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Calling out the Troops

Calling out the Troops

The Australian military and civil unrest: the legal and constitutional issues

By Michael Head


A recognised expert on military call-out law, Associate Professor Michael Head, examines the troop call-out legislation introduced in 2000 and 2006, and reviews the ongoing Constitutional and legal uncertainties.

This book raises a number of crucial issues that have received little public attention. The Australian Defence Force can be deployed on such vague grounds as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘Commonwealth interests’. Military commanders are given sweeping powers, including to use lethal force, shoot down civilian aircraft, interrogate people, raid premises and seize documents.

Furthermore, other powers may still exist – under the common law or the Australian Constitution – to invoke ‘military aid to civil power’ or even martial law. The Governor-General remains the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and the vice-regal powers over the military are unclear.

While this book will be of particular interest to students, scholars and practitioners of law, as well as military lawyers and experts, it is also directed to members of the public, with the aim of stimulating much-needed debate.

Part One reviews the contours, context and historical origins of the callout laws, and the underlying militarisation of aspects of society. Part Two examines the details of the laws and explores the legal and Constitutional questions. Part Three outlines the global parallels and probes the political implications.


Part One: The Context

Introduction: Causes for concern
Key definitions
‘Domestic violence’ and calling out the troops
Historical background: A troubled record
The Constitutional framework: A civil/military demarcation
Australia's expanding military deployments

Part Two: Probing the Details

The military call-out legislation
Executive power and the Governor-General’s role
The military and the police
Constitutional doubts
Legal uncertainties
Civilian jurisdiction or military justice?

Part Three: Conclusions

Global trends and democratic implications


Makes very important points on the dangers of excessive executive power to democracy and the dangers of excessive responses to internal disturbances potentially fuelling its causes. This makes Calling Out the Troops a very significant - perhaps critical - contribution to debate on the role of the military in internal security.

Melbourne University Law Review ([2009 MULR 35])

The book is a very useful analysis of important aspects of the way in which governments, both in Australia and overseas, have used the “war on terror” to erode human and legal rights. This book would be of interest to academic, military lawyers, and students. It would also be of interest to persons concerned about progressive incursions by government upon the human rights of citizens. That, perhaps, should include all of us.

Hearsay, the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland, May 2010

Overall the impact of Head's discussion and analysis is dramatic, particularly as he grounds his legal analysis in a reading of Australian history.

Labour History, May 2010

Calling Out the Troops provides a detailed and critical analysis of Australia's military call-out laws. Dr Head places the Australian law in the context of global trends towards increasing military control of of civilian populations and the militarisation of society generally. This work raises crucial questions regarding the relationship between the citizen and the state and deserves to be widely read.

Law Institute Journal of Victoria, April 2010


Published 20 May 2009
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862877092
Australian RRP $49.95
International Price $45.00
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Government / Political Studies
Human Rights & Civil Liberties
Law - Constitutional
Law - Military Law

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