Friday, 12 December 2014

The Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 appears to allow the revocation of citizenship solely based on Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's own opinion of the citizen

The current Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs members are: Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald (LP, QLD) (Chair), Senator Jacinta Collins (ALP, VIC) (Deputy Chair), Senator Catryna Bilyk (ALP, TAS), Senator Barry O'Sullivan (NATS, QLD), Senator Linda Reynolds (LP, WA), and Senator Penny Wright (AG, SA), with Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (AG, SA) to replace Senator Penny Wright (AG, SA) as substitute member.

Persons making submissions to the standing committee concerning this bill apparently had only four business days to prepare as the Abbott Government insisted that the bill was urgent.

The standing committee held public hearings on 10 and 19 November 2014 and, on 1 December handed down its report on the Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014. The report can be found here.

The discretionary power allowed the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection under this bill is worrying. His personal decisions will be protected from merits review and he will have the power to override decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Additionally the bill is further flawed and in the words of the committee report; the standard of proof required for a person's citizenship to be revoked for fraud or misrepresentation without conviction has been reduced too far; that is, from 'beyond a reasonable doubt' to the satisfaction of the minister.

The committee also worries that a ministerial decision to revoke citizenship may also be used to render the child(ren) of an Australian citizen stateless and, points to the fact that what the Abbott Government's Explanatory Memorandum states the bill will do  is not what the bill itself states it does with regard to children.

There is a Dissenting Report by Australian Labor Senators which concludes; The Australian Labor Party has serious concerns about the significant increase in discretionary power this legislation would provide the Minister. It is crucial that the Australian Parliament deal with matters relating to citizenship with the highest diligence. It is the greatest gift a nation can bestow on a migrant. Labor will not support the passing of legislation that has the potential to unfairly affect a person’s citizenship.

There is also a Dissenting Report of the Australian Greens which concludes in its turn; the amendments proposed in this Bill will have serious implications for Australian citizens. The unchecked and unprecedented power that is placed in the hands of the Minister, should this Bill pass, is unwarranted and has not be sufficiently justified by the government.  As rightly noted by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, no Minister or government authority should be exempt from independent oversight. This is inconsistent with the rule of law and democratic principles.[8]Similarly, attempts to extend the 'good character' provisions to children may result in Australia contravening a number of human rights obligations. For these reasons, the Australian Greens recommend that this Bill not be passed.

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