BILLS - Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018 - Second Reading


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (21:35): I chair the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, which conducted an inquiry into this bill, and I am pleased to say that the broad support of the Australian public was demonstrated in the submissions to the bill. The majority of submitters broadly supported the bill's objectives of streamlining call-out orders to the ADF in order to better protect the Australian population from acts of domestic violence, including terrorism.

Responding to the previous speaker, the definition that he was concerned about, which I might say he wasn't so concerned about in the dissenting report that the Greens made to this report—

Senator McKim interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: No, you didn't mention it at all, Senator. But it includes domestic violence as 'conduct that is marked by great physical force and would include a terrorist attack or other mass-casualty incident'. That demonstrates how this would be interpreted.

Most of the submitters suggested, amongst other things, that the bill would better enable the ADF to apply its specialist skills and capabilities in responding to incidents of domestic violence, including terrorism. Submitters welcomed the clarity the bill would provide in relation to the use of lethal force; argued in support of the bill's provisions for expansion of the contingent call-out; and noted that the bill would enhance the ADF's ability to respond to incidents across multiple jurisdictions.

The bill makes it easier for states and territories to request the ADF's support by removing the threshold requirement that the states and territories are not, or are unlikely to be, able to protect themselves or the Commonwealth interest against domestic violence. However, authorising ministers will need to take into account the nature of the violence and whether the ADF would be likely to enhance the state or territory response when deciding whether the ADF should be called out. The bill also provides certain other more technical provisions that do, in fact, make the whole powers given to the ADF more understandable. They clarify them and were welcomed by all responsible and relevant parties.

There was one concern the committee had, which was mentioned in the committee's report to parliament, and that was that the definition of 'specified circumstances' referred to in the bill was not clear. The committee recommended that the government give consideration to providing clear definitions of 'specified circumstances' in the legislation itself or in the explanatory memorandum for the purposes of making a call-out of the Australian Defence Force.

I'm pleased to say that this is a government which understands and appreciates the work Senate committees do. It understands the submissions made to Senate committees, which are fully assessed by Senate committees, and it responds accordingly. I'm delighted to see that the government has amended its bill to give a better definition of 'specified circumstances', as the majority of the committee requested and as, I think, Senator Polley referred to. I do note in passing that the Greens issued a half-page dissenting report, so I was quite interested to hear Senator McKim's 20-minute dissertation on why the Greens oppose this bill when all they could manage was three-quarters of a page in their dissenting report on the bill.

The Greens, I can't help but say, want parliamentary approval. Of course you don't call out the Army when there is an immediate crisis where Australian lives are at stake! What the Greens want is for us to say: 'Well, hang on. Could you hold the violence a little bit while we recall parliament. We'll get parliament in here. We'll sit down. We'll then have a lengthy debate, like this, and—'

Senator McKim: On a point of order: Senator Macdonald is misleading the chamber. That is not what the Greens are suggesting.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator O'Sullivan ): That's a debating point. Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: From what I heard of Senator McKim's speech, it's: 'Hang on, terrorist, stop your terrorist attack for five or six days while we recall parliament. Then we'll have a lengthy debate. Now, don't you do anything, terrorists. You just hold your machine guns and your bombs ready until we get parliament to address this and determine whether we should call out the Army, because the police can't deal with it. Let's get the Greens to filibuster in the debate for three or four days before you go ahead and throw your bombs.' I mean, how ridiculous but typical of the Greens, who take no interest whatsoever in the welfare and safety of Australian citizens.

I am pleased that the committee determined, with the one condition I mentioned about a better definition of 'specified circumstances', that the bill be passed. I thank the members of the committee, which included the deputy chairman, Senator Louise Pratt, Senator Jim Molan, Senator McKim, Senator Jane Hume and Senator Murray Watt. I appreciate the contribution these senators made to the recommendations of the committee. I also want to place on record my thanks to the committee secretariat for their work in supporting the committee.

I do want to thank the people who made submissions to the committee and who gave evidence to the committee. There were 16 submitters, including, amongst others, the Centre for Military and Security Law, the Northern Territory Police, the Australian Lawyers Alliance, and the Law Council of Australia. As I say, there were a number of other submitters too. I want to thank them and place on record the committee's appreciation to them for the assistance that they gave the committee. The committee recommended, subject to that specification, which has been met by the government—and I thank the government for that—that the bill be passed, so I therefore support the bill.

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