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Here's What You Need To Know About The New Terror Laws

A citizenship expert says the new law could be deemed unconstitutional if it ever got challenged in court.

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1. The federal government has been floating the idea of stripping terrorists of their Australian citizenship for a while now, but a bill to revoke citizenship of dual nationals has finally been introduced to parliament.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

"Australian citizenship involves a commitment to this country, its people and its democratic rights and privileges. Australian citizenship should not be taken lightly,” immigration minister Peter Dutton told parliament as he introduced The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill.

And there are a few changes to the initial proposals that were steadily leaking out of cabinet for the last few weeks, but legal experts say they still give too much power to politicians.

2. Dual nationals who fight with a terrorist organisation will now automatically lose their citizenship.

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The government says these actions are inconsistent with an allegiance to Australia, and so they do not deserve to have citizenship. But the minister has the power to make sure someone doesn't lose their citizenship. A terror suspect can also appeal to a court.

"The person who loses their citizenship under these provisions would be able to seek a declaration from a court that they have not in fact lost their citizenship," said Dutton.

"Members would be aware that there is no need to mention this explicitly in the bill because the Federal Court and High Court both have original jurisdiction over such matters."

3. Automatically stripping people of their citizenship already exists in the legislation for people who take up arms against Australia for a foreign army, but that provision has never been tested in court.

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Kim Rubenstein, director of the centre for international and public law at the Australian National University says this means the amendments could be deemed constitutionally invalid. This can only happen when the first terrorist suspect to lose their citizenship decides to dispute this in the courts. And Rubenstein says they could have some strong arguments.

"The whole concept of being able to revoke citizenship is problematic as a rule of law notion. It's a slippery slope to have a government determine what aspects are abhorrent to a community. So they are using terrorism right now, but what would stop them from expanding it to other 'abhorrent' actions?" she said.


4. The loss of citizenship will be "automatically triggered".

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

"The minister must give notice that a person has ceased to be an Australian citizen once the minister becomes aware of the person's conduct, giving rise to that outcome," Peter Dutton said.

5. A person will automatically lose their citizenship if they engage in "international terrorist activities" such as training or recruiting for a terrorist organisation.

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Other activities under this section include directing the activities of a terrorist organisation and financing terrorism or a terrorist.

6. The minister gets to decide what groups are classified as terrorist organisations, in compliance with the law.

"The Minister will declare those organisations that are opposed to Australia or Australia's values, democratic beliefs, rights and liberties," said Dutton.

Rubenstein says there are avenues to keep the minister accountable, like political ramifications if there is community outrage over his decision, but it is still potentially problematic.

"The key issue is that none of these things have been determined by the court. The Constitution is not exclusive, so we have to look at the way it is interpreted to find out where the limits are."

7. A person can also lose citizenship if they are convicted of a certain offences under the Criminal Code.

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These include major crimes such as treason, inciting mutiny and international terrorist activities using explosive or lethal devices, but also minor offences like destroying or damaging commonwealth property.

This will apply if the crimes are committed inside or outside Australia.

Kim Rubenstein says it's "amazing" to see the range of offences that fall under this section of the bill.

"Some of those things that are listed are quite ancillary, they are peripheral to the crime of terrorism, but to lose your citizenship over them is very dramatic," she said.

8. A child could lose their citizenship under the new laws.

Supplied / Via ABC News

The immigration minister has the power to strip a child of their citizenship if their parents are found to be terrorists.

This only applies if the child does not have a responsible parent who is an Australian citizen.

Rubenstein says there are different human rights issues, common law principles and international obligations about protecting children that would be called upon by a court in looking at the lawfulness of the relevant sections.

9. Natural justice doesn't apply to the minister's powers.

Natural justice is a legal requirement to make sure the decision-making process is fair and reasonable. It includes principles like a fair hearing, an unbiased decision maker and the decision must be based on logical evidence.

10. Human rights groups are opposed to the new law.

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

“Any plan which revokes citizenship on the basis of suspicion of terrorism, without a criminal conviction, is completely unjustifiable and, if introduced, would only serve to set a dangerous precedent,” said Amnesty International Australia’s Diana Sayed.

“Revoking citizenship must be an exceptional measure and not one based on suspicion and innuendo as opposed to justice through a court of law,” she said.