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Use of Force Bill – first secrecy, now the power to use deadly force

As most people know, laws came into effect on 1 July this year making it a crime for an ‘entrusted person’ – such as a doctor – to talk to the press about what’s going on in detention centres like Nauru or Manus Island, with a threat of two years imprisonment if they do.

Having put up a shroud of secrecy around detention centres, there is now a Bill in the senate which, if passed, will allow the use of deadly force by guards in those detention centres. The bill is called the Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015 – or the ‘Use of Force’ Bill.

Despite the fact that Human Rights bodies have huge concerns about this Bill, it has received very little press. Here’s why you should be concerned about it.

The Bill will allow the use of deadly force by ‘Authorised Officers’

If passed as is, the Bill will allow ‘Authorised officers’ – basically guards – within Detention Centres to inflict ‘grievous bodily harm’ where they personally believe it is reasonably necessary to protect life or prevent serious injury. And the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill spells out that:

“grievous bodily harm includes death or serious injury”

It specifically states that Authorised Officers may kill.

And the test to whether it’s legal for them to use deadly force is a subjective one. This means it’s legal for an Authorised Officer to kill where they believe it was reasonable to do so in order to protect life or prevent serious injury. This may sound logical, but the problem with a subjective test – rather than an objective one – as argued by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is that:

it’s very difficult to prove what someone subjectively believed.

So this means that if a guard in a detention centre does use deadly force against an asylum seeker, he doesn’t have to show that any reasonable person in his shoes would have done the same thing – which is the normal legal test – but only that he thought using deadly force was reasonable. It is completely irrelevant If nine out of ten people in his shoes would not have used deadly force in the same circumstances. The only test is what the guard thought.

Authorised Officers get only four weeks training

The current training provided to Authorised Officers of these centres is a four-week course. They get a very similar level of training to that provided to Shopping Centre security guards or Night Club Bouncers.

Contrast this with a sworn police officer – who has less power than an Authorised Officer in one of these detention centres – but has at least three more years of training.

There’s a good chance we won’t hear about it if deadly force is used

As I mentioned above, from 1 July workers like doctors and nurses can no longer legally disclose what is happening in the detention centres to a journalist.

So hypothetically, if an Authorised Officer saw a young asylum seeker coming towards him, and mistakenly thought that asylum seeker was carrying a weapon which could cause him harm, that Officer could shoot that asylum seeker. Not only would that guard not be prosecuted for this – under the Border Force laws, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t even hear about it. And if we did hear about it because a doctor spoke out – the person going to jail wouldn’t be the Authorised Officer who killed the asylum seeker, it would be the doctor who reported it.

Authorised Officers in detention centres don’t exactly have a stellar record

Reports of horrific incidents in Detention Centres almost barely make the news these days. Gillian Triggs and the Human Rights Commission released a report earlier this year outlining the treatment of kids in detention. In particular the report spoke of the sexual abuse of children. And yet there was more press about Abbott and co attempting to discredit Gillian Triggs than there was about the children.

The UN Human Rights Commission also released a report in February which detailed circumstances of torture in our detention centres. And still there was very little response from the media.

Recent evidence to Senate Estimates hearings indicated that there have been 15 more sexual assaults between February and May this year, two of which were of children. And just this week a Guard has come out and alleged that asylum seekers have been water boarded.

This is what’s happening in our detention facilities now. The government is clearly unable to guarantee the safety and good treatment of detainees under the current laws – and yet they want to give Authorised Officers the power to use deadly force.

What next?

The Bill is currently before the Senate. There were discussions about it today – with Liberal senators arguing in favour of the bill and Labor and the Greens arguing against it. David Leyonhjelm has also publicly stated that he will not support the bill. Its fate now rests in the hands of the remaining crossbenchers.

This is another one of those news stories that just seems to be passing the mainstream media by. If you care about our Government giving this type of power to a private contractor – the power to use deadly force without risk of prosecution – then it’s up to us to spread the word.

