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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 1468

Mr NEUMANN (5:11 PM) —I speak in support of the Defence Legislation Amendment (Security of Defence Premises) Bill 2010. The Minister for Defence said in his second reading speech on 29 September that Defence is the largest Commonwealth landholder, and one of the largest landholders in Australia. He made the point that the department manages an estate consisting of in excess of three million hectares of land around 88 major bases or facilities and has approximately 370 owned properties and a further 350 under lease.

During the last campaign, and for some months prior thereto, I had a map of my electorate on the wall, and more than one person asked me what a grey little area in my electorate was. It was a very large area inside my electorate, and I had to explain on each and every occasion that it was the RAAF base at Amberley. This is a very large part of my electorate of Blair. Indeed, there are about 3½ thousand personnel and civilians working at the RAAF base at Amberley. It is the home to C17s and F111s, which will retire in early December this year. The Super Hornets are also currently located there, and we will get additional Super Hornets in the future. It is the home to 9FSB and the construction squadron, which will arrive very shortly.

There are many people who work on that base, civilian as well as military. There are men and women, young and old, some who have been trained in defence hand-to-hand combat and many in how to use a weapon. But, still, despite every attempt that we undertake to ensure that our Defence bases are as ready as possible with security and to be as vigilant as we can be in the protection of those bases, the Holsworthy incident clearly demonstrates that the review was timely and that acting on the review is the appropriate thing for the federal government to do.

I am not going to comment on the litigation and charges that are currently before the Supreme Court in Victoria but, clearly—and this is the reason I support our troops in Afghanistan—we must resist all forms of fundamentalist fascism, narco-terrorism and Islamic extremism, which were clearly evident in what we saw at the Holsworthy base. Innocent people would have been slaughtered if these people had been able to carry out their plans. Defence bases are clearly attractive targets for enemies of our state and our nation. Making sure that they are protected is crucial, not just for the economic wellbeing of our country—the bottom line for the approximately $26 billion that we spend on defence every year—but for making sure that men and women, our fellow citizens, are protected.

The Review of Defence Protective Security Arrangements was carried out subsequent to the Holsworthy incident in August 2009. A number of individuals were arrested, as I said, for allegedly planning an attack on that army base. There is no proposal to change the fact that civilian police and security personnel who are civilians will still have the primary responsibility for responding to security incidents at Defence premises. That is appropriate, and it has been a bipartisan approach taken regardless of which side of politics has been in government. But I warmly welcome this legislation, because it clarifies that appropriately trained and authorised members of the Australian Defence Force can use force—indeed, lethal force—to protect life or prevent serious injury to themselves or others in the event of an actual attack on Defence premises or people on those premises. I think that clarification is the appropriate word for it because, if you asked the Australian public or asked any judicial officer in this land, I am sure they would think it appropriate to defend yourself against an attack if you were military or civilian personnel on a military base.

Of course, the key recommendation here was to clarify the legal issues surrounding ADF members acting in self-defence in the event of a no-warning attack. We have legislation in criminal codes dealing with circumstances where someone has the right to self-defence. We have provocation listed as a defence or partial defence in the event of someone who is a civilian being attacked. For example, if the member for Oxley were to get up here and start attacking me, it would be appropriate—and I think most people would think so—for me to defend myself against him.

Mr Ripoll —I’m pretty fast—you wouldn’t see me coming!

Mr NEUMANN —But, seriously, to make sure that the legal framework is as well-defined with respect to military bases as we have it in the states and territories of this country for civilians is the appropriate thing to do. The member for Fadden went through, at length, how this legislation operates, and I do not intend to duplicate what he had to say. Former Defence minister Senator John Faulkner said it pretty well when he said that the general right of self-defence provides the current legal basis for ADF personnel resorting to force. The legislation before us makes it crystal clear that those military personnel on the base would have every right to defend themselves and others until, for example, the police could take control of the situation and anyone arrested could then be charged.

One thing that the member for Fadden did not outline in detail was the inadequacy of the penalty for trespass on Defence premises. A $40 fine is grossly inadequate—$40 can hardly buy you a decent meal at a restaurant these days—so increasing the fine to $5,500 is appropriate in the circumstances. The importance of the Defence assets we have at our military bases can be summed up best by the fact that is quite commonly stated in my community, the Ipswich and West Moreton area: that the RAAF base at Amberley adds about a billion dollars a year to the benefit of the Ipswich economy and to those across the western corridor. Defence housing is created for the number of military personnel and civilians who work on the base, who spend money in the community, who worship in the churches, whose kids play in the sporting teams and who are involved in community life. They are people who come into and are part of the community. So it is an economic argument as well as an argument to protect the lives, liberty and property of Defence and civilian personnel on the base. Also, we have weaponry which we purchase at tremendous cost to the Australian taxpayer. For example, there are the C17s, which are massive transport planes, located at the RAAF base at Amberley. The F111s, which have served us wonderfully well for 40 years, are being retired and another lot of Super Hornets are arriving. As the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel said in answer to a question I put to him in question time last week, we will have 11 more come into Australia, many of them based at the RAAF base at Amberley in my electorate of Blair. We want to make sure that the military personnel there have the power to use lethal force if those military assets are at risk.

I welcome other parts of the legislation that deal with Defence security, particularly those giving the power to require identification, to conduct consensual and non-consensual searches and the right to detain a person until the arrival of the appropriate state or territory police. That is appropriate as well. The legislation has importance for my community in Blair and for communities across the country for the reason the Minister for Defence outlined in his second reading speech. He outlined just how many bases there are, how many assets there are, how many communities across Australia are affected by military personnel and how many bases there are which provide an economic driver in communities across the country. We are protecting not just our military assets but the economies of the communities across Australia with this legislation. And for that I am very pleased to support the legislation.