Roundup: Australia to consider tightening anti-terror laws to close "loophole"
Xinhua, March 3, 2017 Adjust font size:
The Australian government is considering beefing up anti-terror laws aimed at stopping dual-national foreign fighters from returning to Australia, the nation's Immigration Minister said on Friday.
Local media reported that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had been briefed that hundreds of foreign fighters could expose loopholes in anti-terror legislation introduced last year.
Under Australian law, dual-national foreign fighters who return to Australia can have their citizenship scrapped; however, the government will need proof the fighters hold a second passport, requiring the cooperation from countries such as Iraq and Syria - something which has been hard to come by.
It was also revealed the laws are not retrospective, meaning those who fought in the Middle East before May 2016 would be allowed back into the country.
So far, just one dual-national foreign fighter has had his Australian passport torn up, and Dutton told Macquarie radio the government was considering strengthening the laws to close any potential loopholes.
"I think there is an argument for some strengthening. We do try to get a bipartisan stance on these types of legislation and we need to compromise," Dutton said on Friday.
"It's going to take compromise from (the opposition).
"We want to send a strong message to intelligence organizations and criminals that we are serious about dealing with these threats because we are in an uncertain age."
However, not all of the Immigration Minister's colleagues agree. Australia's Justice Minister Michael Keenan said while the foreign fighter law had come under scrutiny, it was just one piece of the counter-terror puzzle.
"This legislation is one plank of a much larger national security architecture that has been completely re-written in the face of the changing nature of the terrorism threat," Keenan told Sky News.
The justice minister said Australia was a world leader in implementing counter-terror laws, and reports of "serious loopholes" were widely overstated.
"Australia stands as a beacon, in terms of what we've done, as an example to the rest of the world," Keenan said.
"If a foreign fighter were to return to Australia, we have legislation in place that will be able to prosecute, imprison them and, if required, keep them in prison until they are reformed."
Meanwhile Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the legislation was a sensitive issue as stripping citizenship from sole Australian citizens was illegal, but the News Corp report was a "sensational beat-up."
Pyne said keeping the nation's borders safe was a priority for the government, but added that Australia "could not leave people stateless" by stripping them of their citizenship if they aren't a dual-national.
"There are a range of laws the government use to protect Australian citizens, and this government has been the toughest on terror of any in modern history," he told the Nine Network.
"But that particular piece of legislation requires the alleged terrorist to have two citizenships and obviously you have to prove they have another one to take their Australian citizenship away."
Later, opposition spokesperson Anthony Albanese said Labor had always supported the government in passing anti-terror laws, but said it was important that Australian citizens were not left "stateless" if they have their citizenship stripped.
"We're not going to play politics with these issues. If there are any amendments to legislation required, we will be co-operative as we have been the whole way through," Albanese said on Friday. Endit