The Guardian September 6, 2000


"Shoot to kill" Bill likely to pass

by Andrew Jackson

John Howard's "shoot to kill" Defence Legislation Amendment Bill is likely 
to pass, as the Howard Government shook hands with Labor over their 
amendments.

The Labor opposition watered down its own amendments to the Bill at the 
last minute, amid claims that the Bill is now largely unchanged and still 
provides no protection for those involved in political protest or 
industrial disputes.

Previously the ALP amendment had said that once called out the troops could 
not be used unless there was a "a direct and immediate threat of death or 
serious injury". These word have been replaced by "reasonable likelihood of 
death or serious injury".

Condemning the Greens Bill, Senator Bob Brown explains, "Labor's 
amendments, which simply require a commander who is sending in the troops 
to believe a `protest, dissent, assembly or industrial action' posed a 
threat of serious injury or death to someone, fail the public interest. The 
commander only has to conjure up a vision of violence occurring before 
acting."

Another amendment, which will require the Federal Government to "consult" 
rather than just "notify" a State Government, still fails to codify the 
requirement that a State or Territory Government give consent before troops 
are used.

Opponents say this wording would then breach Section 119 of the 
Constitution, and would leave the Bill open to a High Court challenge.

The Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists has also 
come out against the Bill, questioning its workability and necessity.

President Justice John Dowd pointed out many problems would arise when the 
Defence Force is used to carry out the duties of State Police.

"The explanatory Note to the Bill concedes that there is a problem about 
the capacity and training of military personnel to perform civil laws and 
order functions. 

"The average member of the defence forces, with the best will in the world, 
will not have sufficient training in the law to exercise the very wide and 
imprecisely defined discretionary powers as to what is `reasonable and 
necessary' in a particular emergency situation."

He went on to say that the case for the Bill has not been made out, and 
that "there are comprehensive checks and balances within the existing 
system".

"This legislation is not the Australian way of doing things, and should be 
withdrawn."

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