Monday, 8 June 2015

The Human Rights Commissioner

Professor Gillian Triggs, is under attack again.
This does not surprise me. She has been speaking out against plans to strip dual citizens of their Australian citizenship if they do something like head off to fight with terrorists. 
Citizenship is said to define "who we are". Citizenship is said to give you a passport and the ability to travel beyond the borders of the country you call "home". It is said to give you the right to vote and to participate in society.
Some countries allow "dual citizenship" and others don't. Some countries allow "dual citizenship" with some countries and not others. 
The question of loyalty to one place or another is always going to be a difficult one. Australia actively encourages "multi-culturalism" - or the acknowledgment of where your ancestors come from. At least they do if you come from what is perceived to be a non-English speaking background. (Those of Scots ancestry need not apply. We have been told that our ancestry does not qualify under any of the multi-cultural programmes. Oddly, the Irish and the Welsh do qualify.)
I actually have no problem with denying dual citizenship to anyone who goes "back home" to fight a war - whichever side they are on. If you have fled here in fear of your life and been granted Australian citizenship then you have surely got what you wanted - a safe place to live. If you don't want that then please don't claim you are a refugee because there are plenty of others who will be more than happy to take your place. Is that fair? I think it is.
Of course it is not a decision we should take lightly but it is a decision that should be able to be taken. Who takes the decision is another matter but my own view is that it should not be left to a government minister or a legal body acting in isolation. It should be a joint decision. This is one area where the "separation of powers" needs to be, in a sense, overcome because the courts may not be aware of "intelligence" information available to the government of the day.
Denying someone citizenship does need to be done with care. There is a need not to render people "stateless". They need to be able to go somewhere and call it "home". That is a basic human right.  The government, supported by the Opposition, has no such plans. Professor Triggs knows that. In speaking up she has failed to recognise something important about citizenship.
The Senior Cat's closest friend is a migrant from the United Kingdom. He and his wife went back to the UK several years ago. They could have travelled on UK passports. They travelled on Australian passports and entered the country of their birth as "foreigners". Their passports were stamped without restriction on entry but, had I been in the queue behind them, I would have been subjected to questions about the purpose and length of my visit and I may or may not have been permitted to enter. Citizenship  is an accident of birth. It is time to acknowledge that too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find the dual citizenship question interesting. My friend's daughter, from here in Scotland, has just this year achieved Australian citizenship and it has allowed her more freedom in the job situation. On the contary, my brother's children who were only 6 and 9 years old when they went to America 17years ago are still proud Scots who have no desire to to have American passports. They come back into Scotland freely when they are on holiday but of course go through the aliens gate when they return to USA. Thank you for all the intereresting topics you cover on your blog.