Queensland Law Society

Protecting citizens' rights

Date 30 Jan 2019
Contact Public Affairs
Phone 07 3842 5835
Mobile 0488 433 884
Email media@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society today (WED 30 JAN) flagged strong concerns about legislation currently under parliamentary inquiry seeking to strip Australians of their citizenship at the Minister’s determination.
 
QLS President Bill Potts supports the Law Council of Australia’s comments, but raised several other key issues that required consideration by the Australian Parliament.
 
“This legislation proposes that the Minister of the moment can determine that someone is no longer fit to be an Australian citizen,” he said.
 
“This is a very big concern for Australians, and one that could damage the very fabric of our society and our fundamental rights as citizens.”
 
Queensland Law Society listed their main concern as the lack of detail around the process the Minister must follow to determine whether the person is “not a national of any country or citizen of any country”.
 
“In our view, the determination process should be specified in the Bill,” Mr Potts said.
 
QLS recommends the procedure as prescribed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in its Handbook on the Protection of Stateless Persons, which was created under the 1954 Convention.
 
“The ability of public servants to make decisions concerning an individual’s citizenship status is very concerning and has serious implications for the separation of powers,” Mr Potts said.
 
“In practice, I understand that the Citizenship Loss Board consists of intelligence, police officers and officials from a range of government departments, however, it still leaves the ultimate decision to one person who could change at any given election.
 
“It is also troubling that the rules of evidence and procedure under which the Citizenship Loss Board operates are not publicly available.
 
“We understand that proceedings might be heard ex parte, which undermines the rule of law and procedural fairness."
 
Mr Potts emphasised that there must be clarity and detail around the rules, procedure and decisions.
 
“One of the hallmarks of a free democracy is that citizens must be able to know the manner and means by which decisions are made in relation to their rights, responsibilities and the very freedom this country is founded upon.
 
“Ultimately, the freedoms we are afforded in Australia are recognised as a fundamental right to citizenship.
 
“Although a person may be accused of crimes, we as Australians would only take away citizenship if there are clear processes based on fairness, transparency and justice.

“As guardians of our justice system and a voice for our community to the Government, we will continue to seek the best outcomes for all Australians.”

Read the submission here.
 
ENDS

For further information, please contact Public Affairs on 07 3842 5835, mobile 0488 433 884 or via email, media@qls.com.au.