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Thursday, 18 October 2018
Page: 10439


Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (12:55): I rise today in support of the Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018. Many of us don't think about our first responders unless there is an incident that draws our attention on the news—or, increasingly these days, on social media. Every day someone in our community needs the assistance of the police or emergency services, including firefighters and our ambulance officers. On rare occasions this will also include our defence forces, and that's ostensibly what this bill is about.

This bill will make it easier for our state and territory governments to request the assistance of our Army, our Navy and/or our Air Force under certain circumstances. Labor knows and very much understands how important it is to make that sure our national security arrangements are kept up to date, to keep all Australians safe and to protect the magnificent freedoms that we have here in our country under our great democratic principles.

The Defence Act 1903, as it currently stands, outlines two types of call-out orders: an order for the ADF to be called out immediately and a contingent call-out order, whereby the ADF can be called out if specific circumstances arise. But the world as we know it, including Australia, is a very different place to what the lawmakers of 1903 experienced, and we have to respond today as modern lawmakers for the new demands of security in our world. Fortunately, Australia has had little experience of terrorism on domestic soil compared to the rest of the world. That is a great thing, and it's testimony, first and foremost, to our democratic rule of law. It's also testimony to the spirit of the Australian people, and I think it's testimony to the fact that here in Australia we have a very rigorous set of laws. As the previous speaker mentioned, we all operate under the Australian rule of law. That includes our police forces and our Defence Force, and that is still one of the great tenets of living on the Australian continent: that we all live by the laws that we make.

Due to the diligence of our security services, we can feel safe when we need to go to the supermarket or to the football or to some of those important events. Also, when we have lawmakers from other parts of the world visit our country, we want to know that they will be secure. But we can't ignore things like the Lindt cafe siege, as has been mentioned by many speakers already in this place this morning, or other incidents in tourist havens like Bali, where Australians have been impacted. This bill will ensure that local authorities will continue to be the first responders, but it also ensures that help is at hand if it's needed—and, importantly, that the help is at hand without delay.

It's important to point out that the wonderful workers and local authorities will remain as the first responders in the case of a local terrorism incident. Ostensibly, the police, the firies and the ambos—the first responders in their chain of command—will still have control of the situation, but they will be able to request the assistance of the Australian Defence Force more easily if it's required. Under the existing legislation, states and territories can only call on the military when they are not, or are unlikely to be, able to protect themselves or Commonwealth interests against domestic violence. I might just add that the context of the words 'domestic violence' is very different in how we use it today in modern language. It isn't in terms of family violence on that scale but is 'domestic violence' in terms of our country.

In July 2017 the government announced a number of measures to enhance the support provided by the Australian Defence Force for national counterterrorism arrangements. The Department of Defence has already implemented a number of these initiatives to provide greater practical support for state and territory law enforcement agencies, and these include things like enhanced counterterrorism liaison networks, an enhanced program of specialist training activities and streamlining of police access to Defence facilities. I actually think this is a really important part of this bill. We know that we have within the ADF some of the world's best practice in terms of training. We know that technology is constantly changing and we know that the ADF have access to some of the cutting-edge technology the world over.

I think it is really imperative that we allow our local authorities to train with the ADF, to have access to some of the new technologies and to really have the best KPIs in the world in terms of training. It really does make a lot of sense to extend to police, ambos and our other local authorities the training that the Defence Force has to offer. Why not use that incredible capability and capacity for training people? We train people extraordinarily well within the Australian Defence Force. Why not extend that and assist our local authorities? I'm told that the program is working particularly well. So I do think that it is a good development and a good trend to think our local authorities will benefit from that training from the Australian Defence Force. Indeed, the cross-pollination of experience that local authorities have to share with the Australian Defence Force as well should not be underestimated.

