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Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Page: 989

Senator MARK BISHOP (4:50 PM) —I present the report of the committee on the Defence Legislation Amendment (Security of Defence Premises) Bill 2010 together with submissions received by the committee and I seek leave to speak briefly to the report.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator MARK BISHOP —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

Two high profile incidents highlighted the need for Defence to review its security arrangements. In 2008, a former army captain was convicted and imprisoned in relation to offences over the theft and illicit sale of 10 rocket launchers between 2001 and 2003 to a convicted criminal with terrorist links. The case illustrated the risk of improper removal of dangerous, restricted or classified items from defence bases. The second major public incident happened on 4 August 2009. In this instance, five individuals were arrested on allegations of planning an armed attack on the Holsworthy army base. The alleged plan involved storming the barracks with automatic weapons and shooting army personnel or others. The exposure of the planned attack raised concerns regarding the security of defence bases.

The implementation of provisions contained in this bill are designed to continue to meet the challenges created by the changeable nature of security threats to ensure the continued security and safety of defence premises, personnel and assets within Australia. The bill represents the first phase of legislative amendments and provides provisions of common application across Defence to deal effectively with the security of defence premises, assets and personnel.

The committee considered two major concerns: firstly, whether there was sufficient notification of offences; and, secondly, the adequacy of training. With regard to notification, the committee recognises Defence’s undertaking to display signs prominently at the entrance to defence bases or facilities notifying people of consensual and non-consensual search requirements. The committee holds the view, however, that, as the bill creates new offences, prior written warning about these offences should also be provided. It recommended, therefore, that the signs at entrances to defence bases and facilities provide notification that penalties may apply for offences under section 71V and 71W, respectively, of the bill.

Secondly, and more importantly, the most critical of the dominant messages coming from a raft of submissions made to the committee were about the adequacy of training. For example, the Victoria Police were firmly of the view that authorised officers and contracted Defence security guards would require specialist training to ensure the appropriate exercise of search and related powers. Similarly, the Tasmania Police referred to Defence’s obligation to provide training for security officers at an appropriate level in relation to any legislative authorities, especially stop, search and detention issues and the use of lethal force. Clearly, training is important to ensure that Defence security officials carry out their duties appropriately. Training is especially important for officers authorised to use lethal force. Although the New South Wales Police did not have any major concerns in relation to the bill, they noted in particular the importance of training requirements for staff authorised to use lethal force.

In this report the committee underscored the importance of training in relation to Defence security officials. It emphasised that training undertaken by such officials should be informed by the AFP and state police regimes. Given the fluidity of the security environment in which they are expected to operate, the training regime for Defence security officials must be both robust and responsive. To this end, the committee reaffirmed the importance of ongoing consultation between Defence and the AFP and other federal agencies, as well as regular joint exercises, and encouraged the cooperative relationship to develop.

The committee considered that determining training requirements in legislative instruments is appropriate to the extent that flexibility is required to enable timely modifications to the training requirements in response to the changing nature of security threats. It noted, moreover, that any such modifications would attract parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that provisions therein are balanced. The committee recognised that the bill provides a range of powers to Defence security officials to enhance security of defence bases, facilities, assets and personnel within Australia. Notwithstanding its recommendation that training be consistent with the ‘reasonable and necessary’ principle, the committee is satisfied that the safeguards on the powers conferred on Defence security officials are adequate to ensure that such powers are utilised appropriately.

Whilst noting that the bill introduces new provisions in relation to defence personnel, including the power to exercise lethal force, to search and seize and to restrain and detain, the committee appreciates that security threats are dynamic in nature. To ensure that such provisions are adequately responsive to ever-changing security risks and meet their objectives, the committee proposes to review the operation of the bill three years after enactment, having specific regard to matters considered in this report and any other concerns raised in the ensuing three years.

The committee made four recommendations: firstly, that signs and entrances to defence bases and facilities provide notification that penalties may apply for offences under section 71V and 71W, respectively, of the bill; secondly, that the Australian Defence Force give consideration to the utility of the inclusion of the ‘reasonable and necessary’ principle in delegated legislation; thirdly, that the Senate pass a bill; and finally, that the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade review the operation of enacted provisions of the bill in early 2014.

Question agreed to.