Thursday, 18 October 2018
Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018; Second Reading
As I mentioned earlier, Labor supports this bill for very good reasons, and it's been great to hear the contributions from members from both sides of the chamber making the points that need to be made. I was pleased, previously, to point out, recognise, thank and acknowledge the members of the Australian Defence Force—of which I was proud to be one—who supported the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, in terms of the security and the counterterrorism joint task force that supported the civilian agencies, the police and the emergency services during that fantastic event. It was in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Sydney that the current call-out powers for the Australian Defence Force were enacted.
As the Attorney said, the threat we face now is greater and more complex than when these laws were introduced almost 20 years go. As he also said, our law enforcement and security agencies and defence forces are amongst the best in the world. They are amongst the very best in the world. While our police and other emergency services are, and will remain, our first responders to terrorist attacks, the ADF does have specialist skills and capabilities such as tactical assault forces, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response and recovery assets and skills. The amendments will facilitate the contribution of defence forces to domestic counterterrorism responses.
The Department of Defence has already implemented a number of initiatives which have not required legislation, including but not limited to an enhanced counterterrorism liaison network, an enhanced program of specialist training, and streamlined police access to Defence facilities. This bill implements some of the recommendations of the review of Defence's support for national counterterrorism arrangements. The bill amends the Defence Act to do a number of things that have been outlined by previous speakers, and they are all important measures.
At the same time, we are very aware of the Australian Defence Force's role in protecting the nation from external threats. Sadly, we are now facing internal threats to our national security from terrorists and others who want to attack us from within, in what has been termed 'domestic violence'. In this context, the term 'domestic violence', which obviously has other meanings, comes from section 119 of the Constitution, 'Protection of States from invasion and violence'. It says:
The Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion and, on the application of the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence—
that is, violence that's comes from within. The explanatory memorandum of this bill states that domestic violence, in this context, is 'conduct that is marked by great physical force, and would include a terrorist attack or other mass casualty incident'. So there needs to be a balance between the role of the ADF in protecting the population from terrorist attack and preventing misuse of the ADF for any kind of political purpose or oppression of the people.
As speakers have pointed out in previous contributions, many of our recent arrivals, new Australians, have come here because of our free and democratic way of life. They may have come from countries where the armed forces have been used to suppress democratic activities and freedom of expression. I think that all speakers I've heard have been at pains to point out that this is not the intention or the effect of this bill.
Four principles underpin the proposed changes to the call-out provisions for the ADF. I think it's worth stating them, not only for those here but for the record. The ADF should only be called out to assist civilian authorities in that domestic context. If the ADF is called out, civilian authorities remain paramount, but the ADF members remain under military command. When called out, ADF members can only use force that is reasonable and necessary, and ADF personnel remain subject to the law and are accountable for their actions.
The bill will amend the Defence Act by streamlining the legal procedures for the call-out of the ADF, and I think that's important. Obviously, in a high-stress and intense environment, where decisions need to be enacted quickly, any streamlining is welcome. This bill does that by making it easier for the states and territories to request the support of the ADF; simplifying, expanding and clarifying the ADF's powers; enabling multijurisdictional call-outs; and allowing preauthorisation for the ADF to respond to threats on land, at sea or in the air.
My experience, as I alluded to in my contribution earlier today, of working at the Police Operations Centre as part of the counterterrorism response for the 2000 Olympics was that when you have information coming in from assets on the ground and decisions need to be made between agencies in a multijurisdictional way—and in as coordinated a way as possible—any streamlining allows commanders and decision-makers more time to orientate, to observe, to decide and to act. Obviously, that is essential when trying to make good decisions that are going to result in the outcomes we want. And those are, obviously, the security of Australian nationals and visitors to our country in such circumstances. So the amendment allows streamlining. It also allows greater flexibility for the ADF to provide rapid, effective and appropriate specialist support in responding to terrorist incidents, while at the same time respecting state and territory positions as first responders.
The ADF's search powers in the current act focus on dangerous things and do not authorise the ADF to search for and detain people. ADF personnel will be authorised to search for and seize items and to search for and detain people who are likely to pose a threat to a person's life, health or safety or to public health or safety generally. Presently, the ADF can only be preauthorised to protect Commonwealth interests from air threats, and this power has been used to protect major events such as the Commonwealth Games or the G20 meeting.
I think there are sufficient safeguards in this bill: civilian authorities remain in charge; ADF members can only use reasonable force; and ADF personnel remain subject to the law and are accountable for their actions. As a result of those, I join others in supporting this bill.
In the few moments that I have, I also rise to support the Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018, the bill before us, which has bipartisan support. When we host major events in Australia, people do want to know that they're safe, and they want to know that the very best people are working together for that.
I am from a very proud defence town. Bendigo and all of our small towns around us—I better not call Woodend or Kyneton small towns—are proud defence towns in the area. We have that long history dating back to the First World War, and still today many defence families choose Bendigo and central Victoria as their home. Many of them are involved in different sections of our Defence Force. When you meet with them and talk with them—