Homegrown terrorists could face losing their Australian citizenship if they have even the option of applying for dual citizenship under a new hardline policy.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton flagged the option on Thursday and was backed up by the Prime Minister, with the move set to sharpen the policy differences between Labor and the Coalition in the lead-up to the election.
“We will be removing that requirement,” PM Scott Morrison said.
“It will only be if they are convicted of a terrorist offence, the current wording of the law, we believe it is unrealistic and needs to reflect the genuine threat that has been posed by those engaged in this activity,” Mr Morrison said.
The Government is also wanting to change the threshold for stripping Australian citizenship.
“The Minister will only need to be reasonably satisfied that a person would otherwise have another citizenship, which is a change from the standard existing today,” Mr Morrison said.
“We will be reviewing all the onshore and offshore cases in relation to these matters.”
But terror experts warn the plan to “export a terrorist” is likely to run into legal barriers.
By law, Australia cannot strip anyone of citizenship if that would render them stateless. That means it cannot kick out Australian-born terrorists who have no option to move elsewhere.
However, the proposal does raise the prospect that Australian-born terrorists who could apply for dual citizenship could be kicked out of the country.
The Australian government already has the ability to cancel the citizenship of dual nationals. But it can do so only if that dual citizenship is already in place.
“You can take citizenship away from somebody as long as you don’t render them stateless,” Mr Dutton said on Thursday.
“We’ve cancelled visas at a record rate so we can kick criminals out of the country.
“We should be cancelling the citizenship of terrorists and people that would seek to do us harm because we don’t want them here.”
The significant issue that is likely to arise, however, is the willingness of these other countries to take the terrorist sympathisers if Australia doesn’t want them.
Terrorism expert Greg Barton was dubious about the likelihood of the plan securing parliamentary support.
“Its hard to imagine a situation where it’s going to stack up politically, legally or morally,” he told The New Daily.
To turn around and say to Lebanon or whatever ‘you can have this guy, we don’t want him’. Why would they agree to that?”
Professor Barton said the laws allowing the government to cancel citizenship had been used only rarely.
“I don’t know the numbers but it’s a handful of times,” he said.
“It’s easier to send someone who was born in New Zealand [and has been] involved in bikie gangs home than exporting a terrorist. The criminality is just at a different level.”
Mr Dutton also criticised the boycott by some Muslim leaders of Thursdays round-table discussion organised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the wake of the terror attack in Melbourne.
“If you can’t accept there’s a problem, how on earth are you going to fix it?” Mr Dutton said.