New bill threatens the rights of peace campaigners

Following yesterday's announcement of the introduction of a Bill to make Australian military bases more secure (Defence Legislation Amendment [Security of Defence Premises] Bill 2010), the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign has called on Senator Faulkner to give a public assurance that the Bill, in its final form, will not in any way impede the rights of people to peacefully protest against military installations.

"Many of the military bases in Australia, including 30 to 40 US bases, are outside parliamentary scrutiny, support the war in Afghanistan, spy on the populations of Australia and neighbouring countries, offend against Indigenous people's land rights and are part of the militarisation of space," said Denis Doherty, spokesperson for the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign.

"In fact, they increase the risks to Australia of terrorism." " We suspect this Bill is aimed at peace protesters who have penetrated the bases to highlight the pointlessness of Australia's involvement in US wars.

This Bill will deter protest, criminalise and increase penalties for civil disobedience, and make dissent more dangerous. It will increase the civil power of the military. Most worryingly, the authority it gives Defence security officers to defend themselves is so broad that members of the public may well be injured or killed under its provisions." Mr Doherty pointed out that civilian police, military police and the Australian protective services are all engaged in protecting military bases - these bases are already overprotected. "

Senator Faulkner already acknowledges that there is the right to defend yourself under common law. Why isn't that right enough? Police power against demonstrators has grown alarmingly over the past decade (eg NSW's Major Events Act 2009); it certainly doesn't need to be augmented by military power.

"Excessively punitive legislation already exists to stop people from coming to within 2kms of the gates of some bases! At Pine Gap, the actual base is 7 kms beyond the gates as well as has having a 2 km exclusion zone - 9 kms in total!"

Mr Doherty emphasised that the best way to make military-base personnel safer against terrorism is for the government to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, and to spend less on the military (now at $71 million a day) and more on reducing world poverty.

"We are calling on the Senator Faulkner - indeed on the new PM - to obtain, at the very least, the approval of the Commonwealth ombudsman and human rights lawyers before proceeding with this legislation," Mr Doherty concluded.

25 June 2010



Defence personnel will be authorised to shoot to kill terrorists attacking Australian defence bases.

Defence personnel are also set to gain greater powers to search people moving on and off defence bases for unauthorised items and contraband.

It follows a review of defence base security in 2009 conducted after the arrest of a number of individuals who were allegedly plotting to attack the Holsworthy Army base outside Sydney.

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Defence Minister John Faulkner said the review recommended a number of enhancements to base security plus some legislative changes to powers available to defence personnel.

A key recommendation was to clarify legal issues surrounding Australian Defence Force (ADF) members acting in self-defence in event of a no warning attack.

Senator Faulkner said the general right of self defence provided the current legal basis for ADF personnel resorting to force.

He said the proposed legislative changes would provide certainty on what was permitted.

"They will clarify the regime for authorised members of the ADF to use up to and including lethal force where this is considered reasonable and necessary to protect life or prevent serious injury to themselves or others in event of an actual or imminent attack on defence premises," he said.

Senator Faulkner said this did not alter the primacy of civil police in responding to security incidents at defence facilities.

Rather, it ensured appropriately trained ADF personnel were able to immediately defend themselves and others until police took control.

Senator Faulkner said the legislation empowered defence security officials to request a person's identity, conduct a search on entry or departure from a defence base and in some circumstances refuse entry or detain a person.

He said the identification and search power would generally be exercised by contracted security guards while the powers to conduct non-consensual searches or to detain would be exercised by defence security officers.

Senator Faulkner said the legislation would stiffen penalties for trespassing on defence premises which now attract a grossly inadequate $40 fine.

That will be increased to $5500.

Debate on the Defence Legislation Amendment (Security of Defence Premises) Bill 2010 was adjourned.

© 2010 AAP