Boost for military’s powers in ‘terrorist incidents’

Prime minister unveils proposed changes to laws in wake of recent attacks, including the deadly 2014 siege in Sydney.

Australia military law
Defence officials will also provide specialised training to police forces as part of the new measures [Reuters]

Australia’s military will be more readily deployed to respond to domestic “terrorist incidents” under proposed changes to laws by the government.

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.

Previously, the military could only be called upon if police concluded they could no longer deal with an incident.

READ MORE: Unease with Australia’s Islamophobia

That provision has now been removed, Monday’s statement said.

Turnbull said the changes to domestic counterterrorism arrangements were made “to stay ahead of the evolving threat of terrorism” and to “ensure Australia has a coordinated and integrated response”.

Australia: ‘Grave questions’ over murder-kidnapping in Melbourne

State and territory police forces would remain as the first response, but the military would offer support to enhance their capabilities, Turnbull said.

“Our enemies are agile and innovative. We have to stay ahead of them,” he said in Sydney.

As part of the measures, the military’s special forces will train state police teams and soldiers will be placed within law enforcement agencies to improve engagement between authorities.

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

The proposed changes need parliament’s approval.

Sydney cafe siege

Andrew Greene, a national security and defence reporter, based in Canberra with the ABC network, told Al Jazeera that the government is confident of winning over the opposition.

“The changes … are really the first overhaul of the Australian Defence Force’s role in managing domestic security incidents in more than a decade,” Greene said.

A series of domestic security incidents, in particular the central Sydney cafe siege in December 2014 in which two hostages were killed, prompted the measures, said Greene.

READ MORE: OPINION – From politics of condemnation to politics of refusal

“The government wants to make it essentially more flexible and quicker for the Australian military to be able to be deployed in the event of a security incident on Australian soil,” he said.

The Sydney incident and a series of other “lone wolf” attacks have thrown police tactics and Australia’s response to potential security threats, into sharp focus.

Although police were absolved of blame during the Sydney attack, an inquest found authorities had underestimated the threat of the perpetrator and recommended a review of several procedures.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies