LCA urges reform on citizenship bill
The Law Council of Australia has encouraged the federal government to narrow its scope and allow for judicial review in its formal submission on the controversial new citizenship legislation.
Under the proposed amendment to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, the Australian Government would have increased power to strip a dual national of their citizenship.
In its submission to the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, the LCA expressed “serious concerns” with the bill’s current formulation, particularly the fear that minor conduct or conduct unrelated to allegiance to Australia could be grounds for losing citizenship.
Among other concerns, the LCA also warned against the bill’s retrospective application and its proposed procedures, which failed to “provide sufficient safeguards for the rule of law, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and the right of appeal”.
If the government were to proceed with the bill, the LCA urged it to require a conviction by an independent court, followed by a ministerial order and the possibility of review by a judge.
“After a conviction, automatic citizenship cessation should not occur, but require a decision by the minister considering whether the person poses a substantial risk to Australia’s security, Australia’s international obligations and standing and other relevant factors,” the submission states. “The minister’s decision should then afford procedural fairness and be accompanied by effective judicial review.”
While the LCA acknowledged the current legislation already allowed for automatic revocation of citizenship, its current scope is confined, “with its narrow application demonstrated by it never having been used”.
“The Bill significantly expands the scope of such automatic revocation to a wide and vague set of variable circumstances,” the submission states.
“It is undesirable to have a broad range of conduct and factually variable scenarios automatically giving rise to a change in status of citizenship without some satisfactory mechanism for fact-finding and determination being in place.”
The full submission goes on to list other concerns and recommendations raised by the LCA regarding the bill.