Australian military gets more power to act during terror attacks

SYDNEY • Australia's military will be given greater power to act during terror attacks, following a review of security forces' responses to a spate of local and international incidents.

Among a raft of changes, police will no longer have to wait until they have exhausted their capacity to call on the army during a terror attack, while special forces will be embedded in law enforcement agencies for better coordination, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday.

Defence officials will also provide specialised training to police forces as part of the measures.

Although police were absolved of blame during a 2014 Sydney cafe siege, in which two hostages and the gunman were killed, an inquest found the authorities had underestimated the threat of the hostage taker and recommended a review of several procedures.

"Our enemies are agile and innovative. We have to stay ahead of them," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

"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."

Mr Turnbull recently visited the scene of the June 3 terror attack on London Bridge and Borough market in Britain.

He noted the speed with which eight people - including two Australians - were killed in the van- and-knife rampage, as well as how quickly emergency services responded. "It is vitally important that front-line police have their skills improved to be able - and the training to be able - to deal with these incidents on the spot," he said.

Police will remain the first responders but the changes will allow them to work more closely with the army, he said.

"What I am doing is taking a lot of the red tape and the gum out of the works to enable cooperation between the police and the ADF (Australian Defence Force) and particularly the they can work together more seamlessly," he added.

Opposition Labor Party Shadow Minister for Defence Richard Marles said he supported the changes, but accused Mr Turnbull of politicising the military by posing with heavy weaponry and commandos at the televised press conference announcing the initiative.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'Australian military gets more power to act during terror attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe