Monday, 21 August, 2017

Boost for military's powers in 'terrorist incidents'

Australian armed police Australian Defense Force Authorized to Help Police During Terror Attacks
Sammy Stanley | 17 July, 2017, 15:38

The Australian Defence Force is being given greater powers to respond to domestic terror events, and in a curious PR decision to normalise this use of the military, special forces soldiers have been used as strong, silent and immovable objects at the Prime Minister's press conference on Monday.

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.

While State and Territory police will remain the first responders to a terrorist attack, they will be able to call on military support much earlier than under the current laws, which require that states request military support only once their police capacity and capability have been exceeded - a process Turnbull referred to as "very cumbersome".

The Defence Act will be strengthened to remove some constraints governing the "call-out" of the ADF in terrorist situations.

Turnbull said that the proposed changes to the Defence Act will "ensure that the ADF is more readily available to respond to terrorism incidents, providing State and Territory police with the extra support to call on when they need it". "We have to stay ahead of them", he said in Sydney.

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.

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Today's announcement means Defence special forces can offer special training for police officers.

The new powers will also allow troops to help police stop suspected attackers from fleeing the scene.

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

The changes, which need to pass Parliament, will be discussed at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting.

Former SAS commander-turned federal MP Andrew Hastie has previously said the Sydney siege response demonstrated state police were "not up to the task" of dealing with the unique nature of Islamist terrorism. While the Coroner's report made clear that military assistance was not needed at the Lindt Cafe siege, Turnbull flagged terror attacks like the recent events in London as examples of scenarios where a fast military response time would be desirable.

Speaking about the changes on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio on Monday, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said police would not be resigned "to the back seat" in terror operations, merely, the special forces would work alongside police to provide the best response to terror attacks.

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