the original proposal, the Government intended largely sidelining courts, diminishing their role to hearing procedural appeals rather than a full merits review.
It is understood the latest proposal centres on updating 67-year-old Section 35 of the Citizenship Act, which allows automatic revocation of citizenship when someone “serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia”.
Current laws do not capture instances where people go overseas to fight with non-State combatant groups such as Islamic State or al-Qaida.
In Canada, similar provisions have been updated to allow citizenship to be revoked when a dual national has “membership in an armed force or organised group engaged in armed conflict with Canada” but the revocation is decided by a court.
No conviction would be required under the Australian system but a dual national stripped of their citizenship by the Immigration Minister would be able to appeal to the Federal Court where they would have to prove the decision was wrong.
“We have had legal advice from a number of sources and we are confident that this legislation can minimise constitutional risk,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
“But ... our message to people who leave Australia to fight for terrorist armies in the Middle East is that we don’t want you back.”
Mr Shorten said wiser heads in Cabinet had “smacked down” Mr Abbott on judicial oversight.
“No one wants dual citizens fighting for Daesh back in Australia,” he said.
“But we can’t afford to have ill-thought out laws that can be struck down by the High Court. The consequences of this could be extremely serious.”