Police and civil liberties advocates have criticised new laws
allowing the military to be called out in the case of a major
A Senate committee is inquiring into changes to defence laws to
improve the way the Australian Defence Force (ADF) can respond to
domestic security incidents.
Dr Ben Saul, from the University of NSW's law faculty, said in a
submission to the inquiry the government needed to ensure that the
laws were in line with Australia's international human rights
Dr Saul said a clause in the draft bill said an ADF member must
not do anything likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm
unless they believe on reasonable grounds that doing so is
necessary to protect life or prevent serious injury.
They were also prevented from subjecting a person to "greater
indignity than is reasonable and necessary".
"While allowing force in these exceptional circumstances may be
necessary, the wording of this clause suggests that it may be
permissible to inflict torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment on a person," Dr Saul said.
He said considering the mistreatment of suspected terrorists and
enemy combatants by the United States in recent times, a change was
needed to ensure the laws complied with United Nations human rights
The bill has also been condemned by police, who have called for
it to be postponed until federal, state and territory police forces
had a chance to discuss it.
Police Federation of Australia chief Mark Burgess said in his
submission the laws largely ignored the role of states and
Mr Burgess said ADF members may be able to avoid prosecution if
they broke state laws during an emergency.
The Defence Department told the inquiry the ADF would only be
called in as a last resort and safeguards were in place.
"The bill provides the ADF personnel with the legal authority to
take those actions necessary to achieve the objectives of the
call-out and provides appropriate legal protection to those
personnel involved in those actions while making it clear they do
not operate outside the boundaries of Australian criminal law," its
Defence said terrorists were more often targeting civilians with
the aim of taking mass casualties and giving authorities little or
The Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network said the
bill should be rejected outright because existing laws were
The network said there were innate problems with police working
alongside the military, as had been shown in Northern Ireland in
"Events such as these elucidate the dangers in deploying highly
armed soldiers, trained and equipped to kill, into civilian areas,"
the network's submission said.