Citizenship stripping and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
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Citizenship stripping and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

December 8, 2019

Since 1948, the Australian Citizenship
Act has had a section for loss of citizenship. It was quite narrow; there
are quite specific ways in which one can be stripped of one’s citizenship. But in
December 2015, the government decided to introduce into what it called its
“toolkit” for dealing with terrorism, provisions to do with the stripping of
citizenship. Those provisions were really quite dramatic, in my view, in terms of
changing the balance, in terms of the power between executive and the
individual. And it is those changes that are now being proposed to be amended to
deal with some of the criticisms that have been shared at the time that they
were initially introduced, but three years down the track with the Independent
National Security Legislation Monitor providing a report on those provisions,
the Parliament is now revisiting those provisions. But they’re still within the
broad toolkit of using citizenship stripping as a way of dealing with
terrorism by dual-national Australians. There certainly are some significant
peculiarities under the existing law, where citizenship can be removed automatically
by operation of law without anyone even knowing about it in certain
circumstances, so the latest proposals are an improvement on that; they’d
involve a minister’s determination. But the criticism goes that at that point
natural justice doesn’t apply, and so to some extent the powers exercised with
blindfold and earmuffs on, and the individual may not even be notified of
that in some situations for up to six years. My presentation at the seminar is
setting up that structure of how citizenship stripping has evolved in
Australia to then enable Paul to reflect on the implications of that in terms of
Australia’s commitment to international human rights frameworks, in particular
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. And so in many ways
this is a very particular CIPL, or Centre for International and Public Law, event because it is about looking at domestic law and thinking about the
relationship between domestic law and international law, and considering how
well Australia is fulfilling its responsibilities as
an international citizen. This is about finding the right balance between protecting the Australian public against really very real terrorist threats on
the one hand and upholding the rule of law and supporting human
rights on the other.

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