There has been a lot of conjecture as to why the Tactical Assault Group – East (TAG-E) were not used as the resolution force for this attack. Before I explore this notion further, I will provide a brief history of TAG-E as well as a summary of the organisation’s primary roles and responsibilities.

On the 13 February, 1978, a bomb exploded outside of the Hilton Hotel in Sydney during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting (CHOGRM). The bomb was placed in a rubbish bin, however it did not detonate until the bin was emptied into a garbage truck—killing two garbage collectors and a police officer standing guard out front of the hotel. This incident would prove to be the catalyst for the Australian government’s commitment to the raising of an elite counter-terrorist force element within the Australian Army. The Special Air Service Regiment was initially tasked with this responsibility under the designation of the Tactical Assault Group, or TAG, which became fully operational in 1980.

After the September 11 attacks, the Australian government realised that the geographical isolation of TAG in Western Australia (WA) could prove problematic if a terrorist incident were to unfold on the east coast of Australia. History supports the assessment that the east coast of Australia is a more likely terrorist target, and with a distance of just under 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) from WA, the response time to a critical incident is certainly less than ideal.

This ultimately brought about a second TAG raised as part of 4RAR (Cdo) who are based at Holsworthy Barracks on Australia’s east coast. In the May federal budget of 2002, the Australian government allocated $219.4 million for the development of TAG-E, as well as a further $121 million for the raising of the Incident Response Regiment (IRR). IRR was the precursor to the Special Operations Engineer Regiment (SOER), whose capability is centred around being able to effectively respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and explosive threats, as well as other hazardous situations.

The TAG designation was now split between TAG-E (east) and TAG-W (west) to denote the unit and geographical differences between the two. Both TAG organisations still hold a short notice for domestic response, however each also have specific responsibilities within the DCT role which mostly eliminates a duplication of effort. TAG-W retains a number of critical offshore resolution options while TAG-E has primacy for the ‘last-resort option’ within Australia. This is essentially the Australian government’s last club in the proverbial golf bag to resolve terrorist or hostage incidences that are outside the scope and capabilities of state and territory law-enforcement agencies.

OP Parapet

TAG-E is the Australian government’s most elite counter-terrorism capability and is Australia’s most highly and diversely trained counter-terrorism resolution force. TAG-E is mandated to provide services to the Australian government under the Defence Force Aid to Civil Authorities (DFAC-A) legislation in the event that a terrorist incident occurs that is beyond the capability of the state and territory law-enforcement agencies to resolve. TAG-E is trained to deal with extremely dangerous and complex scenarios, and provides one of the most critical and highly demanding elements to Australia’s national security policy.

So, based on the threat that Australia was faced with when Man Haron Monis took hostages in the Lindt Café, why wasn’t TAG-E called in as the primary resolution force element?