We are all separated by only six degrees – true, it’s been proven – so if you care about this, tweet about it (#UseofForce), talk about it on FaceBook – or if the mood takes you, contact one of the cross-benchers:

Senator Jacqui Lambie (Tas) (02) 6277 3063
Senator Ricky Muir (Vic) (02) 6277 3040
Senator Glenn Lazarus (Qld) (02) 6277 3204
Senator Nick Xenophon (SA) (02) 6277 3552
Senator John Madigan (Vic) (02) 6277 3471
Senator Bob Day (SA) (02) 6277 3373
Senator Zhenya Wang (WA) (02) 6277 3843

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation.


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  1. mark delmege

    did someone say fascists? What was it “Hannah” Arendt said about ordinary people? I would like one day to include journo’s in that (in a longer piece) who report on the news and peddle propaganda – you know how I go on about foreign news reporting…

  2. Kate M

    Indeed Mark. Indeed.

  3. keerti

    i went looking for reference to Arendt and found this very telling quote:
    “Arendt’s first major book was titled The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which traced the roots of Stalinism and Nazism in both anti-Semitism and imperialism. The book was opposed by the Left on the grounds that it presented the two movements as equally tyrannical. She further contends that Jewry was not the operative factor in the Holocaust, but merely a convenient proxy. Totalitarianism in Germany was, in the end, about terror and consistency, not eradicating Jews only.” Wikipeadia.
    Substitute ISIS and refugees for jews and you have adolt’s (not a typo!) playbook.

  4. Southerly

    After deadly force comes gas ovens.
    What has become of Australia?

  5. stephentardrew

    A life is of absolutely no consequence to these immoral greed mongers. They will do anything to secure the bogon vote. Social Darwinism, theocratic dogmatism with a good rationing of Ayn Rand is the ideal brew for dictatorship. Every dictatorship is different so to compare is odious. These are new times and new imperatives while the means of power and control become international corporate hegemony centered upon the undemocratic and completely dysfunctional US. As Malcolm Fraser noted we must begin to cut US surveillance and military ties now and cease to be involved in any more foreign wars. to survive in the region Australia must become non-aligned. Tragically Labor is also complicit in this mess.

    Abbott through TPP and ISDS clauses as well as TPIP and TISA and other trade agreements is rushing head long into global corporate dictatorship like never seen before. Wake up Australia our very democratic moral foundations are being destroyed.

  6. mars08

    The next time some idiot wonders… out loud… how the Germans lost the plot in the 30s… is shall smack them about the head. At least the Nuremberg Laws were created under a dictatorship…! Not a putative democKracy…!

  7. M-R

    What has become of Australia is that we have given ourselves a group of madmen to lord it over us having absolute conviction that it is their entitlement to ‘rule’. The Liberals have always been like that, in truth; but this lot have taken it to a new level.

  8. i have a nugget of pure green

    extra judicial, state sanctioned murder of people who are in our “care”. if it looks, sounds and smells like fascism, welcome to Abbotts reich.

  9. stephengb2014

    Interesting responses to this great article – thank you Kate – I agree with the responses but what concerns me is the number of citizens who seem to support this government’s modus operendi, seemingly some 40% of the population and also seemingly some apparently intelligent well schooled people.

  10. alexandria300

    This is our Australian Government gone Rogue. We have a Rogue PM teaming up with an Attorney General both corrupt changing laws at a whim, changing them in secret with no vote. Make up their own personal law with no vote to make it illegal in Australian now to report child Abuse. Not only is this law unlawful, it goes against the United Nations and the Human Rights Laws. Our Rogue Government are working on also making it illegal to report corruption. We have a Government aiding White Collar crims in hiding billions of dollars every single year, now they want to make all of that 100% Legal.

    Australia has had enough, a petition is being prepared by our organization for the Australian People to sign to present to Parliament to have our Liberal Government Removed, vote of no confidence by the Australian People, fraud and corruption. We will need ever single Australian to sign.

    The Australian constitution was written so every single person living in Australia owns one share of Australia. Our Government have been rewriting the constitution illegally for years. Doing underhanded deals with foreign countries, slowly selling off Australia, our current Government the worst ever.

    It is time for the Australian People to take back our country from the Rogues currently controlling it.

  11. Vicki

    While everyone is happy to say how rogue our ridiculous excuse for a Government is, people are not willing to really stand up and take them on. Stephentardrew has explained it perfectly. Politicians are not for the people. Our country is actually a corporation, made so to pay back a debt. This country is a business and the people are in the way. With our heads very firmly in the sand and our “everything is going to be ok” attitude, nothing will ever get done. What’s more even if we were to stand up and get attention, it would only be a matter of time before the cabals of big business and vested interests decided to get their puppets to dance in parliament and tighten our freedoms even more while pulling the rug out from under us. No person in immigration matters to these people, they matter even less than we do. This is an isolated country and we are the experiment.

  12. mark delmege

    Kay I’m not sure if you were agreeing with me on how ordinary people allow themselves to be overtaken by dark forces as in the case of fascism or my hobby horse of media manipulations. But just to clarify what I think Arendt was saying (and I’ll quote from an article)

    ‘She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction ‘

    We see this sort of group think every day – from football to politics.

    Thus evil is done by ordinary people for ordinary reasons.

    One could be forgiven for thinking that Abbott and Brandis are evil people but a more charitable view would be that they are doing things that are simply expedient. But that the consequence of their actions are unacceptable – a downward spiral of violence. And every step they take with their Refugee policies is in that direction.

  13. musicinhills

    “intelligent well schooled people” are the nations leaders who tell the solders who to kill how and when.

  14. totaram

    “One could be forgiven for thinking that Abbott and Brandis are evil people but a more charitable view would be that they are doing things that are simply expedient.”

    On the other hand….”Thus evil is done by ordinary people for ordinary reasons.”

    It doesn’t really matter what the reasons are. Briefly, they have to do with money. These people don’t really care about good or evil as ethical categories. They are hired hoodlums carrying out their contracted duty: to implement the extreme neo-liberal agenda cooked up by the IPA, at the behest of its funders. The fact that this governement have been less than successful at hoodwinking enough people to support their moves is only a monument to their complete lack of understanding of ordinary people, as also to their incompetence.

    Never think for a moment that these people are without an agenda. And if you remove them, others will willingly take their place. The rewards are high for people who have not much else by way of talent. The puppeteers remain, as before, in the background. And they have many deluded supporters who have swallowed their propaganda. Polls show that 43% of the voting public think this government is doing a great job!

  15. mark delmege

    Yup totaram. On the bright side someone in cabinet thinks they suck big time and wants to roll the PM. This actually would be good for Australia. Capt Blight would force the ALP to offer alternative leadership and maybe also make a change. As it is TABbot is the best thing going for Labor but he is killing the country. A little change is better than no change but not nearly adequate.

  16. Pingback: Use of Force Bill – first secrecy, now the power to use deadly force – » The Australian Independent Media Network | olddogthoughts

  17. yanta

    This is just a stepping stone to giving people including “security guards” and “bouncers” a 007 license.

    Police state, fascism, treated as cattle, slaves etc.. these terms have applied to the community at large for some time.

    These detention centers may soon be like the FEMA detention centers in the US replete with Guillotines…

    But you gotta provide means other than facebook to contact relevant encumbents. Some of us care about privacy and online safety and don’t use facebook.

  18. Pingback: Use of Force Bill | THE PUB

  19. eli nes

    I completely misconstrued your heading! I thought it was a request to labor.

  20. SirJohn Ward

    2!st century Gestapo arrives in Australia on time and on budget. All necessary minor crisis and bombastic speeches in correct order according to the script. A spectacular false flag operation should now shock the population enough to accept the postponing of elections.

  21. SirJohn Ward

    Anniversary of WWII an appropriate day for Abbott to become the Fuhrer.

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