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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

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