Military to gain new terror powers

AAP Image  Brendan Esposito                       Special Operations Command soldiers are seen posing at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney

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 worldwide incidents.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (with Chief of Defence Mark Binskin) announces proposed changes to terror response protocols at Holsworthy Barracks.

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

It was the first major review of Defence's contribution to domestic counter-terrorism in more than a decade.

Under the changes territory police forces would remain the first responders to possible terror attacks on Australian soil, but they would be authorized to ask for the army's help during such incidents before exhausting all their capacity.

The changes will include the removal of the provision that now limits states and territories from asking for ADF support and specialist military skills until their capability or capacity has been exceeded.

To stay ahead of the evolving threat of terrorism, the Turnbull Government reviewed Defence's support to domestic counter-terrorism arrangements to ensure Australia has a co-ordinated and integrated response.

He also wants ADF personnel to be placed within law enforcement agencies to assist with liaison and engagement between the ADF and police, and for defence to provide specialised training from special forces for select law enforcement teams.

The move is in response to Sydney's 2014 deadly Lindt Cafe siege.

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.

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

The changes will make it easier for the Australian Defence Force to work together with federal and state police in the event of a terrorist incident, Turnbull said in a joint statement with the minister for defence.

"We want to make sure every asset we have that is created to keep Australians safe is brought to bear to do so when it is needed", Mr Turnbull said.

He said the Defence Force must always be used respectfully.

Constitutionally, states are responsible crime prevention.

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

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.

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