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Wednesday, 28 June 2000
Page: 18427


Mr LINDSAY (12:17 PM) —I rise to support the Defence Legislation Amendment (Aid to Civilian Authorities) Bill 2000 because the area I represent in the Australian parliament has Australia's largest Defence base. Townsville-Thuringowa is known as the garrison city of the Commonwealth of Australia so many constituents of mine are very interested to see this legislation come in to the parliament this morning. Townsville is the home of the 3rd Brigade and, of course, 11 Brigade. In the 3rd Brigade we have Australia's ready deployment force. That is the group that responds at very short notice in times of emergency. We also have units like the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, 3 Brigade Administrative Support Battalion and 5 Aviation Regiment, which has been referred to in this debate today—that is the Black Hawk squadron. We have 3/4 Cavalry Regiment, 103 Signal Regiment, 4 Field Regiment, 3 Combat Engineers, 10/4 Support Battalion—in fact, you would almost think that we have the whole of the ADF with those kinds of units. It is certainly Australia's largest Defence base, along with RAAF Townsville, which serves an equally important purpose. I have to be very careful what I say in relation to RAAF Townsville because we have a lieutenant colonel with the Australian Army in the parliament this morning.

In looking at this legislation—I was privileged to have a briefing and to examine the legislation before it came to the parliament—I was very careful to make sure that it contained the checks and balances that are needed. I note that a number of speakers today have made the point that, indeed, this legislation basically puts into law nothing more, really, than is already in practice. I am pleased to see the bipartisan support the legislation is being given. I asked questions like: does this impact on people's civil liberties? Who can give the orders? What is the process of that? Are the orders time limited? What happens if there are Rambos around the place? Is there any change in how the defence forces may be used for things like industrial disputes? Of course, it all came up with a clean bill of health.

I make the point, and I think my colleagues would agree with me, that we have been trying to get this legislation in place for, perhaps, 20 years. There was certainly an attempt made in 1987 under the former Labor government and again in 1989, but they did not come to fruition. I guess it is sad that this legislation is not in place because it protects our members in the ADF in whatever they might do. It sets out the rules under which they can operate. It gives them a lawful base for doing what needs to be done in times of some kind of domestic violence in the country. It is very important that we have this in place, but it is sad that it has not been in place until now. I do know and understand what the urgency of this is. I know my colleagues know and understand that and I thank them for that support. I think this is a great step forward in what we are able to do.

I know that, certainly in times of domestic violence, 5 Aviation Regiment from Townsville is likely to be very closely involved. I pay tribute to the men and women of 5 AV, who have been training extraordinarily hard with other units from Perth to protect this country later this year if needed. I know that some of the residents of my city, just the odd one or two, had some complaints about the noise as helicopters were landing on the Civic Theatre, on top of the Taxation Office building, but it was training that needed to be done. It was in the national interest that our men and women in 5 Aviation Regiment trained with other regiments in their counter-terrorism role, and I know that they will be extraordinarily well prepared in the very unlikely event that they will be needed. I also know that they have been training in Sydney and, in the middle of all of this training, they did get a little bit of training in a place called Timor. Many of our helicopters went over there, and one of the interesting takeouts of that was that the more they flew the helicopters, the more reliable they became. It is interesting to know that that could happen, and there is a bit of a message in there for the ADF, I believe.

This is very good legislation. It certainly moves us forward very much. I am very pleased to be able to support it this morning in the Australian parliament on behalf of the several thousand men and women of Townsville and Thuringowa who are proud members of the Australian Defence Force.