Back to All News

Citizenship Bill Third Reading Speech

Speeches in Parliament
Nick McKim 4 Dec 2015

Violent extremism is a global problem, and it demands global cooperation to resolve. What it does not need is unilateralism, and this bill is an embodiment of the kind of unilateralism that will make it more difficult to address the significant and serious global challenge of violent extremism. It ought to be self-evident to us all that we cannot make Australia and Australians safer by making the world a more dangerous place. We cannot simply wash our hands of our violent extremists, but unfortunately that is what this legislation sets up the capacity for the Australian government to do.

It is worth noting the words of Professor Ben Saul, from the University of Sydney:

Under United Nations Security Council resolutions since 2001, every country has legal obligations to prevent, investigate, apprehend, prosecute and punish terrorists.

Those are the obligations placed on us by resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. We have actually long supported those resolutions as a country. I remind the Senate again: apprehend, prosecute and punish terrorists. Those are our international obligations, and as a good global citizen that is what our legislation should seek to achieve. This legislation runs counter to the rule of law, it creates two separate classes of citizenship in this country, it implies a lack of confidence in Australia's judicial system and it does not provide judicial fairness or natural justice to potentially impacted Australian citizens. It is counter to our international obligations and it undermines the global fight against violent extremism.

The best thing for Australian citizens who are violent extremists is to be prosecuted, convicted and locked up in Australian prisons for a long time where they can do no further harm, not exported into a global marketplace of disenfranchised, violent people. That, unfortunately, is the risk that we are facing thanks to this legislation. We have a duty in this country to people of other nations, and we have a duty to our citizens abroad to keep them as safe as possible.

It is worth pointing out that other countries that have implemented provisions such as this, like Canada, are now in the process of repealing them on the basis of the very arguments that the Greens have made against this legislation in the parliament here this week. Unfortunately, this legislation has bipartisan support from the coalition and Labor, but I am really proud that the Greens have stood up on this and showed that we will not be cowed or bullied by the rhetoric and fearmongering on these issues of national security, because we believe that hard-won freedoms in this country—freedoms that thousands and, in fact, tens of thousands of Australians have died to defend over the last century—are too important to trade away, particularly when there is no upside to the trade. In fact, this legislation has downsides, so even my use of the word 'trade' is questionable in this context.

We support a strategic approach to national security in this country. We are not saying that we do not need legislative responses to the challenges of the 21st century and the violent extremism that is all too common and has such tragic consequences around our world. We are not saying that we do not need legislative responses, but we are also saying, 'Let's put social cohesion in our country at the heart of our response, and let's do everything we can to deradicalise people who are at risk of being radicalised and of potentially becoming violent, whether here or abroad.'

We sincerely hope that some of the risks that we have identified in this legislation—that the world will become more dangerous as a consequence and that Australians will be placed at higher risk as a consequence—do not turn out to be true and that what we are concerned about does not occur. Nevertheless, we stand by our view that this is counterproductive legislation that is counter to the rule of law and ultimately continues an all too long trend in this country of trading away hard-won civil and human rights in Australia for very little or—at times—no gain in national security.


Back to All News