Michael Burrill

Citizenship: Sacred bond or political weapon?


Michael Burrill offers his own take on the tightening of citizenship legislation and foresees Tony Abbott’s vision of the future.

Pride in one’s citizenship has never really made much sense to me. It seems strange to celebrate or claim some sort of agency in something decided by luck and the snaking flows of history. Despite my own misgivings, it is my understanding that many consider citizenship a sacred bond. It is a sentiment that Tony Abbott has invoked in his push to strip dual nationals (and possibly those with sole Australian citizenship that are eligible for citizenship elsewhere) who are “involved in terrorism” of their Australian citizenship, along with the ever-present argument “Don’t be alarmed by this issue, however, it’s so alarming we need special new powers to deal with it.” Now, my previously mentioned scepticism may not make me the best person to talk about this, but I was always under the impression the “sacred bond” of citizenship held a certain permanence, something that once obtained, is held for life, something which, while the state may punish you for transgressing its laws in other ways, should only ever be renounced rather than revoked.

Even if you don’t agree with that characterisation, you should consider what such laws say to, and about, society as a whole. As far as I can see, they tell us “Oh you don’t have any responsibility for troubled souls, it’s always completely their own fault, discard them.” They say to hopeful young people “Make one mistake and that’s it! You’re done!” They whisper to criminals who want to change “There is no reform!” They shriek at recovering drug addicts “WHY BOTHER STAYING CLEAN? YOU’RE MARKED JUNKIE SCUM FOR LIFE!”

I’m not really sure those are the messages a society that aims to inspire pride in its citizens should be sending. Obviously, Tone feels differently, seemingly of the view that a great society is created by consistently labelling itself one, while arrogantly palming off anything challenging that perception to other, usually poorer, countries in a childish denial of responsibility. The sneering pomposity of “not in my suburb” snobbishness applied on an international level.

It’s not only the mythology of citizenship that has comprised Tone’s justifications, he’s also been mouthing off about the lofty ideals that underpin (or are, at least, supposed to underpin) Australian society, like democracy and the rule of law. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems plain that granting a political figure the right to revoke citizenship, on suspicion alone, is actually in opposition to those values. While such details may be more well defined when legislation is tabled, the broad potential definitions for “involvement in terrorism” are concerning, particularly when “terrorist” and “terrorism” are themselves such equivocal and politically loaded terms (most of you will have heard the old saying “One man’s terrorist is another man’s previously Western funded freedom fighter.”). Even the UN General Assembly hasn’t been able to agree on a definition.

That such definitions may be left completely to the discretion of one politician, who may be inclined to utilise it for political purposes, is worrying (as Nationals MP George Christensen’s description of environmental activists as “terrorists” perfectly illustrates). Especially when that politician is banal Peter Dutton, a man who looks suspicious of himself, with his face perpetually contorted into an expression of someone who smells shit, but hasn’t worked out where it is yet. The kind of person that the “honest opinion” defence in Australia’s defamation laws allows me to describe as a “devious fucker”.

These proposed laws, along with other “anti-terror” and some State “anti-bikie” legislation, seem to be cases of laws being introduced under the guise of “safety”, targeting the inflated and much-demonised nightmares of the public consciousness. This, in reality, erodes legal rights and can either be used to target anyone and everyone, or conceivably could be extended to do so in the near future, if left unchallenged and spun into a political success. With this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what Tone does with the Productivity Commission’s suggestion that should Australia introduce entry charges for migrants. Though he initially distanced himself from the proposal, with his love of the rich, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Tone change his tune.

Maybe this reveals something of Tone’s plans for Australia’s long term future. With the introduction of an immigration fee system and an expansion of the power to revoke citizenship, perhaps T intends to expel all the Muslims (though cashed up Middle Eastern monarchs and dictators will still be welcome, obviously), indigenous “lifestylists” and other undesirables in order to transform the country into a gargantuan golf resort for the wealthy to wait out the apocalypse. A kind of Mad Monk: Manicured Freeway, if you will. I bet what remains of the Australian workforce will be glad Putt King Tone (as he will then be known) stopped the boats (apart from the yachts, of course), imagining what could have happened if all those non-economic migrants (as asylum seekers will then be known) had gotten in and stolen the jobs, as Gina Rinehart the 2nd (a clone commissioned by the original Gina on her deathbed, so as to avoid passing on any inheritance to her children) and the Emir of Qatar practice their swings.



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  1. Michael Burrill said:

    And what about the safety of people in other countries who might not have the same resources to protect themselves, you don’t think their safety should be considered too? There are already laws in place to protect the community without setting the precedent of taking away citizenship away from anyone we decide we don’t want to deal with. Again, all violent criminals are threats to the safety of the community, do you think they should have their citizenship revoked or just the ones whose politics you don’t like? Even if people do hold opinions which amount to or are perceived to amount to hating Australia, that’s their right in a supposedly democratic society. Despite the fact your use of the term “us” suggests that you seem to view either Muslims or residents of Western Sydney as separate from the rest of society, they are just as much members of it as everyone else and entitled to the same rights, whether their views are in sync with the majority of their community or the community as a whole is besides the point. You seem to mistake defending a principle for personally sticking up for each and every Salafi Jihadist. Tell me how citizenship revocation deals with the root causes of radicalisation, because as far as I can tell it’s a reactive move that does nothing of the sort, those inclined to commit violence and cunning enough to stay around the radar wont be stopped by it. Meanwhile, a dangerous precedent will be set.

  2. Joseph said:

    I read your article. I Don’t think it’s acceptable for Peter Dutton alone to decide who is or isn’t a terrorist and I never said that. I am talking about people who have a hatred for Australia and Australians. I worked for 10 years with outreach in Merrylands and Bankstown and I know first hand the way a portion (not all) view us and what they would do to us could they have the chance. So I am asking you, why defend their citizenship so intensely rather than fight for the safety of those in the community who already feel sidelined by radicals who don’t represent their views or religion.

  3. Michael Burrill said:

    So you think every person found guilty of threatening or using violence should have their citizenship revoked? or just the ones whose politics you don’t agree with? You think it’s moral to send people who were radicalized in our society to go and potentially cause problems in other countries? You think it’s acceptable for Peter Dutton alone to decide who is and isn’t a terrorist? Because whatever the changes to the proposed laws, the fact he is the one that both issues the revocation and has power to overturn it if he so chooses means it still is largely up to his discretion. As for the whole “lack of respect” or “hate” for Australia angle, you seem to be suggesting that anyone who doesn’t fall behind a narrow patriotic view of the country should be turfed out. That’s not very democratic is it? Seems to be the kind of thinking which leads to a situation where anyone who is deemed to be outside the norm is banished. I have to wonder whether you even actually read and considered the points in the article because it seems you just regurgitated the opinion you obviously had from the beginning without really addressing any of my points…

  4. Joseph said:

    I don’t understand why anyone would be okay with an individual who has openly expressed lack of respect for this country, for these people and openly threatened to kill Australians. Why would you fight for his right to retain citizenship? It is all well and good to say they are scare tactics but but the people being targetted are people who actually hate Australia.

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