Labor digging in for pre-election fight over new terrorism laws

Under a law passed in 2015, the government can strip an Australian terrorist of their citizenship only if they have a second nationality and therefore would not be rendered stateless. Under the changes before Parliament, the home affairs minister would need only be «satisfied» the person would not be made stateless.

Stripping the citizenship of a person who is in Australia would still require that a person has been convicted of a terrorism offence, but the threshold that they be jailed for at least six years or convicted of an offence with a maximum sentence of 10 years would be removed.

Neil Prakash, who is also known as Abu Khalid al-Cambodi.

Neil Prakash, who is also known as Abu Khalid al-Cambodi.

«So some quite minor offences are now to be included,» Mr Dreyfus said.

The existing citizenship law came under close scrutiny last month after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced renowned Islamic State member Neil Prakash had been stripped of his Australian citizenship because he was also Fijian, only to have the Fijian government insist Prakash was not.

Labor signalling of its opposition comes as the major parties also dig in over a battle on border security in the medical transfers legislation.

Mr Dreyfus attacked the government for getting what he said was insufficient legal advice on the constitutionality of the bill. The government consulted the Australian Government Solicitor — the government’s own lawyers — but not the Solicitor-General, the second law officer of the Commonwealth, who represents the government in the High Court.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Mr Dreyfus said that lawyers had told a parliamentary hearing that the citizenship amendments could actually expose the original 2015 law as well on constitutional grounds. The government had not sought constitutional advice from the Solicitor-General on this law either, Mr Dreyfus said, despite then attorney-general George Brandis vowing it had done so.

Both Mr Dreyfus and Senator Wong on Tuesday said the government planned to run on «fear» in the coming election campaign.

In Labor’s caucus briefing on Monday night, a spokesman said that Senator Wong, the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, told MPs that the Labor members of the key security and intelligence committee would likely not support a committee report backing the new citizenship bill.

Senator Wong told ABC Radio on Tuesday: «You don’t make Australians safer by passing laws that don’t work.»

David Wroe is defence and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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