A former national security watchdog Bret Walker says Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s handling of the citizenship debate is “absurd” and has demanded the PM apologise for misrepresenting him.
Mr Walker’s comments came after Mr Abbott told parliament the former watchdog had “changed his mind” in insisting dual nationals not be stripped of their Australian citizenship without a criminal trial and conviction, Fairfax Media reports.
Mr Walker recommended last year that the government consider giving the immigration minister the power to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship where “it is in Australia’s national security or counterterrorism interests”.
The government seized on the recommendation to support its plan to give Immigration Minister Peter Dutton the power to strip citizenship in terrorism cases without the need for a criminal trial.
But Mr Walker couched his recommendation as an extension of existing powers that require a person be convicted in a criminal trial first.
He said on Thursday it was “absurd” to suggest he meant the existing power should require a conviction but the extension should not, as Mr Abbott had done.
“Surely the prime minister doesn’t think that because I didn’t mention it, it didn’t apply,” he said. ”How ridiculous. His position is indefensible and he should apologise.”
He went on: “If this is an urgent matter of counter-terrorism, then it reflects terribly on the Prime Minister personally that he has left it so late … No lawmaking should be conducted in a rush,” he said.
“There has still not been any contact from the Prime Minister, any minister, any departmental liaison officer, with me since March 2014 about any of the recommendations,” he said.
“Inquiry of me about what was intended … has been completely lacking.”
– with AAP