Wednesday 30 January 2019

Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow has told a parliamentary committee that enhanced citizenship stripping powers would weaken human rights protections and conflict with our obligations under international law.

Commissioner Santow on Wednesday gave evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which is examining the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Strengthening Citizenship Loss Provisions) Bill 2018.

“The consequences of statelessness are severe. A stateless person is denied all the rights and protections of citizenship. They face marginalisation, disempowerment and diminished human rights,” Commissioner Santow said.

“The Act currently requires that a person be a citizen of another country, whereas the Bill would lower this threshold. It would require only that the Minister is ‘satisfied’ that a person will not become stateless if their Australian citizenship is removed. This protection is inadequate.”

The Commission provided a written submission earlier this month, which outlined significant human rights concerns with the Bill.

These relate to the lowering of the threshold for determining dual citizenship, the removal of the requirement for a sentence of at least six years for relevant terrorism convictions, the inclusion of the offence of ‘associating with a terrorist organisation’ and the retrospective application of the proposed changes.

“The Commission considers that these reforms would increase the risk that removal of citizenship will occur where the relative seriousness of the conduct, and individual circumstances of the person, do not warrant such a grave consequence,” the submission states.

“It holds concerns that the human rights limitations in the Bill are therefore arbitrary or not reasonable, necessary or proportionate.”

The Commission’s written submission is available here.