Citizenship Decisions Raise the Prospect of Judicial Activism in Australia

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On June 8, the Australian High Court handed down a arguable determination to onslaught down authorities powers to portion nationals of citizenship for engaging successful suspected violent activities. The tribunal ruled successful favour of Delil Alexander, a Turkish national whose Australian citizenship was cancelled successful 2021, owed to the nationalist information agency’s appraisal that helium had joined the Islamic State and engaged successful overseas incursions and recruitment. By majority, the court-ordered Alexander’s citizenship indispensable beryllium restored with the Australian authorities to wage costs.

In June 2021, ASIO, Australia’s nationalist information bureau liable for the extortion of the state from espionage and terrorism, communicated to past Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews that Alexander was portion of a radical of spiritual extremists whose travel to Syria had been arranged by violent facilitator Hamdi al-Qudis. In April 2013, helium travelled to Turkey and connected to Syria, wherever helium joined Islamic State by August, 4 months later.

The seizure of Alexander successful Deir az-Zour state successful November 2017 coincided with a large Syrian subject operation, backed by Russian forces and pro-government militias, to reconquer the state from Islamic State control. He was arrested and recovered blameworthy of offences by a Syrian tribunal successful January 2019.

As a result, successful July 2021, Andrews stripped Alexander’s 2nd (Australian) citizenship, discretionary powers granted successful the Citizenship Act, for having “repudiated his allegiance to Australia.”

However, Alexander’s lawyers appealed to the High Court partially due to the fact that helium needed to retrieve his citizenship owed to a perceived “danger of superior quality rights violations.” Arguably, the determination was challenged connected grounds including that it would person a “punitive character” with important consequences for the individual.

By contrast, authorities lawyers contended that the applicable curate had faithfully complied with each the 3 required conditions successful the decision: a idiosyncratic has engaged successful the requisite conduct; the behaviour demonstrates the idiosyncratic has repudiated their allegiance to Australia, and it would beryllium contrary to the nationalist involvement for this idiosyncratic to stay an Australian citizen.

On June 8, the High Court held that the curate could not portion individuals of citizenship for fishy acts of terrorism. In a associated decision, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel and Justices Patrick Keane and Jacqueline Gleeson argued that Australian citizenship is “an assurance” that a idiosyncratic is “entitled to beryllium astatine liberty successful this state and to instrumentality to it arsenic a harmless haven.”

Epoch Times Photo Susan Kiefel was being sworn successful arsenic Chief Justice of the High Court, successful Canberra, Australia, connected Jan. 30, 2017. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Justices Michelle Gordon and James Edelman reached the aforesaid conclusion. In their judgement summary, the Full Court stated (pdf):

“Some members of the bulk held that … the substantive effect of the minister’s determination … was to deprive the plaintiff of his entitlement to participate and unrecorded astatine liberty successful Australia. This intent and effect of the instrumentality was punitive successful quality … Two Justices reached the aforesaid decision that [the provision] was punitive successful character; it conferred powerfulness connected the curate to cease citizenship arsenic a authorisation for past conduct, akin to humanities forms of punishment, with important consequences for the individual.”

Justice Simon Steward was the lone subordinate of the tribunal to dissent from the majority. He reminded his peers that the instrumentality allows citizenship cancellation for “conduct which is truthful incompatible with the shared values of the Australian assemblage that it constitutes a severance of the enslaved betwixt citizens and a repudiation of allegiance.” He besides informed that “the capableness to enforce a punishment of immoderate benignant is not needfully a powerfulness exclusively reposed successful the judicial subdivision of government.”

It is not the archetypal clip a determination of the High Court is surrounded by controversy. More recently, successful the 2020 lawsuit of Love v Commonwealth, 2 individuals who had committed crimes successful Australia and were calved overseas were allowed to enactment successful the state due to the fact that the tribunal discovered the 3rd class of persons who are neither an Australian national nether the Australian Citizenship Act nor a non-citizen.

The plaintiffs successful the Love lawsuit were calved successful Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Both were serving a word of imprisonment, 1 for a superior enactment of home unit and the different for grievous battle occasioning bodily harm. The authorities sought to deport some of them, arguing that they were not citizens and, therefore, it was wrong its discretionary powerfulness to deport them pursuant to conception 51(xix) of the Australian Constitution.

However, by a bulk of 4 to three, the High Court ruled that nary foreigner who whitethorn person committed a superior transgression but identifies himself arsenic “Aboriginal” tin beryllium expelled by the authorities from Australia—even if specified a idiosyncratic is calved overseas and does not person Australian citizenship.

Epoch Times Photo People are seen during a citizenship ceremonial astatine Government House during Australia Day celebrations, successful Melbourne, Australia, connected Jan. 26, 2022 (AAP Image/James Ross)

In different words, writes ineligible affairs writer Chris Merritt: “Even erstwhile calved overseas and holding the citizenship of different country, overseas criminals with Aboriginal ancestry tin nary longer beryllium treated arsenic aliens for the purposes of migration law.” This ruling besides means that Aboriginal elders and assemblage leaders tin stymie moves to deport overseas criminals if they find they person Aboriginal ancestry.

The lawsuit of Love tin beryllium reasonably described arsenic 1 of the astir extremist instances of judicial activism successful Australian history.

Judicial activism describes a inclination of immoderate judges to see preferred outcomes, attitudinal preferences and governmental values erstwhile interpreting the applicable law.

Professor Brian Galligan describes this arsenic “control oregon power by the judiciary implicit governmental oregon administrative institutions.”

According to Lorraine Finlay, the quality rights commissioner: “When unelected and unaccountable judges measurement beyond their judicial relation and participate the governmental realm, our ideology is weakened … When judges commencement to veer from the judicial towards the political, the regularisation of instrumentality is needfully undermined.”

Unfortunately, implicit the past 2 years, the High Court of Australia has surely been much adventurous successful their activism. Such activism whitethorn person occurred successful the Alexander case, and it was surely noticeable successful the Love lawsuit arsenic it straight relates to the instauration of a caller “right” by unelected and unaccountable judges.

Of course, discretionary decisions which are based connected authorities wrong the limits of the Australian Constitution are for the applicable authorities section to determine. For the infinitesimal an unelected and unaccountable judiciary ventures to abruptly substitute its ain sentiment for that of the elected government, it enters a tract wherever it would beryllium astir intolerable to acceptable limits to its interference, but arsenic should beryllium prescribed successful its ain discretion.

Views expressed successful this nonfiction are the opinions of the writer and bash not needfully bespeak the views of The Epoch Times.

Augusto Zimmermann


Augusto Zimmermann is prof and caput of instrumentality astatine Sheridan Institute of Higher Education successful Perth. He is besides president of the Western Australian (WA) Legal Theory Association, editor-in-chief of The Western Australian Jurist, and served arsenic a subordinate of WA's instrumentality betterment committee from 2012 to 2017. Zimmermann is an adjunct prof of the University of Notre Dame Australia, and has authored galore books, including "Direito Constitucional Brasileiro," "Western Legal Theory," and "Christian Foundations of the Common Law."