This bill is part of those measures announced in 2017 and amends the Defence Act to make it easier for states and territories to request ADF support and simplifies, expands and clarifies the ADF's powers. I think that's a good thing for the ADF. It enhances the ADF's ability to respond to incidents occurring in more than one jurisdiction or across jurisdictions and allows for pre-authorisation for the ADF to respond to threats on land, at sea and in the air. This is typically used as a measure during major events as speakers have spoken about this morning: things like the Commonwealth Games, the G20 and ASEAN meetings. Amendments to the bill ensure that requests for assistance are implemented efficiently and quickly. As we know, for some of the threats posed a particularly imminent response is required. 'Time is of the essence' has never been more important, as my friend and colleague the member for Eden-Monaro pointed out—in an excellent contribution to this debate, I might add. Things have changed since the 1800s, when bugle calls were put out and how the Defence Force may have responded to a threat was very different. These days we see threats coming in all manner of ways and often without notice, so timeliness is really very important.

This amendment also makes it very clear that, domestically, the state and territory police forces will remain the first responders to terrorist incidents and call-out of the ADF will only be able to be considered following a request by a state or a territory. It is important to provide a more flexible and responsive threshold that requires the ministers to consider, firstly, the nature of the violence or the threat and, secondly, whether calling out the ADF would be likely to enhance the state or territory's ability to respond to that threat. I think that is really a useful thing to keep in mind in relation to this bill as well.

This amendment will allow greater flexibility for the ADF to provide the most rapid, effective and appropriate specialist support in responding to terrorist incidents, at the same time as respecting the states' and territories' positions and rights as the first responders. The ADF will have pre-authorisation to respond to threats on land, at sea and in the air, enabling the multijurisdictional call-out. As the law stands currently, that is only available to us in the air. Pre-authorised or contingent call-out will allow ministers to pre-authorise the ADF to respond if specific circumstances arise, and that speaks to timeliness as well.

The bill enhances the ability of the ADF to respond to multiple incidents occurring in jurisdictions. We've seen internationally where simultaneous acts of terrorism have happened. I think this is another really important part of this bill. We can be agile and responsive across multiple jurisdictions. If something were to happen in a number of states simultaneously, we could have the ADF come to assist in that situation. I think that really is an important part of the nimbleness required in today's modern world.

Currently, contingent call-out is limited to the protection of Commonwealth interests from air threats, so including sea and land is indeed very important. This type of contingent call-out order has been made regularly as part of security measures. We want to participate in things like the ASEAN Summit, the Commonwealth Games and the G20—it is absolutely imperative and it is a point of pride that we, as a modern democracy, can bring world leaders to our country to help create the world order, in economic and other terms. We want people to know that they can come here and avail themselves of our excellent security and feel that business can be done in a safe way here in Australia and that we look out not only for our own community but for the world community at large.

This bill will extend contingent call-out to be available for the protection of Commonwealth interests—land, sea and air. The purpose of this amendment is to remove potential delays in seeking ministerial authorisation for ADF support once a threat is considered imminent or immediately after the event occurs. It will also provide additional support options in planning for major events. That is where so much effort goes in. I am pleased to see that those additional support options have been included in the bill, because we know that the planning of things like the G20 and the ASEAN Summit can take many months and require specialised personnel.

Defence Force capacity and expertise enhance the efforts of local emergency services. This is an important point when considering the context of the amendments in this bill. Under certain circumstances, Defence capabilities may be critical to contain an incident and protect lives.

One of my proudest moments since being elected was to spend a week living at RAAF Base Williamtown, in my electorate of Paterson. Aside from looking at all of the work that goes on at the base, which makes an enormous contribution to Australia's defence capability, it was incredible to meet the individuals who sign up to be part of our Australian Defence Force and to look at the impeccable training regimes they go through so that they are ready. To think that we will have those personnel at our disposal should the worst occur is something that gives me great comfort. I am very proud of them. I am pleased to know that, should they be required, our RAAF Base Williamtown personnel will be able to be involved and able to respond to the call of the states and territories.

The experience at RAAF Base Williamtown certainly gave me an insight into the lives of our service women and men and the great sacrifices they make to ensure our security. I want to thank all those who serve and work hard and put their lives at risk so that we can relax and enjoy this wonderful country that we call home. Thank you for making yourselves available not only to our country on a broader scale but also to our local authorities, should the need arise. I commend the bill to the House.