Australia to boost army powers in response to potential terror attacks


Australia's military will be given greater power to act during terror attacks, the prime minister said Monday, following a review of security forces' responses to a spate of local and global incidents.

The new system, which has been approved by cabinet and the national security committee, will be announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne during a visit to Sydney's Holsworthy Barracks on Monday.

The Government will strengthen Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act to remove some constraints in the provisions to "call out" the ADF to assist states and territories. Defence must be able to contribute effectively to domestic counter-terrorism efforts, in addition to its offshore counter-terrorism missions and regional capacity-building activities. "We have to stay ahead of them", Malcolm Turnbull said.

However, state and territory police "are and will remain" primary responders to any terrorist attack.

"I want to reassure all Australians that the arrangements we have in place at the moment are exceptionally effective and the evidence for that is the fact we have stopped a dozen terrorist attacks from occurring on our soil", Mr Keenan said.

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Certain state police teams would get specialist SAS training and could even have military personnel embedded to improve communications between the agencies.

"In the current threat environment, it's most likely that a terrorist attack will use simple methodologies, a knife, a gun, a vehicle and the attack itself could be over in minutes", Turnbull said.

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The two leaders met today with police officers and paramedics who responded to the June 3 attack.

The controversial response of police forces to the Lindt Cafe hostage crisis in 2014 has also been looked at as a demonstration of an existing need to provide reinforcements for police forces.

In practice, this means that it will be easier to deploy the Defence Forces in response to domestic terror incidents.

The announcement to change the federal Defence Act - for which Labor has already offered bipartisan support - follows a lengthy review of the so-called "call-out" powers for when the Australian Defence Force can be used domestically in terrorist emergencies.

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.

The Government's number one priority is keeping Australians safe.

Australia's terror threat level remains at "probable", meaning the government has credible intelligence indicating individuals or groups have the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack.