House debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Bills

Defence Legislation Amendment (Enhancement of Defence Force Response to Emergencies) Bill 2020; Second Reading

10:51 am

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am very pleased to introduce the Defence Legislation Amendment (Enhancement of Defence Force Response to Emergencies) Bill 2020 in this House.

We have seen through last season's bushfire emergency crisis and through the COVID-19 pandemic that Defence is a critical element of the national response to crises.

This bill will enhance Defence's ability to respond to natural disasters and other civil emergencies.

The amendments in this bill will streamline the process to call out the reserves enabling a more timely Defence contribution to national efforts.

The changes will also provide defence personnel with immunities, similar to that of state and territory emergency services counterparts, when performing their duties in good faith to support disaster preparedness, recovery and response.

And the amendments will ensure that reserve members who serve under a call-out order will receive commensurate superannuation to those reservists who provide the same service on a voluntary basis.

The changes will enable more flexible service options for reservists and will improve consistency in treatment of reserve members, regardless of whether they've volunteered their service or have been called out to serve.

Schedule 1 amends the Defence Act 1903 to streamline the process by which advice is provided to the Governor-General regarding a call-out of the reserves, including for the purposes of responding to natural disasters or emergencies.

The bill will allow the Governor-General to act on the advice of the Minister for Defence, after consultation with the Prime Minister, in all circumstances and not just for reasons of urgency.

This will streamline the process for calling out the reserves enabling a more timely and effective Defence response to national disasters.

Preserving the power of the Governor-General to call out the ADF Reserves will ensure decisions of this magnitude will only be taken when absolutely warranted by the circumstances.

Additionally, the changes provide the Chief of the Defence Force the delegation to determine the nature and period of Reserve service provided under a call-out order.

This will give the Chief of the Defence Force the flexibility needed to integrate the reservists into the overall Defence response.

Minor consequential amendments to the Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 will ensure that reserve members will continue to receive the existing protections when called to duty by a call-out order.

Schedule 2 will amend the Defence Act 1903 to provide immunities to those Defence personnel supporting disaster preparedness, recovery and response efforts.

The immunity provision covers assistance directed by the Minister for Defence when the minister is satisfied that:

a. the nature or scale of the natural disaster or other emergency makes it necessary—for the benefit of the nation—for the Commonwealth, through use of the ADF's or department's special capabilities or available resources, to provide the assistance; and/or

b. the assistance is necessary for the protection of Commonwealth agencies, Commonwealth personnel or Commonwealth property.

This will see our Defence personnel being provided with immunity from civil and criminal liability when they are performing their required emergency response duties in good faith, similar to the immunities provided to state and territory emergency services personnel.

Schedule 3 will make amendments to the Military Superannuation and Benefits Act 1991, the Australian Defence Force Superannuation Act 2015 and the Australian Defence Force Cover Act 2015.

These amendments will ensure that reserve members who provide continuous full-time service under a call-out order will receive superannuation and related benefits commensurate with those reservists who provide the same service on a voluntary basis.

These amendments provide greater flexibility in a call-out of our reserves; enable greater consistency in the treatment of our reserves; and ensure that our Defence personnel have all the appropriate legal protections when serving our nation in good faith in the deepest of crises and emergencies.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.

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