Australia's New Law Would Strip Citizenship For Possessing A 'Thing' Connected With Terrorism, Or Whistleblowing
from the proportionate-response,-what's-that? dept
Things seem to be going from bad to worse in Australia. In April, it brought in mandatory data retention, and last week its own version of SOPA finally became law. Now the Australian government is working on another awful piece of legislation: a bill to revoke the citizenship of those holding dual nationality if they are "involved in terrorism." A column in The Sydney Morning Herald gives a few examples of what that dangerously elastic concept might mean in practice:
Citizenship would automatically be stripped from a person convicted of entering an area declared to be a no-go zone by the Australian government. This would occur even if the person has entered that area for innocent purposes, such as to do business, visit friends or undertake a religious pilgrimage. The same result would follow for a person convicted of damaging Commonwealth property or possessing a 'thing', such as a book or downloaded file from the Internet, that is in some way connected with terrorism.
Yes, download a file that is "in some way connected with terrorism," and your Australian citizenship will be taken away -- automatically. According to the article quoted above, this is because:
[the Australian government] has responded to concerns that its proposal might be struck down by the High Court. Instead of allowing a minister to strip a person of their citizenship, the bill states that this would occur automatically. This is consistent with the current law.
An article in The Guardian points out that the bill covers whistleblowers too:
The proposed law would also capture a range of offences for disclosing matters relating to national security under section 91.1 of the [Australian] Criminal Code.
The author of the article in The Sydney Morning Herald, George Williams, is a professor of law at the University of South Wales. As he says:
The section is titled "offence relating to espionage and similar activities", but includes several offences for intentionally disclosing matters pertaining to national security.
The government has again overplayed its hand. Its proposal goes well beyond a modest, sensible extension to the existing law so as to remove citizenship from a person who has committed a terrorist act or fought for an organisation like IS. Instead, its bill could cause people to be exiled from the Australian community where their connection to terrorism is minor, or even non-existent.
The same disregard for proportionality can be seen in the data retention and copyright laws brought in recently. Sadly, it seems likely that the proposed citizenship-stripping bill will soon join them in Australia's Hall of Legislative Shame.