Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Deputy Leader of the House) (15:50): I’d like to begin, Mr Deputy Speaker Andrews, by recognising your interest, in particular, in this bill given your former role as Minister for Defence. Also, in the spirit of the Invictus Games, which are occurring right now in Sydney, I want to recognise and thank all serving ADF members for their service to our nation.
I thank my parliamentary colleagues for their contributions to the debate on the Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018. I also thank the opposition for its support for the important amendments in the bill. The amendments are the most significant changes to the Australian Defence Force’s call-out powers, under part IIIAAA of the Defence Act 1903, since the provisions were enacted in 2000 in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics.
The contemporary terrorist threat environment is more complex than the threat Australia faced when part IIIAAA was introduced almost 20 years ago. It’s characterised by the threat of highly mobile attackers that move quickly across large areas. The recent events in Borough Market, London, and at the Bataclan theatre in Paris are illustrative of this type of attack. At the same time, the Manchester bombing showed that attacks and threats related to the use of explosive devices continue to pose a significant risk. The amendments will ensure that the ADF is better able to respond effectively to this contemporary terrorist threat.
I’d like to respond briefly to the member for Melbourne, who said the bill would see ministers calling out the ADF on a routine basis. Of course that is not correct. States and territories will retain responsibility, as first responders, for domestic security incidents, and the threshold limits the ADF’s role to augmenting that response in the most serious of circumstances, such as a terrorist incident.
I would note that in the debate on the bill a number of my parliamentary colleagues stated that these amendments were developed in response to the Lindt cafe siege. I’d like to clarify that the bill was not developed in direct response to the Lindt cafe siege. The review of Defence’s support to national counterterrorism arrangements, announced by the government in July 2017, was initiated in response to the changing nature of the terrorist threat, as seen in the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Ankara. The coroner’s report on the Lindt cafe siege, and the subsequent attacks in London and Manchester, added context to the review. The amendments will ensure that the ADF is better able to respond effectively to the current and future terrorist threat environment. The bill will enhance the ability of the ADF to support state and territory police in responding to incidents of significant violence occurring in Australia, including terrorism.
Under the amendments, states and territories will continue to have primary responsibility for protecting Under the amendments, states and territories will continue to have primary responsibility for protecting life and property in their jurisdictions. State and territory police forces are well equipped to respond to domestic terrorism incidents and play a primary role as first responders within minutes of an attack. However, the amendments will ensure that the Commonwealth can more easily respond to requests from states and territories for ADF assistance. The amendments remove the existing legislative threshold requirement that the states and territories are not, or are unlikely to be, able to protect themselves against incidents of significant violence. Instead, in deciding whether to call out the ADF, the Commonwealth will need to consider the nature of the incident and whether the ADF would enhance the state’s or territory’s response.
The amendments will also ensure that the ADF has the powers it needs to respond quickly and effectively to contemporary terrorist attacks in support of states and territories. In particular, they will allow the government to pre-authorise the ADF to respond to specified threats on land, at sea and in the air; they will simplify, expand and clarify the ADF’s power to search, seize and control movement during a violent or terrorist incident; and they will enhance the ability of the ADF to respond to incidents occurring in more than one jurisdiction. While the ADF’s primary counterterrorism role is offshore, the ADF has personnel, resources and specialist skills that can assist our emergency services to respond in the event of a terrorist attack. This support includes specialist capabilities such as tactical assault forces and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response and recovery.
The amendments will ensure that the ADF is able to utilise these skills and capabilities to contribute effectively to domestic counterterrorism efforts. The reforms are part of a suite of measures being rolled out to enhance Defence’s support to national counterterrorism arrangements. Since the government’s announcements of the outcomes of the Defence counterterrorism review last year, Defence has made substantial progress to further enhance the practical support it provides to state and territory police, including through an enhanced counterterrorism liaison network, an increased and broadened program of support for specialist training activities, streamlined police access to Defence facilities, such as rifle ranges, and expansion of the capacity and capability of highly trained force elements on call to assist police to respond to domestic security threats. These reforms will ensure the Commonwealth can be more flexible and agile in the way it supports states and territories.
The government has tabled an addendum to the explanatory memorandum which comprises the government’s response to the report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. It provides further information regarding what may constitute specified circumstances in the context of a contingent call-out order. The addendum also responds to the report of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills. It provides further information about the meaning of domestic violence and Commonwealth interests, the new threshold, time limits on call-out orders, the use of force in relation to declared infrastructure, aircraft and vessels, and the good-faith provision in subsection 51S(1). I would like to thank these committees for their detailed consideration of the bill.
In conclusion, the bill reflects the government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring Australia’s counterterrorism legislative framework remains robust and that ADF is well equipped to support our law enforcement agencies in responding to the evolving threat of terrorism. I’d like to thank my parliamentary colleagues for recognising the need for these important measures. And, again, I would like to thank our serving ADF members for their service. I commend the bill to the House.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Andrews): The question is that this bill be now read a second time.
A division having been called and the bells having been rung—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: As there are fewer than five members on the side for the noes for this division, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative in accordance with standing order 127. The names of those members who are in the minority will be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.
Question agreed to, Mr Bandt and Mr Wilkie voting no.
Bill read a second time.
Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Deputy Leader of the House) (16:01): by leave—I move:
That this bill be now read a third time.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a third time.