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Tough new citizenship laws to give Minister more power

The government wants to strengthen the integrity of the citizenship program and hand Immigration Minister Scott Morrison powers to revoke citizenship where it has been obtained by fraud or misrepresentation. These are among the several changes slated in a proposed bill.

Generally, the stricter citizenship laws are set to make it harder to obtain and maintain Australian citizenship.The proposed amendments set out in the Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 are as follows:

  • allow the Minister to revoke citizenship on the grounds of fraud or misrepresentation in the citizenship process, without the requirement for a conviction of relevant criminal offences
  • extend the good character requirement to include applicants under 18 years of age
  • include the bar on approval for criminal offences in all citizenship streams include reference to contemporary sentencing practices in the bar on approval for criminal offences
  • enable the Minister to cancel approval of citizenship by conferral prior to the Pledge of Commitment if the Minister is satisfied that the applicant is no longer eligible
  • allow the Minister to defer the applicant taking the Pledge of Commitment for up to two years and align the grounds for deferral with the grounds for cancellation of approval
  • require those who automatically acquire citizenship on adoption in Australia to have commenced the adoption process before turning 18 years of age
  • require a standardised 12 month waiting period for resumption of citizenship clarify the residence requirements by specifying when the four year lawful period commences and that the 12 month period as a permanent resident must be continuous
  • clarify who is covered by the partner discretion in the residence requirement and insert a minimum physical presence requirement for those claiming the partner discretion for absences from Australia
  • provide the power to make a legislative instrument setting out when a period of unlawful presence may be treated as lawful presence
  • put beyond doubt that children born in Australia to parents with diplomatic and other privileges and immunities are not eligible for Australian citizenship
  • provide a discretion to revoke citizenship by descent in place of the current operation of law provision
  • limit automatic acquisition of citizenship at ten years of age to those persons who have maintained lawful residence in Australia throughout the ten years
  • clarify the provision giving citizenship to a child found abandoned in Australia
  • make holders of prescribed visas eligible for citizenship by conferral before entering Australia
  • enable use and disclosure of personal information collected about a client under the Migration Act to be used for the purposes of the Citizenship Act and vice versa
  • provide that personal decisions made by the Minister, taken in the public interest, are not subject to merits review
  • provide the Minister with the power to set aside decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) concerning character and identity if it would be in the public interest to do so
  • align access to merits review for conferral applicants under 18 years of age with citizenship eligibility requirements and
  • provide that the Australian Citizenship Regulations 2007 (the Citizenship Regulations) may confer on the Minister the power to make legislative instruments
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  • Guest
    Michael Jeremy Tuesday, 25 November 2014

    Quick! You have made a spelling error! Its Citizenship NOT Citizeship - see the heading

  • Christopher Levingston
    Christopher Levingston Tuesday, 25 November 2014

    These amendments are over the top and in relation to the proposals concerning children constitute a traversal of the obligations under CROC.

    Consider the following:

    "limit automatic acquisition of citizenship at ten years of age to those persons who have maintained lawful residence in Australia throughout the ten years...."

    My problem with this is that children have no say in their parents legal status. the denial of "automatic" citizenship for a child born in Australia and who turns 10 here is not some sort of con on the Australian public it simply recognises that children born here in effect , over the passage of time become acculturated. Their parents status has nothing to do with that.

    The case of Paul and the AHRC establishes the principle that the Minister must consider CROC and ICCPR obligations which arise in the course of the consideration of section 351 and section 417 applications for ministerial intervention.

    These amendments reflect the dead hand of DIBP on the relevant law and the incitement to the Minister to in effect promote these changes and to start making decisions personally which are not amenable to review or where there is review at the AAT to overturn that decision is completely over the top.

    The current trend at Citizenship is to refuse all citizenship even in the face of minor character issues. DIBP simply cannot be trusted to do this work. At every turn they want to reduce judicial oversight, merits review and import powers to the Minster to act personally at the incitement of the press and other commentators to avoid political embarrassment.

    DIBP is constantly trading off the "integrity" issue and creating the false impression that Citizenship is being abused.

    Put simply there is enough power vested in the Minister under the current statutory scheme with appropriate checks and balances to ensure that the integrity and the importance of Australian citizenship is maintained.

    If the Minister wants to curtail abuses he should start with DIBP, strengthen independent merits review and where it is in the national interest suspend travel rights for Australian citizens who are acting contrary to the national interest. This 'reserve" power has been vested in Foreign Affairs since year dot.

    There is simply no justification for these wholesale changes. As they say in the classics if it ain't broke don't fix it.

    Scott don't do it, get some proper advice.

    Don't listen to the DIBP drones they haven't had an original idea since 1958.

  • Guest
    Robert Alexander Tuesday, 25 November 2014

    "Powers" to act on suspicion alone (without proving guilt).
    "Powers" to act without the affected party having the right to merits review.
    "Powers" to ignore tribunal findings.

    Aren't we lucky to live in a "democracy"?
    Isn't it great that we can always "see" justice to have been done?

    Wouldn't it be terrible to live in a country where the "government" can make arbitrary decisions that could not be challenged?

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