News National Labor caves in on foreign fighters exclusion – but not without closed-doors clash

Labor caves in on foreign fighters exclusion – but not without closed-doors clash

labor foreign fighters
Kristina Keneally and fellow Labor senator Kim Carr have clashed over plans to back the foreign fighters exclusion bill. Photo: AAP
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Former Labor frontbencher Kim Carr has taken on Kristina Keneally over the party’s planned support for laws to exclude foreign fighters as young as 14 from returning to Australia for up to two years.

The clash occurred in the ALP caucus on Tuesday after Senator Keneally signalled Labor’s intention to support the foreign fighters exclusion laws if planned amendments fail.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is seeking “urgent” support for the laws following the fall of ISIS but has rejected calls for more judicial oversight of the new powers.

Senator Carr, a Labor powerbroker who quit the frontbench last month after 20 years, interjected after Senator Keneally explained Labor’s position in ALP caucus.

“Why should we support a bill that might be unconstitutional and contrary to our international obligations?” he said.

In response, Senator Keneally warned that some of the Australians known to be overseas after fighting with ISIS do “present a threat to the community”.

A former NSW Premier, Senator Keneally holds the home affairs portfolio and is leading Labor’s response to planned laws to temporarily exclude foreign fighters and their children from returning home.

There are concerns that any laws to exclude an Australian citizen from returning home will be ripe for challenge in the High Court.

For this reason, Labor and Centre Alliance want to delay the passage of the laws, arguing they are not urgent and should be sent back to the joint standing committee on intelligence matters.

Earlier, former Labor frontbencher Ed Husic pointed out that it was not the first time the Morrison government had recently broken with the tradition of bipartisanship on national security issues to try to wedge Labor.

The stoush over national security follows the Liberals ramping up the rhetoric and asking Labor “whose side are you on?”.

“We are on the side of keeping Australians safe,” Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said on Monday.

Earlier, he had condemned the remarks.

“‘The fact is everyone in this parliament opposes terrorism; everyone in this parliament wants to keep Australians safe,’ he said.