New Laws Mean Dual Nationals can be Stripped of Citizenship

In the final night of Parliamentary sitting for 2015, the Australian Government passed the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill. This controversial Bill means that dual nationals can now be stripped of their Australian citizenship by engaging in conduct that is inconsistent with their allegiance to Australia.

Under the Bill, you could lose your Australian citizenship for conduct related to terrorism such as financing terrorism, recruitment for terrorist organisations, engaging in foreign incursions and providing training for the preparation of a terrorist act. Other ways you can lose your Australian citizenship include fighting in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia, fighting for a declared terrorist organisation or for acts of treason.

Foreign fighters have been the most controversial victims of the new Bill, with Australians who are fighting against terrorist organisations in excluded war zones also in the firing line to be stripped of their citizenship. Critics of the Bill have also pointed out that it is inconsistent with earlier national security laws that were aimed at preventing Australians travelling overseas to become foreign fighters. If dual national terrorists are working against the interests of Australia, surely the Australian community is better off with them in Australian custody, rather than roaming international battlegrounds secretly doing who knows what?

Analysts say the laws may face a constitutional challenge as it could be argued the decision to strip an Australian of their citizenship is an exercise of judicial power. The Minister taking this power upon himself, may therefore be a breach of the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. If a challenge to the law does come forward, the definition of whether stripping citizenship should be considered a punishment, will likely be a key issue, as only the courts can impose punishments.