SYDNEY - Australia is expected to introduce anti-terror laws to parliament Thursday that would ban foreign fighters from returning home for up to two years. The government has said the measures are necessary to protect Australia from extremism, but critics have insisted they would violate the rights of citizens.
The bill is based on legislation in the United Kingdom, and aims to prevent the return of Australian citizens suspected of fighting with militant groups overseas.
Ministers have said Australia needs new powers to stop them bringing their dangerous ideology home until authorities are ready to deal with them.
Under the proposed new law, they could be excluded for up to two years.
“These people want to do us harm," says Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. "For us, we are dealing with people who have now acquired the skill of putting together an IED [improvised explosive device], have worked with ISIL [Islamic State] and have a right to come back to our country, and we need to protect our citizens.”
But critics believe the proposed legislation is unconstitutional. The Law Council of Australia said it was a ‘dog’s breakfast’, or a mess. It insisted all citizens have the legal right to return home without permission from officials.
Helen Irving, a professor of law at the University of Sydney, believes the plans to exclude foreign fighters should be scrapped.
“All Australian citizens have a constitutional right to return to Australia without having to obtain a licence, or a clearance, from the executive [the government]. It is in the nature of Australian citizenship,” she said.
This week, two men were charged with an alleged terrorist conspiracy to attack targets in Sydney. Investigators say the pair — Radwan Dakkak and Isaak el Matari, who are both in their early 20s — were influenced by Islamic State, and that el Matari had planned to travel to Afghanistan to join the extremist group. They were arrested in coordinated raids in Sydney Tuesday.
Authorities said it was the 16th alleged major plot to have been foiled in Australia since 2014.