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Wednesday, 26th November 2014

A TEST OF CITIZENSHIP

Parliament is currently debating amendments to tighten eligibility requirements for Australian citizenship. The current Citizenship Act prevents the Minister from conferring citizenship on a person currently in the criminal justice system, or to a person currently subject to a court order requiring them to participate in a residential program for mental illness or drug rehabilitation. This new bill would extend that prohibition to people who apply to become citizens "by descent" – who are born overseas to an Australian citizen. The bill would also extend the current requirement for applicants to be of "good character" to everyone, including children, who are currently not subject to that requirement.

A report in yesterday's Guardian suggested that the bill seeks to give the Immigration Minister the power to revoke a person's citizenship if they're under a court order for reasons of mental illness or drug rehabilitation, but that doesn't appear to be correct. However, the bill would make it easier for the Minister to revoke a person's citizenship due to fraud in the application process – the Minister would only need to be personally satisfied of the fraud, and the applicant needn't be convicted of fraud, or even be the person who committed the fraud.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young characterised the amendments as part of Scott Morrison's "lust for power" – "he's trying to give himself the authority to strip people of their citizenship and render them stateless". Of even greater concern is Morrison's proposed amendments to the Migration Act that would effectively take Australia outside of the international law governing refugee and asylum-seeker protection. Both Labor and the Greens strongly oppose both amendments, which means the government will need to convince 6 of the 8 Senate cross-benchers of their merits.

*An earlier version of this editorial suggested that the Minister currently has the power to revoke a person's citizenship on the commission of a serious offence. That wasn't correct. The earlier version also suggested that Sarah Hanson-Young's comments were wide of the mark. It appears that they're not. Thanks to those correspondents who pointed this out.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Barnacles

Tony Abbott is hoping his stated intention to knock "one or two barnacles off the ship" before Christmas – for barnacles, read unpopular policies – will keep his backbench from panicking too much about shocking polls (Fairfax).

News.com.au reports that the government has ruled out bypassing the Senate to implement its GP co-payment, which now looks like being one of those soon-to-be-discarded barnacles.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm has introduced a same-sex marriage bill into the Senate, forcing the Liberal Party to potentially reconsider its opposition (Fairfax).

Canoes

Defence Minister David Johnston says he wouldn't trust the Adelaide-based Australian Submarine Corporation to build a canoe (ABC). Tony Abbott contradicts him and expresses public confidence in the ASC (Guardian). The South Australian Liberals demand Johnston apologise for his canoe comment (ABC). And as government ministers defend Johnston, Abbott faces pressure to dump him (Guardian).

We're Better Than This

As the ALP and the Greens express strong concerns over Scott Morrison's amendments to the Migration Act (Guardian), Indonesia says it may respond to Australia's new prohibition on resettling its refugees by forcing asylum seekers onto a single island in the archipelago (Australian).

Meanwhile, Bryan Brown has joined other famous Australians (including Ita Buttrose, Ian Chappell and Claudia Karvan) in a campaign, 'We're Better Than This', against keeping children in detention centres (ABC).

Trust

Lewis and Woods outline what a mess the government has made of its "trust us" message by cutting the ABC's budget (Drum). Richard Ackland says Mark Scott has "seized the opportunity" the cuts have afforded him, and that's "driving his critics bonkers" (Guardian).

Lisa Cox in Fairfax looks at how Malcolm Turnbull ended up contradicting Tony Abbott on whether the PM had broken his promise. And the Australian reports that the first round of the ABC's redundancies could be delivered in the week before Christmas.

Threats

Tony Abbott will take his promised $3 billion of infrastructure assistance to Victoria off the table if voters in that state dare to elect the Labor Party to government on Saturday, which is looking very likely (both Australian).

Victorian Labor has pledged to legislate for a separate carbon emissions reduction target should it win on Saturday (Guardian).