Tony Abbott’s proposal to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they commit acts of terrorism will finally come before Parliament today, after being put on the backburner with the change of leadership.

Any hope that the proposed law would be scrapped under the markedly less hysterical Malcolm Turnbull (who previously broke ranks to criticise it) has now gone out the window — although the government has agreed to accept dozens of recommended changes to the legislation from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

One of the committee’s main concerns was that the proposed law was unconstitutional because it abandons the core requirement of separation of powers. The legislation will allow the government to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they go overseas to engage in terrorist acts, thereby forcing them to go to the countries where they hold their remaining citizenship. It will be able to be applied retrospectively in more serious cases.

But whether the new law is unconstitutional or not — and it will almost certainly be found to be so in an inevitable court challenge — it is also an attempt to dump our problems on other countries, something the committee recognised when it noted that “Australia is expected not to unilaterally strip nationality to avoid” its international obligations to prosecute terrorists.

As we reported at the time:

“During committee hearings, the assembled security bureaucrats from agencies like the Department of Immigration made the staggering admission that they hadn’t bothered speaking to any other countries, and particularly not Australia’s allies, about how they felt about Australia dumping its terrorists on them.”

How many foreign citizens will die at the hands of terrorists Australia has let free to roam the globe rather than bring home to jail? The proposed law is grossly irresponsible.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey