The majority voted in favour of a motion to agree with the bill's main idea. In parliamentary jargon, they voted to read it for a second time. This means they can now discuss the bill in more detail.
What is the bill's main idea?
According to the bills digest, the bill:
will amend the scheme for national security-related citizenship cessation in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (the Citizenship Act) to:
- replace ‘operation of law’ provisions in which Australian citizenship is automatically renounced on the basis of certain conduct, with a ministerial-decision model for citizenship cessation
- reduce the sentence threshold for cessation based on conviction for certain offences, from a sentence of at least six or ten years imprisonment (depending on when the sentence was imposed), to a sentence of at least three years imprisonment
- change the ‘statelessness test’ by removing the precondition that the person is a citizen of another country and substituting a prohibition on the Minister making a determination where the Minister is satisfied that a person will be made stateless by the determination
- amend the procedures for the giving of notice of a citizenship cessation and
- introduce procedures by which a person whose citizenship ceases may apply to the Minister for revocation.
The amendments will apply retrospectively.
Why is the bill controversial?
The bills digest sets out some of the main issues in the bill:
- reducing the sentence threshold for conviction-based citizenship cessation is not proportionate and lacks justification
- amending the statelessness test will increase the risk of statelessness and narrow the scope for judicial review
- there has been insufficient justification provided for the Bill’s retrospective application
- although the [Independent National Security Legislation Monitor]’s proposed model included a limited form of merits review, the Bill does not make provision for this and
- proposed procedural safeguards, including automatic revocation of the cessation determination where a court makes certain factual findings, may not be functional and thus may not provide practical protection against arbitrary citizenship loss and statelessness.