Prime Minister Tony Abbott reportedly stared down a front-bench revolt over his plan to take Australian citizenship away from terrorism suspects before they’re found guilty of committing a crime.
Six cabinet members argued against Mr Abbott’s plan for an hour in a “heated” and “tense” debate, according to a source informing Fairfax Media. Mr Abbott later described the cabinet’s discussions as “very vigorous”.
The plan Mr Abbott announced on Tuesday would take Australian citizenship from people with dual nationality “involved with terrorism”, in line with the Citizenship Act 1948.
The decision will be at the sole discretion of the Immigration Minister, and be subject to judicial review, Mr Abbott said.
The Prime Minister also announced he would conduct a public discussion over whether to strip citizenship of Australians involved with terrorism who are eligible for citizenship with another nation, but haven’t yet applied to become dual nationals.
“I expect it’s something that may be canvased in the discussion paper, but we certainly have formed no intention to go down that path,” Mr Abbott said.
Front benchers called into question the legality of Mr Abbott’s proposal, which passed Cabinet.
Attorney-General George Brandis opposed the plan, according to Fairfax, and said “I am the Attorney-General. It is my job to stand for the rule of law.”
Deputy leader of the Nationals Barnaby Joyce said “isn’t that what we have courts for?,” according to the report.
The UK’s similar law allows a minister to strip citizenship from UK nationals.
This part of the Prime Minister’s proposal sparked the most serious criticism of his proposal, held in a discussion paper he had distributed to his colleagues minutes ahead of the meeting.
Fairfax reported, citing people who were in the room, that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said “if Australia were to strip one of its people of citizenship on suspicion of terrorism, would another country be likely to approve that person’s application to become a citizen?”
Who spoke against the PM’s plan?
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews
Foreign Affairs Minister deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop
Attorney-General George Brandis
Agriculture Minister and deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce
Education Minister Christopher Pyne
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull