Australia seeks to expand role of military in domestic terror threats

Australian armed police

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is to be given a bigger role and greater powers in combating terrorism, under changes announced by the government on Monday.

According to new measures announced on Monday by Malcolm Turnbull, Australia's prime minister, state and territory governments would be able to call for military help any time a "terror incident" is declared.

The Government will also make changes to the Act to make it easier for Defence to support the police response, such as the ability to prevent suspected terrorists from leaving the scene of an incident. Elite special forces would have full legal authority to shoot and kill terrorists.

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

The changes come after recent global terrorist attacks and follow a review into the deadly 2014 Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney. "We have to stay ahead of them", Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

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

But the coroner did note the "challenge global terrorism poses for state police forces calls into question the adequacy of existing arrangements".

He said the Defence Force must always be used respectfully.

Previously, the military were "called out" for assistance by a state only if local police capabilities were exceeded during an incident.

"They can sniff it from a mile away and they will judge people accordingly and it is for all of us in this space to use our judgement appropriately to make sure that we are doing this in a way which is respectful to the ADF because I can assure you, the Australian people will absolutely judge our actions as indeed they should".

The system also only allows the ADF to be deployed if the governor-general signs off on a request from the prime minister, attorney-general and defence minister, who all have to agree state forces are incapable of properly responding.

Mr Turnbull emphasised the police would remain the first to deal with terrorism incidents and pointed out that, even in Sydney where the special forces troops are based at the Holsworthy barracks, it could take hours for them to reach a terrorist incident and it would be many hours to reach other cities in Australia.

Turnbull said that the reforms were triggered in large part as a result of the "changing nature of the (terror) threat as demonstrated in recent terrorist attacks around the world".

The proposed changes need parliament's approval.

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