Tony Abbott plans to strip citizenship from dual nationals engaged in terrorism

ISIS militants (Photo: AP/Supplied)

Australian citizenship laws will be changed to give the immigration minister the power to strip citizenship from dual passport holders involved in terrorist activities, prime minister Tony Abbott has announced.

“These new powers are a necessary and appropriate response to the terrorist threat. They modernise our laws and bring them closer to those of the UK, Canada, France, the United States and other countries,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

Abbott said up to half the Australians currently fighting overseas with organisations such as ISIL appear to be dual nationals. If they “betray our country”, then the immigration minister will be able to revoke citizenship “in the national interest”. The proposal includes people born in Australia to be stripped of citizenship, even if they do not have a passport for another country, based on the notion that they can apply for citizenship elsewhere.

The prime minister said there will be “safeguards”, including judicial review, to balance the powers and will not leave someone stateless.

Abbott said “there should be no difference in how we treat Australians who join a hostile army and those engaged in terrorism – both are betraying our country and don’t deserve to be citizens of Australia.”

But not everyone in the Coalition supports the PM’s plan, with Fairfax Media reporting that six cabinet members opposing the idea during cabinet meeting on Monday night, which the PM described as “full” and others as tense and heated.

Fairfax says those against the proposal include defence minister Kevin Andrews, foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, attorney-general George Brandis, agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, education minister Christopher Pyne and communications minister Malcolm Turnbull. The proposal split the National Security Committee and as a result was toned down to a discussion paper for Monday night’s meeting.

On Tuesday, George Brandis ruled out the idea of stripping citizenship from Australians without another passport.

“We are not going to [be] rendering anyone stateless, nobody has proposed that, everything we do will be compliant with the rule of law,” he said.

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said: “If people seek to do harm to Australia and seek to be involved in terrorism there needs to be consequences.”

The prime minister announced a “national consultation to improve understanding of the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship” led by Phillip Ruddock, who has been been appointed the PM’s “special envoy for citizenship and community engagement” and senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who has been appointed parliamentary secretary to the attorney-general.

“The consultation will seek the public’s views on further possible measures, including the suspension of certain privileges of citizenship for those involved in serious terrorism,” Abbott said.

A consultation paper on Australian citizenship is online here.