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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 1473

Mr BALDWIN (5:36 PM) —I rise today to speak on theDefence Legislation Amendment (Security of Defence Premises) Bill 2010. I, like all members in this House, indeed people across Australia, was absolutely shocked and mortified to hear in media reports that there was a planned terrorist attack by al-Shabaab on Holsworthy Army base, that there was an intention by six accused men to enter the base, killing as many military and civilian personnel as possible—indeed, allowing themselves to be killed. At the time, it forced us to ask the question as to whether our bases were being adequately protected. Were the men and women who defend our nation’s rights and freedoms being adequately protected at the base gate?

I remember at the time, as the shadow minister for defence science and personnel and assisting shadow minister for defence, examining the call on whether it was time to re-institute uniformed personnel on the parameters and at the gates of our defence bases. That after this the Daily Telegraph and media crews were also able to gain deep access inside Holsworthy raised further concerns about whether the government was serious about protecting these defence interests. I raise that again today because this incident occurred in August 2009 and here we are in October 2010 and we are only starting to address this bill.

This bill now attempts to do three things. Firstly, it strengthens the legal regime for ADF members who may be required to use reasonable and necessary force in the event of a terrorist attack on a defence base. Secondly, it establishes a statutory regime of search-and-seizure powers in order to reduce the risk of unauthorised items entering defence facilities or restricted items being improperly removed. Finally, it updates the existing trespass offence and associated arrest powers in the act to clarify that defence has certain adequate powers to deal with unauthorised entry to all defence facilities.

What needs to be first and foremost put into position is the protection of the people who service our nation and our military assets through the Australian Defence Force. In my electorate of Paterson I actually have no military bases now, but literally across the road there is RAAF Base Williamtown. Many of the personnel at that base and their families reside within my electorate of Paterson. I know the assets we have at RAAF Base Williamtown. We are home to the premier F18 squadron in Australia. We are home to the Hawk lead-in fighter. The Wedgetail is now being based there. But that is only a small part of what we do. We also have the eastern regional operation and command centre. There are many things at Williamtown that serve our nation well. But first and foremost they need to be protected.

It would worry me if a terrorist organisation sought to breach the parameters of Williamtown RAAF base and inflict damage upon the personnel—we still have single persons accommodation at Williamtown RAAF base. It would worry me if they sought to destroy the military assets we have there and render us incapable by destroying our F18s. It would worry me if they were able to launch an attack on the eastern regional operation and command centre and then basically put Australia, in part, out of action for a while. These are the things that concern me and concern the Australian public. The security risk at Williamtown is amplified by the fact that on the other side of the base is the lease to the Newcastle Airport Corporation. That in itself provides security risks for our base. Having officers of the public, contracted personnel, providing security for our base without the opportunity to stop, using lethal means if necessary, a terrorist attack on our base worries me.

In other words, before this bill came through, in a threat situation our security officers might have acted with a great deal of courage and determination to deter it but, at the end of the day, were they leaving themselves legally liable for any action that they took? The question still remains: should our defence bases be secured by defence personnel covered by the Defence Act? This expansion of the Defence Act to allow security of temperament in the knowledge that if contracted personnel apply lethal force or measures they will have a level of protection is applauded. But I have to question this government’s attitude and determination—and I admit that there have been a few months out for an election—because here we are 14 months after the fact. There was an inquiry and the upgrading of the security details of bases. They were subject to a security classification.

Mr Ripoll —Six years you had.

Mr BALDWIN —I note that the member for Oxley is so wound up on this issue that he is not even speaking on it. He is not even going to contribute except for interjections. That is because he cares very little about the defence of our nation and the people who defend it. The member for Oxley would have put his name down to speak on the bill if he were indeed concerned about the people who serve our nation. But he is not. So he seeks to add by interjection rather than by real contribution to this debate.

I say this to the people of Australia: the coalition is committed to the people in the Australian Defence Force. This was the first time, as is publicly known, that there was ever a planned terrorist attack—and this time by al-Shabaab—on the defence of our nation on Australian soil. The delays in the response worry me greatly. There needs to be further examination of opportunities. I welcome the fact that on 30 September the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade took a reference for further inquiry. We await their report on 16 November. It will be encouraging if there are any modifications. The coalition’s position on this is that we have an open mind, even though we are supporting this legislation because it is good for the support of our defence personnel. But if further improvements to this legislation can be made, then I think that in a bipartisan manner we need to make sure that we examine and then adopt any strong recommendations because, as I say, at the forefront is our need to support the men and women in uniform. We ask so much of them and, in relative terms, we give so little. I think it is incumbent on any side of government of any political persuasion to make sure we support the men and women of our defence forces.

We will support this legislation because we do not want to see any repeats. We do not want to see what could happen if indeed terrorists do breach the front gate. I think we need to take security within Australia and our defence forces a little more seriously than they have been taken in the past. I think we had become a little bit slack—perhaps it was the Australian way of ‘she’ll be right’. In this case, when the issue was identified through investigative means, it was able to be stopped. But if this were a single person inflicting damage, who left no trail by which they could be picked up—without any telephone calls, without any information going out—then what would the result have been? That is what we need to consider. So, in supporting this legislation, I say that the coalition is 100 per cent committed to our Australian Defence Force men and women, and we need to make sure that they and the assets they work with are fully and adequately protected.

Mr Ripoll interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms S Bird)—The question is that the bill be now read a second time.

Mr Baldwin —Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I note that, despite the interjections, the member for Oxley, given the opportunity for government members to speak, has not risen to speak on this bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I think the member for Paterson has made his point.

Mr Ripoll interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Gentlemen, we will continue with the debate. The question is that the bill be now read a second time. The member for Macquarie has the call.