Turnbull toughens stand on terror, to give ADF greater powers

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The Australian prime minister says Canberra is set to extend the powers of the military to take action in response to potential terrorist attacks in the country.

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

SPECIAL forces will provide select state and territory police teams with specialised training.

Exactly what defence forces will be empowered to do under the new laws is unclear, though at one point Turnbull gestured to the heavily armed forces behind him as an example of what the ADF can offer, potentially flagging a substantial expansion of domestic military presence and powers.

State governments will be able to call on help from the Australian Defence Force immediately under changes to the Defence Act.

The new engagement rules will be announced by Mr Turnbull in Sydney this morning, and include ways of improving law enforcement agencies' response to terrorist attacks.

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.

Turnbull said the law must be changed that requires state and territory governments to exhaust their capacity to respond to domestic terror events before they can ask for military help, reports The Guardian.

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Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne refused to be drawn on what might have happened if the changes were in place before Sydney's Lindt cafe siege which resulted in the deaths of two hostages.

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

"Our police and law enforcement are the best in the world. if it's a situation where we have some specialist capability within the Australian Defence Force, or we had a requirement to use the Australian Defence Force in counter-terrorism response, I think Australians would understand we need to have the most flexible arrangements possible".

The proposed changes need parliament's approval.

The PM announced a plan to increase cooperation and shared training between State and Territory police and the Australian Defence Forces (ADF), and make it easier for the ADF to be deployed domestically during a terrorist attack.

"Contain and negotiating, which was the approach in the Lindt cafe siege, isn't going to work [in dealing with Islamist terrorists]".

"In 2005 we never imagined Australia would be under the current terrorism threat that it is", he told ABC radio.

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