Saturday, 23 September, 2017

Australia to adopt reforms allowing military a larger role responding to terror

Fairfax Fairfax
Kenny Thornton | 17 July, 2017, 15:37

Special Forces soldiers will provide specialised training to state and territory police forces and some may be embedded to improve cooperation.

The changes are created to assist in preparing for incidents, enabling a more comprehensive ADF response if needed, and improving the flow of information between the ADF and police during an incident.

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. "But Defence can offer more support to states and territories to enhance their capabilities and increase their understanding of Defence's unique capabilities to ensure a comprehensive response to potential terrorist attacks".

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.

The main change in the Defence Act will remove a clause that says the military can only be deployed if the relevant state "is not, or is unlikely to be, able to protect itself against the domestic violence".

He said the proposed measures "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".

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

Mr Turnbull told The West Australian details of the rules would be thrashed out with States and Territories at Council of Australian Governments meetings, and through the Australia-New Zealand counterterrorism committee.

The changes come after his government initiated a review of the ADF's support to national counter-terrorism arrangements in 2016, following a spate of terrorist attacks around the world.

They were prompted by criticism of the speed with which police responded to the 2014 siege in a cafe in Sydney. That incident produced calls for a bigger role for the military.

"The terrorism response we have at the moment is good, as are the links between state and federal police and intelligence organisations".

The government is now considering whether there should be a consolidation of the security agencies under a home-office-type ministry that would be headed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Read the original article.

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