A reader writes:

Within the last 30 days, I have heard two news items on the radio in which they mention the ADF has been brought in to assist in fighting bush fires in Queensland.
Within that same time frame, I have heard on TV news that ADF assisted the Victorian Police in a raid on a bikie establishment.
While I have known for some time that States assist one and other in times of emergency, apart from “major disasters” I did not know that our ADF assisted with more “routine” operations.
Of particular note, I believe, is the use of ADF in a normal police operation. I was of the belief that governments such as ours were reluctant to use military personnel in police operations against the public.
I would really appreciate your considered opinion.

The Australian Defence Force (the ADF) provides Defence Aid to the Civil Community (DACC) and Defence Force Aid to the Civil Authorities (DFACA). DACC is governed by Defence Instruction (General) OPS 05–1.

There are six categories of DACC:
Category 1. “… emergency assistance for a specific task(s) provided by Local Commanders/Administrators, from within their own resources, in localised emergency situations when immediate action is necessary to save human life, alleviate suffering, prevent extensive loss of animal life or prevent widespread loss/damage to property.” Category 1 assistance should not extend beyond 24 hours.
Category 2. “… emergency assistance, beyond that provided under Category 1, in a more extensive or continuing disaster where action is necessary to save human life or alleviate suffering, prevent extensive loss of animal life or prevent loss/damage to property, and when State/Territory resources are inadequate.”
Category 3. “… assistance associated with recovery from a civil emergency
or disaster, which is not directly related to the saving of life or property.”
Category 4. “non-emergency assistance provided to other Government departments or authorities, to State/Territory/Local Government or other authorities or organisations, commercial enterprises, non-profit organisations, or individuals or bodies in the general community.”
Category 5. “non-emergency assistance of a minor nature which can be provided to local organisations from within the resources and authority of the Local Commander/Administrator, and which does not compromise unit effectiveness or readiness.”
Category 6. “support to civil authorities in the performance of non-emergency law enforcement related tasks where there is no likelihood that Defence personnel will be required to use force.”

DACC categories 1 and 2 are most relevant to response to emergencies such as the current fires and previous floods. Local commanders can authorise Category one assistance so local emergency services could approach a local military unit and request assistance where the ADF had the resources or assets that were required urgently to save a life.

Category 2 DACC is requested in accordance with the Commonwealth Disaster Plan (COMDISPLAN). Each state and territory has an authorised officer who can approach Emergency Management Australia to seek Commonwealth assistance when the resources of the local jurisdiction are overwhelmed. A request for assistance is approved by the Attorney-General and then passed to the relevant Minister (in this case the Minister for Defence) for approval. If approved the assets (ie ADF people and equipment) are tasked to assist the affected state/territory. A request for ADF assistance can also be passed by EMA to the ADF without formally activating COMDISPLAN.

In either case the ADF does not take on a control agency role. The ADF provides resources to support the state and the state’s combat or control agencies. Naturally enough, the ADF remains in command of its own personnel.

Assisting the police on drug raids would be DACC Category 6 or it could be Defence Force Aid to the Civil Authorities. DFACA is used where it is anticipated that the ADF may use force. The Australian Constitution provides that the Commonwealth may make laws with respect to “the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth” (s 51(vi)). Further “The Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion and, on the application of the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence” (Australian Constitution s 119).

The ADF may be used to protect Commonwealth interests and, when requested, to assist the States to quell ‘domestic violence’ (Defence Act 1903 (Cth) Part IIIAAA). Section 51B says that the ADF may be used to protect a State against domestic violence if that violence is occurring or likely to occur and the is unlikely to protect itself. This envisages more violent revolution that a law and order response to a bikie gang.

It can be inferred that the ADF assisting “the Victorian Police in a raid on a bikie establishment” was DFACC Category 6 where the ADF probably provided specialist assistance (perhaps bomb disposal to secure a site) but again acting very much as assistance to the states.

To search premises, the police do need a search warrant. I’m not sure what the police were searching for but if we assume it was drugs then a warrant could be obtained under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic). That Act allows a police officer who is named in a warrant to enter and search premises and seize items found on those premises. In executing the warrant the police may use “such assistance as may be necessary” (s 81(3)). That would justify the police asking for and using defence assistance to execute the warrant.

Michael Eburn
21 October