TONY Abbott has slammed officials who claim Islamophobia is almost as big a problem as terrorism while calling for the "strongest possible response" to the latest attacks in London.

The former Prime Minister has called for specialist military commandos to lead major counter-terror operations with more shoot-to-kill powers.

Today he called the attack, which has so far claimed seven lives, the latest "atrocity in a long line of Islamist atrocities against the west".

"My thoughts are that we've got to avoid any spirit of surrender, any spirit of defeatism," Mr Abbott said.

"All too often in officialdoms' ranks there is this notion that Islamophobia is almost as big a problem as Islamist terrorism," he said.

"Well Islamophobia hasn't killed anyone, Islamist terrorism has now killed tens of thousands of people.

"That's why it's absolutely critical that there be the strongest possible response at every level."

Mr Abbott, who put a commando regiment on standby during the December 2014 Lindt cafe siege, is one of several Liberal MPs pushing for the Defence Act to be amended.

"In the case of multiple or complex terrorist incidents, as soon as that is established, the military should become the lead agency in terms of the operations," Mr Abbott told The Australian on Monday.

He said too many senior members of state police forces were concerned about "political correctness" and community backlash during terror incidents.

But attacks, where people "have come to kill us", should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Tony Abbott says terror incidents must be dealt with as quickly as possible with ‘shoot to kill’ powers. Picture: Kym Smith
Tony Abbott says terror incidents must be dealt with as quickly as possible with ‘shoot to kill’ powers. Picture: Kym Smith

He called for "shoot to kill" powers to be a priority.

"The tragic reality is that there are people even in countries like ours who want to do us harm," he told reporters in Ballarat today.

"Obviously the police are the first responders - that's only right and proper - but if there is a complex terrorism situation it's fitting that the military then become the lead agency," Mr Abbott said.

"This is something that I think that the Prime Minister and the Premiers need to talk about urgently at the next meeting of COAG.

"I think it is important that in the senior echelons of command, that there be an appropriate understanding of the Islamist mindset and the fact that these people have this death to the infidel approach.

"Such sieges are almost inevitably going to end badly so the sooner they're ended by the police or other agencies, the better."

"We are wonderfully decent, generous and welcoming societies and that should never change but we cannot tolerate the intolerant.

"We cannot tolerate people who wish us very, very serious harm."

Chairman of the joint foreign affairs and defence committee, Liberal Senator David Fawcett, said he would like to see the military be the primary responder in a terrorist incident.

"If a 'high-risk incident' develops into a siege or hostage event, the force best equipped to deal with the threat must be deployed in a timely manner," he said.

The existing law, which requires a state or territory government to request assistance, unnecessarily delays deployment of the most effective force to deal with the threat, he said.

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, a former SAS commander and now the chairman of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, has also backed the call.

He told the publication most terror incidents were over in about 15 minutes but hostage situations, where terrorists were threatening to kill citizens, should automatically trigger military engagement.

"Their sole purpose is to kill the terrorist to save the lives of the hostages and so their whole operational culture is driven towards the surgical application of lethal force to that end," Mr Hastie said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the idea was already under review following the Lindt cafe siege.

"The issue of defence support in national counter-terrorism arrangements is already being considered," she told ABC radio.

News Corp Australia


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