Australian army to take lead on terror attacks

17 July, 2017, 15:36 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Australia to boost army powers in response to potential terror attacks

The military will be given sweeping powers to deploy forces and even take charge during terrorist attacks.

Australia's military will be more readily deployed to respond to domestic "terrorist incidents" under proposed changes to laws by the government.

Surrounded by special force soldiers in gas masks with machine guns, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said police would remain the primary respondents to terrorist attacks.

And the military will offer to take a bigger role in training and assisting specialist police anti-terrorism units, such as the tactical response group in WA, to ensure they are prepared for attacks.

The government will also make changes to the act to make it easier for the ADF to support the police response, such as the ability to prevent suspected terrorists from leaving the scene of an incident.

State governments will be able to call on help from the Australian Defence Force immediately under changes to the Defence Act.

Although police were absolved of blame during a 2014 Sydney cafe seige, in which two hostages and the gunman were killed, an inquest found authorities had underestimated the threat of the hostage taker and recommended a review of several procedures. "We have to stay ahead of them", he said in Sydney.

Turnbull and Payne stressed that responses to the terrorism threat must be constantly updated.

The measures - including specialised training by special forces for law enforcement teams - will provide more Commonwealth support to state police forces, which are still acknowledged as the appropriate "first responders".

But the coroner did note the "challenge global terrorism poses for state police forces calls into question the adequacy of existing arrangements". That provision will be abolished under the Turnbull government's changes, meaning states could request federal help even if they retained control of the situation.

Exactly what defence forces will be empowered to do under the new laws is unclear, though at one point Turnbull gestured to the heavily armed forces behind him as an example of what the ADF can offer, potentially flagging a substantial expansion of domestic military presence and powers.

"We have to ensure that every resource we have, legislative, military, police, intelligence, security is always at the highest standard and able to be brought to bear to keep Australians safe", Turnbull said.

The proposed changes need parliament's approval.

Mr Turnbull said the new system would better support states in preparing for terrorist incidents and improve information flows between the ADF and police during an incident.

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