08 June 2015
There is a growing chorus of criticism by some government ministers and backbenchers,
legal experts and community groups, over the Australian government's attempts to increase
executive powers to revoke citizenship of suspected terrorists.
Under the proposal, the immigration minister would have the direct and exclusive power to
decide, and sole nationals could stripped of their citizenship if they were potentially
able to apply for citizenship in another country.
After a bruising cabinet discussion on the citizenship issue was leaked to the media, the
Abbott government is still considering the measure.
The measure is contained in a discussion paper on the rights and responsibilities of
Australian citizenship and 40 government backbenchers have signed a letter of support to
Prime Minister Tony Abbott (pictured), as long as such a measure does not leave anybody
However one of those backbenchers, Queensland Liberal MP Ewen Jones, told the ABC on
Monday he was disturbed by the level of racist hate mail he had received that was directed
“I am very, very worried about the latent, for want of a better term, racism, that we are
seeing in the country when it comes to our Muslim population,” he said.
“I’m still getting people sending me stuff saying, ‘what about these bloody Muslims’ and
you go back to them and say ‘you know that’s a false story’.”
Also on Monday, former Howard government immigration minister Amanda Vanstone wrote a
scathing opinion piece in Fairfax, critical of the government’s stance on citizenship and
its preparedness to allow a minister alone to strip citizenship of alleged terrorists.
Ms Vanstone argued Cabinet ministers were not provided with enough information to make a
considered decision on the proposal.
She also praised the six Cabinet ministers who raised concerns about the policy.
"Cutting down our democratic protections to get at the enemy is profoundly dumb," Ms
"We end up doing the enemy's work for them, and from within."
Silma Ihram, of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association, warned that some Muslim
Australians could end up like the Rohingya people of Burma, left stateless or “shipped off
She has also accused Tony Abbott of using the citizenship discussion like the “reds under
the bed” communist debate of the 1950s in order to win the next election.
Ihram added that some Australian Muslims feel “numbed by the progress and speed of the
government” on national security laws, such as the measure to strip the Australian
citizenship from dual nationals suspected of terrorist offences on the approval of the
minister rather than the courts.
Ihram was also critical of Labor, after Bill Shorten agreed “in principle” with the bill
which has yet to be released but is expected to come before the parliament in the next
Ihram said her own community was “extraordinarily frustrated” at the lack of any “real”
consultation by the government with Muslim community groups.
“It’s so one-sided,” she said. “Everyday in Australia we have murder and other crimes
committed. We have women who are killed by their husbands but we don’t have any legitimate
terror offences ...
“Yet the amount of money put into negative policing and punitive measures has really
soured relations between Muslim community and ramped up the sense of fear and isolation in
Ihram said young Muslims were already contributing to Australian society with high levels
of tertiary entrance rates and community participation but the government’s unhelpful
rhetoric, such as Tony Abbott singling out the community, was isolating.
“When the government suggests Muslims don’t have the same values Australians do – which is
rubbish, [Isis] will say over social media to young Muslims, ‘they will never understand
you, they will always fight against you’ and it all feeds straight into their rhetoric,”
Ihram said she knows of no community groups which have had consultations with the
government on the latest citizenship laws, although they have been writing letters to the
government to give their views.
Gabrielle Chan, "Tony Abbott using citizenship debate to win next election, Muslim leader
says" Guardian Australia June 8, 2015
Anna Henderson, "Amanda Vanstone criticises Tony Abbott's citizenship policy and Cabinet
handling: 'That's either lazy, sneaky or both'" ABC News June 8, 2015