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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 55

National Security


Senator MOLAN (New South Wales) (14:05): My question today is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Could the minister update the Senate on the steps taken by the Turnbull government to keep Australians safe?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:06): I thank Senator Molan for his question. The No. 1 priority for the Turnbull government is the safety and security of Australians and Australia. In recent years terrorist attacks around the world and closer to home—for example, in Indonesia and the Philippines—have horrified us all. It's clear that terrorist tactics are evolving and, as we've also seen in the Middle East, some groups are capable of planning and conducting complex, well-coordinated attacks. As the threat evolves so must our approach to dealing with counterterrorism. Legislation being introduced by the government today will make it simpler for state and territory governments to call on the resources and expertise of the Australian Defence Force when they need it to deal with a terror related event or other acts of violence.

The defence amendment bill gives effect to the recommendations of the defence counterterrorism review announced last year. These amendments are the most significant changes to ADF callout powers since part IIIAAA of the Defence Act was introduced. The changes have been made in close consultation with the states and territories. It is very important to note that state and territory police will remain the best first response to terrorist and other incidents and continue to have primary responsibility for protecting life and property in their state or territory. I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee for its work in consulting with the states and territories so effectively and also to acknowledge and thank the state and territory governments for their active and constructive contributions to the consultation process on this extremely important matter of national security.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Molan, a supplementary question.



Senator MOLAN (New South Wales) (14:07): Could the minister advise the Senate on other measures the Turnbull government is taking to protect Australians from terrorism?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:08): As the bill has been in development, Defence has also made substantial progress to further enhance the very practical support that it provides to state and territory police through a range of engagements, including an enhanced counterterrorism liaison network, an increased and broadened program of specialist training activities and streamlined access for police to specialist defence facilities, such as rifle ranges. The bill itself will make it easier for states and territories to request ADF support where necessary to assist in the event of a violent or terrorist incident; allow the government to preauthorise the ADF to respond to threats on land, at sea and in the air; simplify, expand and clarify the ADF's powers to search, seize and control movement during a violent or terrorist incident; and enhance the ability of the ADF to respond to incidents occurring in more than one jurisdiction, which was an area of the act that needed amendment. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Molan, a final supplementary question.



Senator MOLAN (New South Wales) (14:09): Can the minister advise the Senate about what protections are built into the bill?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:09): There will be times when the states and territories may seek defence assistance to deal with violent situations, as I've indicated, and the amendments in the bill will improve and enhance the existing legal framework for that.

Nevertheless, as I said, police remain the best first responders to terrorism incidents, and the bill makes no changes to the primary responsibility of the states and territories to protect lives and property in their jurisdictions. Nor are there any changes to the primacy of the civil power. Civilian law enforcement agencies remain the paramount authority during a call-out. In particular, the amendments make it clear that when operating under a call-out order the Australian Defence Force must assist and cooperate with state and territory law enforcement agencies. As far as reasonably practical, and even after it has been called out, the ADF will not act unless formally requested by the relevant state or territory police force.

All levels of government recognise that our highest duty is to protect the Australian people. (Time expired)