Aussie PM challenged on "radical" plan to strip terrorists' citizenship

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-23 10:16:39|Editor: Li Xia
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CANBERRA, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed legal concerns around his plan to strip convicted terrorists of their Australian citizenship.

The Law Council of Australia, the peak body representing the legal profession in Australia, on Friday challenged Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to justify the plan, which was announced on Thursday, saying the response was disproportionate to the terrorism threat.

Responding to the council, Morrison said he was not concerned by its objections and would push ahead with the new laws.

"Of course they would. Those who oppose laws always say this," he said in an appearance on breakfast television on Friday.

"I dealt with that when I was Immigration Minister and they said I couldn't turn back boats and they said that wasn't legal. They make all these claims, but what I do is press on and just get it done."

Under the current laws, citizenship can only be stripped from people who have been sentenced to at least six years imprisonment and have citizenship of another country.

The new laws would abolish the minimum sentence requirement for perpetrators convicted of a terrorist offence and change the citizenship threshold.

"The minister will only need to be reasonably satisfied that a person would otherwise have another citizenship, which is a change from the standard existing today," Morrison told reporters on Thursday.

Australians convicted of being involved in terrorism overseas would also be banned from returning to the country for two years.

Morry Bailes, president of the Law Council of Australia, on Friday called on the government to justify the "radical change."

"The loss of citizenship denies a person potential administrative remedies," he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio.

"That's a serious matter in a democracy such as ours and has the potential to undermine the rule of law."

"What we're calling on the Federal Government to do is to justify why, in the absence of any change to our national threat level, there should be just a radical change to such a fundamental question of stripping citizenship away from a person."

The new laws were announced only weeks after the terrorist attack on Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD).

Terrorist Hassan Khalif Shire killed one person and injured two others when he attacked pedestrians in the CBD with a knife earlier in November.

Morrison on Thursday promised that he would introduce the new laws to Parliament when it resumes on Monday.

However, Morrison's governing Liberal-National Party (LNP) does not hold a majority of seats in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, leaving the prime minister with an uphill battle to pass the laws through either house.

Morrison and Dutton on Thursday ramped-up pressure on Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee to finalize its review of proposed laws that would grant law enforcement the power to access encrypted messages so that the laws could be taken to a vote.

"I would insist on seeing (the laws) passed before the end of the next sitting fortnight," the prime minister said.

The new citizenship laws could be passed quickly if the opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) supported the government.

"There is nothing more important than keeping Australians safe, and we will always listen to the advice of our security agencies on what they require to keep Australians safe," senior ALP member Mark Dreyfus said in a statement.