The Australian Defence Force (ADF) will be able to respond to calls for assistance in terrorist attacks, under a shake-up of “call-out” laws to be introduced in Federal Parliament.
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter will introduce the laws today, which will boost security laws and ensure policing agencies the quickest available response during domestic terror incidents.
The laws will make it simpler for states and territories to request military support during a terrorist attack or other violent incidents.
It will also pre-authorise the ADF to respond to threats on land, at sea and in the air and it will expand the military’s powers to search, seize and control movement at the scene of a terrorist incident.
Police currently have the ability to call for military support, however they can only do so when they have exceeded their own capabilities.
The laws were identified last year, following a Federal Government review of defence powers in light of the Lindt Café siege in 2014.
Mr Porter said the changes are the most significant for some time.
“The terror threat we face today is greater and more complex than that we faced when these laws were introduced almost 20 years ago,” he said.
“The Government is committed to ensuring that law enforcement agencies around Australia can easily request ADF assistance to respond to these threats where necessary and are available to states and territories to assist with other major incidents, such as geographically dispersed or otherwise widespread coordinated acts of violence or other domestic incidents that threaten the security and lives of Australians.”
He said the Lindt Café siege had prompted questions about the threshold of incidents where police felt they could not handle a situation before the military could be called.
“The threshold was so inflexible and so high – the threshold being essentially that the state or territory had to be in effect completely overwhelmed so that it was not, or unlikely to be, able to cope with the threat,” Mr Porter said.
“You were never getting the ability in real terms to apply specialist ADF assets to a situation which could actually save lives.”
Mr Porter said the ADF could be called into scenarios including prolonged sieges that required “the very specialist skills of the Commando or SAS.”
Defence Minister Marise Payne said the law changes were designed to enhance ADF support in counter-terrorism.
“Defence has already strengthened the practical support it provides to state and territory police since the outcomes of the review were announced in July last year,” she said.
However, the Australia Defence Association’s Neil James believed the laws were just a formality despite his support.
“The whole concept of this goes back centuries back in the days when they didn’t have police forces and governments used to call on the military to do things that the police do now,” Mr James said.
“All this is doing is putting in a statute what is a century-and-a-half of precedent.”