The Courier-Mail

No need to revoke citizenshi­p, just enforce our criminal laws

- SAMI SHAH

IF THERE’S one thing Prime Minister Tony Abbott and I agree on, it’s that Australian citizenshi­p is a valuable resource. So much so, that I’d argue it’s more valuable as a natural resource than even coal, oil, or Vegemite.

The Aussie passport is often ranked in the top 10 most valuable passports in the world, which as someone who currently holds one of the least valuable, I can tell you is a really awesome thing to be.

So when Tony Abbott threatens to revoke that citizenshi­p from people suspected of engaging in terrorism, that’s a pretty serious threat. An ISIS fighter with dual citizenshi­p of, say, Iraq and Australia, is much more of a threat to the rest of the world with his or her Australian passport than the Iraqi one. The former gives them visa-on-arrival access to most nations, the latter gives them free rectal exams in every airport they pass through.

But if the Prime Minister is serious about revoking that privilege, I have one request to make: Don’t waste the citizenshi­p. Depriving suspected terrorists of their Australian-claim should be Step One. Step Two should be

to rub their loss in their faces by giving it to someone else who doesn’t yet have it. Find the person who is the exact opposite of that ISIS-wannabe and offer it to them as a reward.

So, hypothetic­ally speaking, if you take the citizenshi­p from an Islamic Extremist Jihadist who lived in Sydney and loves killing people, then give it to an Atheist Cynical Stand-up Comedian who lives in a small country town and loves making people laugh.

Hypothetic­ally speaking, of course. That way, not only is Australia rid of a problem but it gains a benefit. Again, this is all hypothetic­al, of course.

If all this sounds ridiculous, it’s only because the idea that someone’s citizenshi­p can be revoked is also fairly ridiculous. It’s a measure that only makes sense if there were no other means of dealing with terrorism suspects. Measures like, for example, anti-terrorism laws, criminal laws, heck even treason laws.

If someone joins ISIS, they are actively waging war for an enemy of the Australian state, an enemy against whom Australia is currently, kinda, sorta, minimally, at war. That is, for all intents and purposes, treason. An act that Section 24AA of the Crimes Act 1914 punishes with life imprisonme­nt.

Some might argue that this is to prevent terrorism suspects from returning to Australia and committing terrorism locally. But those people have never tried getting through the customs and immigratio­n counters at the airport after returning from the Middle East. Besides, what is the point of all the increased surveillan­ce measures if ASIO can’t detect an active jihadist trying to come back from a study-abroad course at the Mosul University of Terrorism and Head Cutting.

The other reason to worry is the fluidity of the definition of “terrorism”. It currently, in Australia, means people involved with ISIS, the Taliban, perhaps Boko Haram, and a variety of other extremist organisati­ons. But what if that definition expands? What if future government­s have differing definition­s? Maybe a miningindu­stry influenced government decides environmen­tal activism is an act of terrorism? Or a new peace treaty with Saudi Arabia means anyone with dual citizenshi­p with Israel can’t go back for military service? Or an intrepid journalist uncovers corruption in ASIO and exposes it (already punishable by 10 years in prison)? The question to ask with laws as discretion­ary as the one being proposed is what happens if the next guy to use it isn’t someone on your side of the debate?

Australian citizenshi­p is something many of us immigrants strive for because it gives us a new permanent home. But once we have it, let us be bound by the same laws as all citizens, otherwise you’re cheapening the value of a truly precious commodity.

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