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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 1475


Mrs MARKUS (5:46 PM) —I rise to speak on the Defence Legislation Amendment (Security of Defence Premises) Bill 2010, which sets out specific actions that can be taken to ensure the security of defence bases, facilities, assets and personnel within Australia in response to the changing nature of security threats. This amendment bill will insert part VIA into the Defence Act 1903 and make associated amendments to the Australian Federal Police Act 1979. The bill will protect, by legal means, the actions taken to defend Defence Force facilities. The bill will also give some comfort to families of defence personnel and to local communities living and working near Defence Force facilities.

The need for such a bill became apparent when, in August 2009, four men were arrested for allegedly planning an armed attack against Holsworthy army base. In a newspaper report from the Daily Telegraph dated 27 October 2009, one of the men allegedly made a chilling pledge to ‘take out as many victims as possible’. The ABC news of 14 September 2009 reported that the man had told his co-conspirators, ‘The work was easy and the base was a suitable target.’ These events brought home the reality that the threat of terrorism in Australia is real and current and that defence facilities and personnel are potentially attractive targets for such groups. A subsequent review of defence protective security arrangements recommended a number of policy and physical security initiatives to complement and strengthen existing security at defence bases.

At present Defence employs private contractors to man the gates and entrances to defence bases around Australia. These contractors administer the right of entrance to the bases based upon the production of the necessary identification and security clearances to enter a base. Additionally, Defence also maintains a range of physical and personnel security measures coupled with intelligence to provide a layered response to mitigate threats. But in view of the changing security environment and specifically the increased risk of terrorism, it has become necessary to upgrade the security measures, to both guard the entrances to the base and to effectively secure the perimeters of such bases.

A primary concern following the attempted attacks on the Holsworthy Barracks army base was that defence personnel did not have a clear legal right to defend themselves. The coalition and, I must note also, the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Houston, had indeed expressed concern at the time that under the current laws Defence Force personnel could be facing legal action if they used force to defend themselves. We need to do all we can to protect those who are serving our nation, their families and our communities.

The amendments in this bill ensure that authorised personnel securing a defence base will have the powers to use reasonable and necessary force, including lethal force, in connection with an attack on defence premises. The amendments also establish a statutory regime of search and seizure powers to reduce the risk of dangerous items entering defence facilities, or material and classified information being unlawfully removed. The bill will amend section 82 of the Defence Act 1903 to update and relocate the trespass offence and related arrest powers. These powers will include the use of overt optical surveillance devices to monitor the security of defence premises. Under the changes, the information captured by these devices can be disclosed to law enforcement agencies and Commonwealth, state and territory public prosecution authorities.

This bill is a response to the challenge of the changing nature of security threats. I am particularly interested in this bill because the Richmond RAAF Base and Glenbrook Air Command RAAF Base are both located in the electorate of Macquarie. It is in the nation’s interest to put measures in place that protect and secure the people and infrastructure of this and other Defence Force establishments.

The Richmond RAAF Base holds a unique place in Australia’s aviation history, being the first Air Force base established in New South Wales and the second within Australia. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith landed the Southern Cross there after his historic trans-Pacific flight in 1928, and Miss Jean Batten landed there after her solo flight from England in 1935. During World War II the base became vitally important to Australia’s defence, with several squadrons based there and its use as an aircraft depot. Since that time, the Richmond RAAF has evolved from a primarily combat centre to providing logistical support and airlift fleet. The RAAF Glenbrook has been the base of Air Command since 1953. The base was established at Glenbrook after World War II, when the RAAF east command was moved there from Bradfield Park, Sydney, because Bradfield Park was within the eight kilometres of a possible Sydney nuclear attack zone. The base at Glenbrook was operational by the end of 1949.

My interest in this bill is not just about security measures for the base. I have had an affiliation with the base for over 30 years, where I have formed many lifelong friends. In recent years as a local member I have come to know more of the men and women working there as I am out and about in an official capacity on the base. Last year I spent a week on the base as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program, which gave me a much deeper appreciation of their unique service.

Certainly, in all my contact both here and with members of the Defence Force generally, I have been impressed by the integrity, commitment, compassion and professionalism of our men and women. That is why I, along with many other Australians, was deeply concerned when the thwarted terrorist attack on Holsworthy Army base was reported. It was a serious and sobering reminder of the world that we live in today. All would agree that after the Holsworthy incident there needed to be further steps taken to enhance security arrangements and protocols. There will be costs associated with the bill’s measures and the coalition will be questioning the government and holding it to account on what that expenditure will be and how it specifically relates to the existing cost cap of $329 million, allocated over the forward estimates from within the defence budget provision for the base security improvement program.

The proposed amendments are divided into seven divisions. The first and second divisions deal with terminology defining who does what and what the levels of security responsibility are. The third division deals with the powers that authorised defence security officials may exercise with consent. Importantly, there are measures in place to penalise any security official taking action not authorised under division 3—for example, conducting a limited search of a person who did not consent.

Division 4 relates to the exercise of powers without consent. It is important to note that this power only relates to qualified personnel covered under the generic term ‘special defence security official’, which excludes a contracted defence security guard. Division 4 gives additional powers to special defence security officials to remove a person from the premises if they refuse a request to leave. Division 5 relates to powers of seizure. This provision relates only to special defence security officials and provides them with the power to seize an item, such as a vehicle, vessel, aircraft or unattended item, if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that the item constitutes a threat.

Division 6 addresses the need for security authorised contractors and special defence security officials to prominently display ID cards at all times. Division 6 also provides for the exercise of powers by a defence security screening officer, given consent, when it is not practicable for that power to be exercised by a security authorised member of the Defence Force. Division 7 makes it an offence for persons to enter defence premises or accommodation without authorisation.

Specific subclauses are also useful for wider scrutiny. Proposed section 71X addresses the key concerns that many members of the public had following the incident at Holsworthy Army base. Under this section, security authorised members of the Defence Force may respond if an attack on defence premises is occurring or is imminent and the attack is likely to result in the death of or serious injury to one or more persons on the defence premises. While this power allows use of force, including a lethal use of force, it only applies to security authorised members of the Defence Force. Under proposed section 72A, a defence security screening officer may exercise the powers of a special defence security official in the event that it is not reasonably practicable to wait. Proposed section 72G allows a defence security official to exercise a reasonable use of force and limits defence security guards and defence security screening employees from using lethal force or causing grievous bodily harm.

The bill contains a range of allowable actions, appropriate to each level of authorised security personnel. The bill also protects the rights of visitors to the Defence Force base if they have a legitimate right to be there. These amendments needed to be made after the attempted plot at the Holsworthy Army base. We need to ensure that our defence facilities have the highest level of protection against all threats. We owe it to the nation, the members of the Defence Force, their families and indeed the communities who live and work near Defence Force facilities to support members of the Defence Force in the exercise of their duty of protecting us. It is a mutual obligation of the highest order and this bill sets out measures that will provide that support. I commend the bill to the House.