| October 26, 2018

Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018

It's my privilege to be in the House today to talk to the Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018. We understand very clearly that we, like every other nation, are in the firing line for a whole range of threats into the future. We always hope that these violent threats may not be inflicted upon the people of Australia, but we have to put this type of proactive provision into our legislation so that we can be prepared for whenever we are the subject of these terror threats. We also understand that if people want to get at Australians, they don't actually have to come to Australia. We saw that very much in the Bali bombings, where we had people inflicting great pain and loss of life on Australian people in a foreign country.

We are susceptible in many, many ways, and the ability for Australia to respond to specific events is quite difficult at the moment, when we have the primary responsibility as first responders being with our standard police forces from the respective jurisdictions. This legislation is now going to make it much easier, when an event does take place that is beyond the reach of our law enforcement agencies and they need that additional assistance, for them to be able to call out the ADF in a much more expedited manner to get the skill sets that they need. We know that the skill sets that are available within the Air Force, the Navy and the Army are the types of assets that we will need in the event that we have a future terror threat.

This legislation will also make it very clear that in no way will the ADF be called in to disperse what we would call a peaceful protest. This has been an area of the legislation that's needed to be worked through from a legal point of view. People were looking at this legislation and discussing whether it was in any way going to impinge upon the freedoms and rights of people who wished to partake in a peaceful protest, and it has been set aside very clearly that in no way will that be affected into the future.

As I said, this proactive legislation will give us the opportunity to make those call-outs. It's actually going to broaden the opportunity for different ministers. Currently, these types of powers rest solely with the Minister for Defence and also the Attorney-General, but the ministers who are now going to be able to make this call will also be alternative ministers. That's going to be the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Home Affairs, and the Treasurer. It's going to make it slightly more flexible for government to be able to enact these call-out orders. I think the law enforcement agencies that will be asking for this assistance are very keen that the government that has to make these calls is going to have this greater flexibility.

Obviously, the ADF understands that the powers it will be given will be at the request and at the instruction of the local police authority and include the ability to search those people who are at an incident and the ability to detain people who are at a particular incident. These are some of the areas where there has been some conjecture and certainly these are the actions that we have seen to be the most critical. But also, when it comes to some of the threats which we are yet to deal with on a large scale here in Australia, it might mean they will have the power to destroy certain assets that are deemed to be either a threat to the Australian people or, in fact, at the time inflicting loss of life on the Australian people.

So these are very serious measures that are being put into the parliament today. It's a very serious issue. We are trying to predict what may happen into the future and trying to predict what types of actions our Australian Defence Force personnel may be called on to assist with. At this stage, this is the way that we have been able to put the legislation together.

We're also talking about not just a standard opportunity to call out the Defence Force. When there are extraordinary circumstances, we're going to have the ability to have expedited call-outs that are also going to be part of this legislation. In the event of a sudden or extraordinary emergency where it is not practical for the normal call-out to be made, the Prime Minister instead of the Governor-General can call out the ADF. In the event that the Prime Minister is not available, these expedited call-outs can be authorised by two other ministers: the Minister for Defence and the Attorney-General. They can do that work jointly. In the event that the Prime Minister and one of the other authorising ministers are not available, an expedited call-out can be authorised by the remaining authorising minister—that is, the Minister for Defence or the Attorney-General, along with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Home Affairs or the Treasurer. These expedited call-outs are designed to be used in response to a rapidly evolving, dynamic terror situation where an immediate response is critical to prevent the loss of life here in Australia.

A contingent call-out is another aspect of this legislation, and part IIIAAA provides a mechanism to prospectively make a call-out order that will only come into effect if specified circumstances arise. The purpose of a contingent call-out is to preauthorise the ADF to respond to anticipated or foreseeable threats, should those circumstances arise. A contingent call-out authorises the ADF to respond immediately once the specified circumstances have arisen. A contingent call-out is currently limited to responding to air threats. The amendments will extend these contingent call-outs to be in relation to land and maritime threats, as well as to aviation threats, in the event of those incidents happening. The contingent call-out is the only type of call-out that has been used to date. These contingent call-out orders are made regularly as part of security measures to protect major Commonwealth events, such as the Commonwealth Games and the ASEAN summits.

We are putting this in place, hoping that we won't have to use it and hoping that, if we do use these provisions, they are used incredibly sparingly. We would also like to see the situation where our law-enforcement agencies are able to deal with most of these issues on their own. But, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, we have other areas, issues and events, such as the Lindt siege which took place in Sydney a few years ago. The subsequent reviews into the procedures that took place on that day suggested that that may have been an event where some ADF skills and personnel would have been able to come up with a better result, rather than the loss of life that we saw in that event. As was also put forward by the previous speaker, we know that there is always a raft of other circumstances behind many of these events that we see on the local news bulletins. Again, I would just like to acknowledge the incredible skills that we have available within the ADF—the most disciplined, humble and well-trained soldiers that we could possibly hope for. We understand how crucial they are for us in the work that they're doing, both here in Australia and overseas.

This is a commonsense piece of legislation, where we are planning for the future. We understand that it's a future where we'll be living in very uncertain times, and we understand that in those uncertain times there will always be a threat where we may need this type of assistance. We always hope it doesn't happen, but the fact is that we have some of the best-trained soldiers and the best-trained troops in the world.

This type of legislation is going to assist in keeping Australians safe. Every government that has the opportunity to govern this country should have as its first duty keeping Australians safe. This legislation is going to enable us to do that in a more proficient manner. It's going to create greater workability between our current law agencies and our ADF. It's also going to set out clearly the legal platform for what our ADF can and cannot do, to make sure there isn't confusion at the time of an event and to make sure that, in the days following the event, everybody knows exactly what they are supposed to be doing and what they are legally allowed to do.

With no further effort, I commend this bill to the House. I would like to thank the Attorney-General for putting this legislation together. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquired into this legislation, and it supported the legislation and said that it should be enacted. Various levels of consultation have arisen to this point, where it has now been set out. I wish this bill a speedy passage through the House, and I commend this bill to the House for it to be part of ongoing legislation.

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