Proposed citizenship changes might have prevented Sydney siege, official says


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Immigration department assistant secretary tells senators Man Haron Monis could have been deported under stricter laws

Sydney’s Lindt cafe siege might not have occurred if the Turnbull government’s proposed citizenship laws were already in place, an official from the immigration department has claimed.

David Wilden, the first assistant secretary of the department’s immigration and citizenship policy division, has told a parliamentary inquiry that the terrorist Man Haron Monis, who took 18 people hostage in December 2014, might have been deported years ago if immigration laws were stricter.

He said the Turnbull government’s proposed citizenship laws were designed to help authorities deal with Australia’s terrorist threat, and there was nothing wrong with asking people to show greater allegiance to Australia, as the laws require.

“If we had these citizenship laws in place, the Lindt cafe siege may not have occurred,” Wilden said on Thursday. “I know that’s contentious … [but] if these laws were in place, the gentleman in question would not have made it, all things being equal … into the citizenship status, at which point, when other offences that he had undertaken [were noted], he would have been subject to a 501 cancellation and could have been, you know, deported.”

The Greens senator Nick McKim said that was a “highly contentious” thing to say, but Wilden did not back down.

He said the government’s bill also put a high price on citizenship, and it was right for the government to want to stringently test someone’s integration in the community.

“The concept that we wouldn’t want to test someone’s integration in today’s environment where, whether we like it or not, terrorism is a much greater threat than it was in 2007 and, you know, the 1990s when previous changes [were made], is a little naive,” he said. “The government’s proposition is that citizenship strengthening could be … one of the factors that would help us deal with some of those threats.”

The inquiry also heard ethnic communities across Australia were gripped by an unprecedented level of fear as parliament considers its crackdown on citizenship laws.

Community members worry that the federal government’s proposed changes will negate their years of contribution to Australia and place in jeopardy the opportunities provided to new migrants.

Emma Campbell from the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia told the committee the citizenship debate had ignited a grassroots response unlike any other.

“The level of fear and distress in culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia is extraordinary and unprecedented,” she said. “FECCA believes this bill will create a permanent underclass of Australian residents who will be denied the rights and opportunities of being welcomed and included as Australian citizens.”

The organisation suspects the proposed crackdown is driven by politics rather than any empirical evidence.

Sam Wong, representing the Chinese community, flagged particular concerns with toughening English language requirements for aspiring citizens, labelling the move “amazingly strange” and difficult to accept.
Wong expected the crackdown would dissuade migrants from non-English-speaking countries from coming to Australia.

He said there was no evidence to suggest those proficient in English made stronger contributions.

Lawyers have also expressed serious concerns about the English tests, not least because the introduction of a “competent” requirement is not defined by legislation.

Online Source: The Guardian

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