If you ever had, or ever will have, anything to do with ADF-1-3 Domestic Operations – Defence Assistance to the Civil Community, or Defence Force Aid to Civilian Authorities, Keeping the Peace of the Realm is a must read to broaden your understanding of the impact of legislation on the call out of the ADF.

Captain Samuel White conducts a thoughtful analysis of the constitutional and cultural shifts in how the ADF is deployed through an easy-to-follow historical and legal lens. If the foreword by Justice Logan does not catch your attention, then the idea that the increased use of the ADF in domestic operations could lead to some unintended consequences should.

His core issues with ADF call outs are laid out bare at the start of the book where he identifies many questions and terms lacking definitions that have yet to be tested. This sets up a layered exploration of how the Commonwealth derives its power, and a historical journey through how the specific prerogative power of Keeping the Peace of the Realm and its manifestation and operationalisation works in the United Kingdom. This is particularly important for the application of power when no emergency exists and where (or how) the ADF is tasked to respond.

This lays the groundwork to pull apart where all these questions come from – the constitution itself. Although this might be heavier reading, this is where ADF planners can understand the legal frameworks that underpin the policies that are produced. Understanding the breadth and depth of executive power and how it informs domestic military actions is a key takeaway early on. Although heavy on the history, and it may feel for some readers a stretch back through time, the book provides context to sovereignty and responsible government. His criticisms of prerogative powers are an interesting backdrop to what the idea of a responsible government should be and what makes it accountable.

Chapter four builds on all this history by wrapping up the ideas into the Australian context – what constitutes legal federal intervention. Importantly, discussed here is what does ‘domestic violence’ mean for a non-lawyer and how it can be interpreted through many different lenses. This can lead to a grey area that needs to be further explored, as the scope without definition can be very broad. The 1949 Coalminers' Strike is a great example where the national interest was undermined and ADF troops were used to intervene without force.

The interrogation of Part III AAA of the Defence Act 1903 (Cth) in chapter five was both fascinating and very thought provoking. Understanding the types of call outs and the thresholds required for the ADF to be deployed is often not discussed for members in their duty. It is something that an officer may only once in their career be required to plan for, but if the situation was to ever arise it is important to understand the legal foundations of their employment. Captain White’s background as an infantry officer is clear here. The book has some important ideas that are essential for all military planners to understand when operating in domestic settings.

Keeping the Peace of the Realm is a great way to understand some of the grey areas of the legislation that surround ADF call outs and the impact it can have. Understanding the history of the Royal prerogative and nationhood power will create a new lens to analyse our recent history and the potential applications to come. You will come away with many more questions that are worthy of discussion.