If you’re a fan of fantasy fiction, the concept of banishment from the kingdom is hardly new. The protagonist will often start out in the bad books, living on the fringes of society. They fight the evil overlords until victorious, and then the broken ruler is banished forever more. It’s a common plot line, reused and remade. It appeals to all kinds of personalities and reaffirms the concept of what allegiance to the kingdom means. If a person is bad, they will lose their right to live in their home country and their right to see their family and friends. And if they are good, they will live happily ever after.
Reminiscent of medieval times, it is hardly surprising that the punishment of being banished from the kingdom has been loudly promoted by the Abbott Government. This would appeal to the conservative, ‘if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear’ mindset of the national leaders.
It strikes the perfect balance between hero and bastard.
What Prime Minister wouldn’t take the opportunity to show just how serious he is about National Security? And who can argue with a Prime Minister who can turn around and deport you if you just happen to be a dual citizen and engage in certain activities that offend him?
It should also not be a surprise that Abbott, still deeply in love with the Mother Country, would fervently adopt a 200 year old policy of shipping criminals abroad.
The new Allegiance to Australia Bill ingeniously includes a new way to punish those who threaten the Government and the sanctity of the white, conservative, capitalist Australia. And the best part about it is that for certain provisions, the Government doesn’t have to prove a thing.
Putting aside the fact that a dual citizen could face deportation if convicted of scribbling in pen on a table in a Centrelink office (See section 35A of the new Bill and section 29 of the Crimes Act 1914, which makes it an offence to damage or destroy Commonwealth property), there is a range of other activities for which no conviction is required.
It is not just criminals who may fall foul of the proposed Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. A criminal is someone who has been convicted of an offence. New provisions include ‘renunciation and cessation of citizenship’ by what is essentially the act of doing something that does not have to be proven in court. There is no fair trial by an impartial adjudicator. In fact, the act specifically excludes the right to natural justice which includes things like procedural fairness, the right to see evidence and defend oneself.
Section 33AA of the new Bill provides that:
- Subject to this section, a person who is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia renounces their Australian citizenship if the person acts inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia by engaging in conduct specified in subsection (2).
Subsection 2 includes:
- engaging in international terrorist activities using explosive or lethal devices;
- engaging in a terrorist act;
- providing or receiving training connected with preparation for, engagement in, or assistance in a terrorist act;
- directing the activities of a terrorist organisation;
- recruiting for a terrorist organisation;
- financing terrorism;
- financing a terrorist;
- engaging in foreign incursions and recruitment.
It further states that:
- Where a person renounces their Australian citizenship under this section, the renunciation takes effect, and the Australian citizenship of the person ceases, immediately upon the person engaging in the conduct referred to in subsection (2).
No doubt this all sounds perfectly fine to the vast majority of Australians. The new Act is clearly designed to target those who support ISIS. And the vast majority of Australians hold no regard for these kinds of terrorists.
But given the Act does not actually specify which terrorists it is targeting, and in fact, a separate provision deals with people who actually go overseas and fight, who else might be at risk of voluntarily renouncing their Australian Citizenship?
In 2014, a bunch of Queenslanders opposed to mining and the environmental impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, were labelled by several Abbott loving media personalities as ‘eco-terrorists’.
According to the Bill, and it is quite clear, a person simply has to engage in one of the activities listed in section 33AA and they have renounced their citizenship.
Of course, it seems absurd to think that mothers, fathers, grandparents, local business people and students defending the reef could possibly be considered as ‘terrorists’ for the purpose of the Allegiance to Australia Bill. But how would they know?
Could a person inadvertently renounce their citizenship by protesting against a new mine?
Could a person renounce their citizenship by donating to a fund to save the reef?
What about regular financial contributions to environmental groups or animal activist organisations?
This does sound far-fetched. It really does. It is inconceivable that a dual citizen would lose their Australian citizenship for sending a donation to the Sea Shepherd.
However the media reported in 2012 that ASIO had been spying on conservation groups. Protesters in mining areas were labelled as terrorists and treated as such by security agencies. The confirmation that ASIO had been monitoring and advising on the activities of conservation groups caused a minor stir at the time. But the implications if the Allegiance to Australia Bill is passed are potentially enormous. Particularly if the Bill applies retrospectively, something Abbott is keen for.
Will green activists, protestors and conservationists who happen to hold dual nationality be deported?
But would a dual citizen take that risk?
The renunciation happens as a direct consequence of the act. No trial. No proof of the activity. And once the Minister becomes aware the person has done the thing, he may commence the process of detaining and deportation. A person would not know if they were covered by the new provisions and had lost their citizenship until the time the Minister decided to act on it.
Naturally, there is a get-out clause for the friends of the Government accidentally swept up in the catch-all provisions. The Minister can revoke the renunciation at his discretion.
That may provide protection for the white, middle-class Australian who didn’t realise donating to a local conservation group had suddenly become a terrorist act, but not so much for the person of middle-eastern appearance with a name the Minister can’t pronounce.
The laws are a genius form of control. One third of Australians are estimated to be dual citizens. That’s a lot of people who might start questioning their activities.
That’s a lot of people who may be banished from the kingdom.