WA Police will get stronger powers to shoot and kill terrorists as a pre-emptive measure to avoid casualties.
The state government announced the new laws in which police at a scene would be authorised to use the lethal force powers once Police Commissioner Chris Dawson or his deputies declare a “terrorist incident”.
The changes to the Terrorism Act are a response to the confusion and criticism around the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney when police snipers did not shoot gunman Man Haron Monis before he opened fire on hostages because they were worried they could be charged.
Police officers will have clear legal protections that will help reduce any “doubt or ambiguity” in their minds if they are required to use pre-emptive force in terrorist incidents, Premier Mark McGowan told reporters.
“We can’t allow a situation to develop where there is a terrorist incident and police don’t know whether or not they can take lethal action against the perpetrator,” he said.
“I want West Australians to be absolutely assured that if there is a terror incident with hostages or victims involved, that police can shoot to kill the terrorist or perpetrator involved.”
Police around Australia are already armed and allowed to use force deemed reasonably necessary but the new laws, which NSW has already announced, would allow them to do it at an earlier stage to combat terrorism with legal immunity.
Mr Dawson said police attending a scene still required him or his deputies’ permission to authorise lethal force, but that could be done quickly if an incident was deemed terror-related.
The new laws were announced ahead of a special counter terrorism meeting of the Council of Australian Governments on Thursday.
Mr McGowan said he thought Sydney and Melbourne had more problems with terror-related radicalisation than in WA, citing numerous terror plots on the east coast.
“We want to have as harmonious a society as possible,” he said.