Stripping citizenship will make it more likely that ex-Australian terrorists will commit Paris-type attacks overseas, writes Professor Ben Saul.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government is pushing ahead with plans to strip dual national terrorists of their Australian citizenship despite concerns they will not make Australians any safer.
This week the Federal Parliament will consider a revised bill to strip the citizenship of Australian terrorists with dual nationality. Bipartisan support for the bill has ensured that the debate has focused on how to make it work rather than whether it is a good idea at all.
Debate has centred on how to tighten the grounds for losing citizenship, improve fairness and safeguards, and ensure the bill's constitutionality. Media coverage has followed suit.
Lost in the debate has been the more crucial question: will the bill actually make us safer from terrorism? Supporters of the bill assume that it will. The premise of the bill is deceptively appealing. If we throw terrorists out of Australia, they can't hurt us anymore.
That premise is deeply flawed and our politicians are wrong to believe it. Stripping citizenship will make it more likely that ex-Australian terrorists will commit Paris-type attacks overseas. By washing our hands of our terrorists, we foist them onto the rest of the world and abdicate our responsibility to suppress home-grown terrorists.
We do not let them return to Australia, where they can be prosecuted and put in jail for a long time. We do not put them under a control order to prevent terrorism. We do not place them under surveillance to disrupt plots. We do not put them through deradicalisation programs to persuade them to abandon violence. Instead, we say that they are now someone else's problem.
MPs who vote for this bill should realise that they are making the world more dangerous.
If they are foreign fighters, our law enforcement authorities become disinterested in them, because they are no longer Australians and not our responsibility. We no longer seek to secure their return to Australia, including if friendly forces capture them in Iraq, Syria or Turkey.
It is bad enough that our terrorists will be foisted upon other countries to kill their citizens. But the bill will also make it more likely that ex-Australian terrorists will kill more Australians. Australian tourists, Australians who live overseas, Australian companies, and Australian diplomats and embassies are all vulnerable targets for rootless ex-Australian terrorists.
Those adrift overseas will also remain free to radicalise young Australians here, through the online recruitment channels which have been so effective. That cannot happen if an Australian terrorist is imprisoned in Australia, or under a control order banning the internet.
The bill also undermines the global co-operative fight against terrorism. Instead of doing our bit to contain the threat posed by our terrorists, we expect others to bear our burden. Many countries are much less capable of effectively confronting those threats than we are, particularly developing countries which lack the resources or expertise. It is no coincidence that most terrorism happens in such countries, not in the West.
Stripping citizenship will also not deny freedom of movement to terrorists. They may already have a passport from their other country. In any case it is easy enough to buy a false passport, or to slip undetected across borders without papers, including into Europe.
MPs who vote for this bill should realise that they are making the world more dangerous. They are putting Australian lives at risk, here and abroad. They are making another Paris-style attack more, not less, likely.
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