Special Forces soldiers will provide specialised training to state and territory police as part of proposed changes aimed at improving the military’s ability to help respond to domestic terrorism incidents.
The Turnbull Government will today unveil an expansion of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) role in assisting state and territory police deal with threats, including making it easier for troops to be deployed under “call out” powers.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the first such overhaul of the ADF’s role in counter-terrorism arrangements since 2005 was designed to help keep Australians safe.
“The key thing we need is the most flexible possible arrangements — the threat’s changed very significantly,” Mr Keenan said.
“In 2005 we never imagined Australia would be under the current terrorism threat that it is.
“We need to make sure that the ‘call out’ powers are appropriate for the current circumstances.”
The Government said its proposed legislative changes to the Defence Act would remove a provision that currently limits states and territories from asking for ADF support and specialist military skills until their capability or capacity has been exceeded.
A senior military official told the ABC the NSW coroner’s recent report into the 2014 Lindt cafe siege made it very clear military “call out” powers did not need to be used in the incident, but acknowledged today’s changes would make it easier to deploy troops.
Police to continue to take lead in terrorism response
Defence will also offer state and territory governments specialised training from Special Forces for “select law enforcement teams”, as well as the placement of officers inside law enforcement agencies to “assist with liaison and engagement”.
Mr Keenan insisted police commanders would still take the lead in responding to future terrorism incidents on Australian soil.
“What we want to do is make sure we’re working with the police, so whatever assets the Commonwealth has including the ADF are being used,” he said.
“There would only be limited circumstances in which the niche military capabilities that we have would be required.”
The ABC has confirmed the Government will this week also release the findings of a wide-ranging review of Australia’s intelligence community as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull contemplates whether to introduce a new Homeland Security Department, based on the United Kingdom’s Home Office.