(Image: AAP)

There has been a curious quiet around the arrival of the Defence Legislation Amendment (Enhancement of Defence Force Response to Emergencies) Bill 2020. On the face of it the bill, which got a little coverage upon its announcement, aims to regulate the call out of defence forces in response to natural disasters. But some concerning details — and an even more concerning absence of details — have emerged.

As lawyer and activist Kellie Trantor points out:

This bill fails to properly define ‘other emergencies’, delegates too much responsibility for the call out to a single minister, permits foreign armies and police forces to be called in, does not restrict the use of force for defence forces and extends an unreasonable level of immunity for the defence force from criminal and civil penalties.

Despite some noise along similar lines from Labor’s Kim Carr, we’re struggling to see any other mainstream coverage of this potentially huge expansion of ministerial powers.

Given, say, The Australian‘s (completely justified) concern over the Victorian government’s similar expansion of powers under the cover of COVID-19, the silence is rather surprising.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey