The Department of Immigration and Border Protection, under the authority of Minister Scott Morrison, is in the process of seeking amendments
to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 that will give the minister
draconian powers over not only asylum seekers, but anyone who has become
or wishes to become an Australian citizen.
The Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation
Amendment Bill 2014, will give Morrison the power to set aside
decisions made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on the character
and identity of those applying for citizenship or who have already
received it, in a public interest test determined solely by the
The DIBA submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected
member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular
insight into the community’s standards and values. This particular
insight therefore qualifies Morrison to overrule AAT decisions. It is
the bill’s intention to grant a minister, in this case Morrison, the
power to determine an individual’s “good character” or otherwise,
regardless of any ruling made by the AAT. Morrison’s decision will be
The bill also aims to give Morrison the right to determine “fraud” or
“misrepresentation” in applications for citizenship. In such instances
Morrison can revoke papers regardless of whether or not the individual
concerned has been convicted of either offence.
That is, Morrison or the minister concerned has the power to
determine “guilt” outside of any criminal proceedings, denying
individuals the presumption of innocence.
The notion that anyone has particular insight or is entitled to
absolute power because he or she is an MP and minister of the Crown is
extremely dangerous. It is confusing the office with the human being who
holds it. High office does not automatically endow its holder with
integrity or insight. We are all too familiar with “killers in high
places who say their prayers out loud” as Leonard Cohen puts it.
Morrison’s ongoing lunges for absolute power must be challenged. This
is a liberal democracy. We do not have ministers who overrule the
expert opinions of experienced tribunals. We do not have ministers who
are above the rule of law and entitled to deprive any human being of the
presumption of innocence. We do not have ministers who are answerable
to nobody, whose decisions are unchallengeable, and who are allowed to
carry out their department’s business in absolute secrecy.
First published on Jennifer’s blog No Place for Sheep