And strengthening state continues with today the prime minister announcing proposed changes to the ‘call out’ (the army) legislation because allegedly the New South Wales police didn’t do a good job dealing with a ‘terrorist’ incident in 2014. What happened was that an unhinged person took hostages in a Sydney cafe and after a stand-off the police went in and a few people were killed. The police came under a lot of criticism for how they handled the incident, most of it unfair as they could not know how determined this man was, whether he had explosives, what type of weapons he had, etc.
The armchair generals who are never put in a position where their own lives might be at risk and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, decided the army should have been called in. Allegedly they would have done a better job at neutralising the threat presented by a lone person with mental health issues holding a gun to the heads of a few persons on a coffee break. Delicate situation for sure, but a skilled negotiator might have been able to de-escalate the situation whereas the arrival of the military more likely than not, would have had the opposite effect.
What the prime minister is proposing is dangerous to democracy in that it removes checks and balances that were wisely written into the constitution and in federal law to protect the civilian population from the excesses of power whilst at the same time providing for emergency usage of the military when and only when, the resources of state police have been exhausted.
Section 119 of the constitution says that,
The Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion and, on the application of the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence.
What this guarantees is that a state cannot call out the army against civilians who might be protesting whatever as is their democratic right. To further limit the ability to call out the army in situations of civil unrest, there is also section 51A of the defence act which says that in the case of a state requesting call out of the army, federal ministers must be satisfied that,
(b) if the domestic violence is occurring or is likely to occur in a State or self-governing Territory–the State or Territory is not, or is unlikely to be, able to protect Commonwealth interests against the domestic violence; and
The above is what the prime minister claims needs to be changed to protect us from nut cases in cafes. I doubt it would make any difference and a better strategy would be to give more training to local police, if there is indeed a clear need, in the art of negotiating with the mentally unhinged. What these changes will do for sure is remove checks and balances from the threat of a bad federal government, and no nation is immune from electing the wrong persons, having the ability to call out the army against protesters without having to first receive a request from the state government which might be on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
I think most would agree they would prefer to be blown up than leave our descendants with less freedom than we enjoyed and this and other recent changes giving more power to state is an example of the dangers Franklin D. Roosevelt was referring to when he said in his 1933 inaugural speech that, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.