The country's current domestic law only allows targeting personnel who play an active role in hostilities
Australia has decided to expand its military action against Islamic State and will amend its domestic laws, the country’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday.
Australia became a part of the US-led coalition against IS in September 2014 but Turnbull said that the country's role has been crippled by differences between local and international law, a loophole that will be closed with the new legislation.
Law in the country only allows targeting personnel who are playing an active role in hostilities.
"There is a legal argument that Australia's domestic law is more restrictive than international law. This legal risk posed a major challenge to the effectiveness of our operations. It meant that the [Australian Defence Force's] targeting base in Iraq and Syria was restricted, and we could not operate as freely as our coalition partners," Turnbull told Australia's Parliament.
Turnbull said military operations can expand once the law changes progress.
"So I can announce that the government has reviewed its policy on targeting enemy combatants and earlier this year made an important decision to ensure our forces are empowered to act against Daesh in Iraq and Syria(IS) to the maximum extent allowed by international law and we will move quickly to introduce the necessary amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code that will bring our domestic laws into line with international norms. This means that ADF [Australian Defence Force] personnel will be supported by our domestic laws, they will be able to target Daesh at its core, joining with our coalition partners to target and kill a broader range of Daesh combatants which is consistent with international law. This will ensure that our efforts in Syria and Iraq are resolute and effective and our forces are fully empowered to roll back Daesh," Turnbull said.
Turnbull said his government will also press ahead with measures to combat domestic acts of terror.
He stressed on stronger oversight of potential local supporters of Islamic State.
He said approximately 200 people in Australia are being investigated for providing support to individuals and groups in the Syria/Iraq conflict.
Australia is on high alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since 2014, having suffered several "lone wolf" assaults.
In July, a legislation was proposed to indefinitely detain people convicted of terrorism-related charges if they pose an ongoing danger to society upon their release.
The legislation will be introduced to Parliament next week, Turnbull said and added he was working with Southeast Asia on this.
"My ministers and I have been active in reassuring our regional neighbours that Australia will work with them to further strengthen co-operation to mitigate the risks. We are committed to working with our regional partners to preserve the security and stability of our region."
"We must combat all of Daesh including its financiers and its propagandists, it is why we must give our agencies the powers they need to detect, to disrupt, to arrest and to target. Safety and security at home will always be the Government's first priority, success requires strong laws, modern powers and importantly it requires social unity," added Turnbull.
(WION with inputs from Reuters)