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Citizenship debate splits Federal Cabinet

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A plan to strip dual citizens with terror links of their Australian citizenship appears to have won the backing of the Federal Opposition.

But Labor leader Bill Shorten said he had concerns about another proposal to remove citizenship from sole Australian nationals – an idea that has also split Federal Cabinet.

That option is now the subject of a discussion paper but legislation dealing with dual nationals is due to be introduced to Parliament in a “week or so’s time”, according to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

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Mr Shorten has indicated the changes will have Labor’s backing.

“We think it is a sensible development in principle that these dual citizens should not be able to claim any longer the marvellous gift of Australian citizenship when they’re prepared to be part of terrorist organisations,” he said.

“We think it is a sensible step, but we need to go beyond the principle discussion and see the detail.”

Mr Abbott said “the principle is absolutely clear”.

“We think that anyone who raises a gun or a knife to an Australian because of who we are has utterly forfeited any right to be considered one of us,” he said.

But stripping people who can only claim Australian statehood of their citizenship is proving more problematic, including within the senior ranks of the Government.

A strident Cabinet discussion on the proposal was leaked to the media late last week, prompting the Prime Minister to have what he called a “come to Jesus moment” with ministers.

Senior ministers, including Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne, were particularly concerned about granting the power to strip citizenship to the Immigration Minister.

The Opposition Leader is worried about that, too.

“We’ve got concerns with just ministers having those sort of powers, without a court process – that’s a question mark, that’s a new development,” he said.

“If the Liberals can’t even agree on the sole nationals matter, if Malcolm Turnbull is at odds with Tony Abbott, they’ve got to get house in order before they ask the rest of Australia to form their judgement.”

Mr Shorten has called for a briefing from the Government on the laws, but Mr Abbott said he would receive one when the legislation was before the House.

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