Mental illness may be used to deny Australian citizenship under new bill


People could be denied Australian citizenship or have their citizenship revoked, under certain conditions, if they are ordered to undertake drug rehabilitation or a residential program for the mentally ill, under legislation that passed the House of Representatives on Monday.  The Australian citizenship and residential amendment bill will face a challenge in the Senate, where Labor and the Greens oppose it. The legislation lists a number of clauses that the immigration minister can use to revoke or deny citizenship, including a pending, current or previous criminal conviction, or a court-ordered confinement to a psychiatric institution due to criminal offences.


 It also states that people who have court orders to undertake a residential drug rehabilitation scheme or a residential program for the mentally ill, can be barred from becoming Australian. The bill would expand the immigration minister's powers in deciding who can be granted citizenship, and legislates a good character requirement for applicants.


Guardian Australia contacted the office of the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, to obtain an outline of what constitutes good character, but did not receive a response.


"Minister Morrison's lust for power is out of control," Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia. "He's trying to give himself the authority to strip people of their citizenship and render them stateless.


"Scott Morrison thinks he is above the judicial system and the need for legal accountability and review. While these measures will hit refugees the hardest, it will leave Australian citizens open to the whims of the minister of the day."


Hanson-Young said if the bill passed, children born to refugee parents in Australia could be deported with the stroke a pen.


"He cannot be trusted with these powers and I urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to stand up for the people, including regular Australian citizens, who are being targeted by this bill," she said.


With both Labor and the Greens opposed to the bill, the government must negotiate with the volatile crossbench, including newly-independent senator Jacqui Lambie, who left the Palmer United party on Monday morning.


Labor wants more time to go through the bill.


"The government's attempt to ram through this legislation without providing an opportunity for proper and careful consideration shows a lack of respect for our citizenship program," a spokesman for the opposition's immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, said.


"This is not an area of policy with which the opposition are prepared to be so flippant. It is on this procedural basis that we have opposed this bill in the House, because there has simply not been enough time allocated to properly consider this very important piece of legislation.


"It is important that we deal with matters relating to citizenship with the highest diligence. Labor will not rush down the path of passing legislation that affects this policy area until we are wholeheartedly satisfied it is appropriate in all respects and will bear no unintended consequences or impact on matters of citizenship."


Morrison told the House of Representatives on Monday afternoon that the changes were about restoring integrity to the migration system, and that the bar for becoming Australian should be high.


"We should always ensure they are kept high, and that is not be achieved by being complacent about the standards and administration of those standards. You must be ever-vigilant on these things," Morrison said.


The bill gives the minister the power to revoke citizenship if there is evidence that the citizenship was obtained fraudulently.


It also extends the deferral period for the minister to decide if someone can be granted citizenship from 12 months to two years, if there are questions relating to their character or conduct.

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I think we'd better start with the immigration minister then whose mind and heart are very ill.
--- Trudy