Labor baulks at terrorism citizenship laws

The Morrison government wants to be able to strip citizenship from all convicted terrorists.
The Morrison government wants to be able to strip citizenship from all convicted terrorists.

The major parties are split over legislation making it easier to cancel the Australian citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terror offences.

Labor members of the federal parliament's intelligence and security committee are taking the unusual step of issuing a dissenting report on the proposed anti-terror powers. Normally MPs approach such issues in a bipartisan way.

"You don't make Australians safer by passing laws that don't work," Labor frontbencher Penny Wong told ABC radio on Tuesday.

"And you don't make Australians safer by giving an incompetent minister in Peter Dutton more powers, and that's what the legislation that is proposed does."

The legislation would give Mr Dutton, the Home Affairs minister, more subjective powers to declare somebody a citizen of another country.

Late last year, Mr Dutton stripped Neil Prakash of his Australian citizenship and declared the Islamic State terrorist was a citizen of Fiji.

Senator Wong said the minister failed to consult with Fijian experts and his unilateral declaration had "no basis in fact".

"It caused a diplomatic incident. It was a blunder that had to be fixed up by the foreign minister and by the prime minister," she said.

"That did not make Australians safer."

The Morrison government wants to be able to strip citizenship from all convicted terrorists, regardless of the severity of their sentence.

It also wants to significantly lower the threshold around proving a person's citizenship of another country.

Mr Dutton said Labor leader Bill Shorten should take further advice on the legislation from intelligence and security experts, as he did with asylum seeker laws.

"We have a very significant issue with returning foreign fighters to our country - people who have been off in the Middle East that come back to pose a very significant threat to the Australian public," he told reporters in Canberra.

"I will do everything within Australian law to stop those people coming back into the country to cause harm and injury to Australians."

Lawyers, constitutional experts and human rights advocates have warned the proposed legislation is disproportionately harsh and could breach international law.

Australian Associated Press