The government has passed legislation to boost the powers of the Australian Defence Force to support state and territory police in responding to “incidents of significant violence”, which includes terrorism.
Police will still continue their role of first responders, but the changes amend call out provisions in Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act 1903 to:
- ensure that the Commonwealth can more easily respond to requests from states and territories for ADF assistance in the event of violent incidents, including terrorism;
- allow the ADF to be pre-authorised to respond to land, sea and air threats;
- simplify, expand and clarify the ADF's powers to search, seize and control movement at the scene of a violent incident, including terrorism; and
- strengthen the ADF’s ability to respond to incidents occurring in more than one jurisdiction.
The amendments have come about due to the recommendations of the Defence Counter-Terrorism Review from July 2017.
Ministers will also now authorise ADF personnel to assist police immediately, should a major incident occur.
"Experience abroad shows terrorist threats can be highly mobile and can occur in multiple locations simultaneously,” Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne said.
“The new provisions ensure the ADF can quickly and effectively respond to threats that travel across state borders without the need to duplicate processes to obtain additional approvals, which could delay the response.”
The reforms are part of a larger group of measures being introduced to enhance the ADF's support to national counter-terrorism efforts.
"This legislation provides the ADF with simpler and clearer powers to effectively bring specialist capabilities to bear, if and when they are required, to save lives," Attorney-General Christian Porter said.
Minister Pyne said Defence has made "substantial progress" to help practical counter-terrorism engagement between the police and the ADF.
“Defence is also doing more to support police to prepare for and respond to threats by improving access to specialist facilities and broadening collaboration in counter‑terrorism training activities," Minister Pyne said.
"This suite of reforms will ensure Defence is more flexible and agile in supporting state and territory first responders – before, during and in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist incident.”