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New laws will allow the use of military to break protests

Will the Australian Defence Forces be used for domestic civilian control?

POSTED BY: EDITOR JULY 20, 2018

The following is by Paul Gregoire and published by  Sydney Criminal Lawyers (19 July 2018). It deals with new legislation introduced into parliament, which will make it easier to involve the military to control the Australian population

The Turnbull government recently introduced legislation into parliament designed to lower the threshold for calling out the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to assist state police forces with public incidents.

The Defence Amendment (Call Out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018 revises Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act 1903, which was inserted into the Act in the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Currently, the military can only be called upon by state and territory authorities when they’ve exhausted all other options. The new bill would allow for a call out request to be actioned, when it’s decided that ADF personnel can “enhance” the ability of state police in dealing with an incident.

The new legislation also allows the PM and other authorised ministers to send in the troops when state authorities haven’t requested assistance, but Commonwealth interests are at stake. And it provides ADF members with enhanced search capabilities and limited shoot-to-kill powers.

A much broader scope

Australian attorney general Christian Porter told journalists that the Lindt Café siege, along with the potential for a Paris terrorist attack-style incident being carried out in Australia, make streamlining the process of calling out “SAS or commando regiments” necessary.

However, the call out powers don’t just apply to terrorism. They target “domestic violence.” This is a broad term set out under section 119 of the Australian Constitution, which provides that the federal government should protect states and territories against invasion and rebellion.

Indeed, Mr Porter has stated that the ADF could be sent in to quell widespread rioting. While civil liberties advocates stress that these new powers have the potential to be used upon peaceful protests and industrial actions.

Against strikes and demonstrations

Civil Liberties Australia CEO Bill Rowlings points out that the bill allows the government to call out the ADF to protect declared infrastructure. “Given the current government’s policies, troops are likely to be called out around coal-fired power stations and ports that export coal,” he explained.

“The federal government can use the army to break environmental protests just like the government did in the late 1940s to break coal strikes,” Mr Rowlings told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “And this new law makes it clear troops can again be used to break strikes.”

The legislation also provides that military personnel can use lethal force during certain civilian incidents. Proposed section 51N(3) outlines that this can be done in the protection of an individual’s life, to take action against an aircraft or vessel, as well as in the protection of declared infrastructure.

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