Malcolm Turnbull calls on Labor to back Coalition's citizenship regime

New arrivals need to ‘join us as Australian patriots’, PM to tell parliament in national security update

Malcolm Turnbull will use a national security update to parliament to urge Labor to support the government’s proposed overhaul of citizenship requirements, arguing new arrivals need to “join us as Australian patriots”.

The government intends to press ahead with its new citizenship regime once parliament resumes on Tuesday for the last sitting fortnight before the winter recess.

On Monday the government confirmed the new laws would give the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, the power to reject decisions on citizenship applications made by the administrative appeals tribunal if he doesn’t believe they are in the national interest.

On Tuesday Turnbull will deliver a national security update which flags the introduction of the citizenship package. The prime minister will tell parliament there is no more important title in our democracy than “Australian citizen”.

“And we should make no apology for asking those who seek to join our Australian family to join us as Australian patriots – committed to the values that define us, committed to the values that unite us,” the prime minister will say.

He will also use his security statement to argue that the privacy and security of a terrorist “can never be more important than public safety”.

At the weekend the government flagged it would seek changes to the law to allow intelligence agencies to decrypt communications of terrorist groups on the internet.

The attorney general, George Brandis, will travel to Canada this month for talks with the Five Eyes intelligence network, and lobby for greater legal obligations on device makers and the social media giants requiring cooperation with police and intelligence agencies in decrypting private communications.

Turnbull will tell parliament on Tuesday that an “online civil society is as achievable as an offline one”.

“And the rights and protections of the vast overwhelming majority of Australians must outweigh the rights of those who will do them harm. That is truly what balancing the priority of community safety with individual liberties and our way of life is about – and my government is committed to that.

“We will not take an if-it-ain’t-broke-we-won’t-fix-it mentality. This government doesn’t simply set and forget.”

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, will use his contribution to the security debate to endorse the proposed changes in principle. “Daesh has used the internet as an instrument of radicalisation,” Shorten will tell parliament.

“Through Twitter and Facebook they boast of a propaganda arm that can reach into every home in the world: spreading hate, recruiting followers and encouraging imitators.

“And with encryption technology like WhatsApp and Telegram they can securely communicate not just a message of violence – but instructions in how to carry it out.”

Shorten will acknowledge many internet providers and social media platforms already work hard to detect and remove offensive content “but we need more – and these companies have the resources and the capacity to do more”.

“Terrorists don’t self-police, so we cannot rely on a self-policing system.”

With its proposed citizenship overhaul, the Coalition wants to extend permanent residency from one year to four before people can apply for citizenship, toughen English language competencies, introduce a values test and require people to demonstrate they have integrated into Australian society.

Labor is yet to say whether it will support the package. The frontbencher Andrew Leigh said on Monday if the government wanted genuine bipartisanship on the changes, it would need to work constructively with the opposition.

Leigh said Labor was “up for a constructive discussion about improving laws” but said the government had thus fair failed to produce a detailed proposal. “There’s very little detail out there on the public domain about issues that really matter.”

Tuesday marks the opening of the final parliamentary sitting week before the winter break. The government will be looking to use the coming fortnight to progress its budget measures, including the banking tax and school funding, which is deadlocked.

The government has also been hopeful of passing its proposed reforms to media ownership, but One Nation has signalled it will not support scrapping the so-called “two out of three rule” which prevents media companies owning television, radio and newspaper assets in a single market.

For now, the media ownership issue remains deadlocked.

The Coalition party room will also meet on Tuesday for the first time since the chief scientist, Alan Finkel, released his review of the national electricity market.

Ahead of that meeting, conservative MPs have been flexing their muscle about the proposed clean energy target. The former prime minister Tony Abbott declared on Monday the new clean energy target sounded like a “magic pudding” and he said the Coalition must not adopt a new tax on coal.

The conservative Liberal MP Craig Kelly, the chair of the Coalition’s backbench committee on climate change and energy, also flagged “real concern” about the impact of the proposed clean energy target on power prices and industry competitiveness.

Some government MPs fear the debate over the Finkel report could trigger a split in government ranks along the lines of 2009, when Abbott used an internal fight about emissions trading to take the Liberal party leadership from Malcolm Turnbull.


Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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