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Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Page: 7130

Senator HANSON (QueenslandLeader of Pauline Hanson's One Nation) (20:11): I can't let go what Senator Watt just said. He blamed the government for the bushfires that have happened in this country. They have been happening for centuries. He should really have a good look at it. State governments and councils have not allowed for clearing and haven't looked after the fuel that's lying on the floor. You couldn't do anything about it.

Senator Steele-John: Madam Acting Deputy President, I have a point of order on relevance. This is not relevant to the legislation we're discussing at all.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bilyk ): Senator Steele John, that's not a point of order.

Senator HANSON: I think I'm very much in order because we're talking about defence personnel coming from other countries to help us fight bushfires in this country. That's what it's all about—the problems that we have in Australia. Senator Watt stood up and made accusations about this. He blamed the government. It is not the government's fault. If you have arsonists setting bushfires and if you have local and state governments not clearing the fuel from the floor, of course we're going to have bushfires. We always have. It's not just about climate change. We know that for a fact.

What's important to this Defence Legislation Amendment (Enhancement of Defence Force Response to Emergencies) Bill 2020 is the firefighters and the people who help us. Australia is a land of extremes. It seems that we are never far from a natural emergency, like the bushfires we experienced late last year into early this year. (Quorum formed) For all the people who have come in, thank you very much. The Greens intend to call these constantly to shut down time. I suggest that, instead of sitting in your chambers, you sit here, because they intend to do this constantly to shut down time in this parliament so that you cannot deal with the legislation that is here before this parliament. This is how bloody pathetic they are.

Honourable senators interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Hanson, would you like to resume your speech?

Senator HANSON: I will, gladly. The bushfire on Fraser Island is the latest such emergency that has hit this nation. It shows how quickly an emergency can escalate. It has now destroyed approximately 82,500 hectares of the national park, and about half the island has been burned.

I think it's important that the Australian people know what this legislation is doing. Their concern is about foreign police, foreign military and everyone coming to the country and not being held accountable. That, it's not. The bill introduces some streamlining to enable the faster activation of our Army reservists in times of emergency, including civil emergencies, as well as for disaster preparedness, recovery and response. For our ADF reservists, it provides clarity in regard to their call-out responsibilities and remuneration. It also ensures immunity from civil and criminal liability for ADF personnel, reservists, authorised Commonwealth employees and military personnel and police from other nations while they participate in dealing with an emergency or a recovery. While there has been some concern raised that visiting forces should not receive immunity from both civil and criminal liability, the Centre for Military Security and Law has assured these provisions are in line with those of various state and territory jurisdictions. The Law Council of Australia also noted the safeguard that the immunity only covered acts done in good faith in accordance with specific written direction from the Minister for Defence. The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee recently expressed the view that foreign defence personal assisting during natural disasters should not have less protection than members of the ADF if they are called upon to respond in the same way. This seems fair enough.

As everyone knows, I am a patriotic Australian. I am a very strong opponent of any measures that place Australia's sovereignty and safety at risk. Our sovereignty must not be compromised. The immunity provided in this bill is clear in that it applies only to those who, in good-faith performance of their duties, provide assistance before, during and after an emergency and only if that assistance is directed by the minister or his or her delegated authority. The bill provides no immunity for any deliberate crime or misconduct, as has been a concern of some Australians. It provides protection only for incidents that occur while performing actual tasks in good faith linked to the disaster response and emergency support initiatives. The immunity being granted to defence personnel includes that they may damage private property in order to preserve life. For example, I understand that they may commandeer a truck or back-burn land in order to protect the greater good. In such situations, accidents happen. The immunity will give our ADF personnel and visiting forces the peace of mind to carry out the work needed to address the emergency. The ADF also noted the example where the task of personnel may lawfully include transporting evacuees from a bushfire zone. The bill would operate to protect individual ADF members, not the Commonwealth, from civil liability in the event an evacuee is injured while being transported. What is also clear is that if defence personnel or foreign forces act in bad faith in any way then they would lose their immunity immediately and would be subject to prosecution under Australian law.

The value of the work done by Australian Defence personnel, along with the input of the foreign forces in these emergency situations, can't be underestimated. In the fires last year and early this year, 3,094 homes, more than 1,000 other structures and 24 million hectares of bushland were destroyed across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the ACT, Western Australia and South Australia, which shows how important it is to have humans ready for action when and where needed. About 6½ thousand full-time and more than 2½ thousand part-time ADF personnel were involved in the bushfire efforts, along with 450 personnel from overseas. In Queensland, we may well be calling on the help of such personnel again sooner rather than later. I understand the time frames and I've made my point clear because people have been concerned and ringing my office about this legislation. I made it clear that immunity only goes so far. They will not be covered for everything. It's in the line of duty of helping Australia through the emergencies, so I think is very important we do protect them in certain cases.

Going back to Senator Watt's comments here in the chamber regarding the lack of action from the Prime Minister in reflection of what happened last Christmas, we saw how distressing it was for people who lost their properties across many states. The fact is that we have to accept that—I stated this before—a lot of councils and states have not allowed for back-burning to happen. They have closed up national parks and have not allowed for the proper maintenance on these properties. They have even stopped people from cutting down bushland and trees close to their homes to protect their own home sites. This has been pure negligence from our councils, saying, 'You shouldn't touch bushes and shouldn't protect your own homes.' It's no good laying blame just on one person who was the Prime Minister at the time. This has gone on for a long time. I just feel that, under this legislation, it is important that we protect people coming from other countries to help us in times of disaster because we rely on them. That's what being friends and neighbours in this global world is—we help other countries through their disasters as well.

To blame it on climate change is a load of BS. Climate change has been happening for millions of years. The fact is we are actually now recording temperature changes. You hear in this chamber all the time the term 'on record'. The record is only the last 100 years, and they change that to suit their own agenda. The fact is that climate has been changing due to natural causes, not because of human emissions—that has not been proven. So when you talk about disasters in the nation, they will go on for centuries to come. If you listen to scientists, the earth is warming; glaciers are still growing, not shrinking. People must understand that we have to stop using all this as a political football and speak the truth, because it is concerning people. I hear it all the time from the Greens, with no evidence. They won't debate Malcolm Roberts. They won't put the true science up. It's alright to scaremonger; that happens all the time. This is the house of review on legislation. This is where the truth must be exposed. It's not about scaremongering; it is about telling the truth. If you can't debate and you don't know what the hell you're talking about, don't scaremonger in this country any longer and put fear into people.