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Prime Minister Howard's Speech On Bali Bombing

Opening remarks by Prime Minister John Howard to press conference on the terrorist attacks in Bali...

Ladies and gentlemen, I know that I speak for all Australians, and I mean all Australians, in expressing a sense of outrage, sadness and horror at what has occurred overnight in Bali.

This wicked and cowardly attack, clearly on the evidence available to us, an act of terrorism and have no justification and would be widely condemned not only by Australians but by people all around the world.

My very first thoughts, however, are with those Australians at present waiting and hoping to hear from loved ones who are so far unaccounted for.

Our thoughts will be especially with them at this time of unbelievable stress and anxiety and we can only hope that the prayers and the hopes of as many of them as possible are answered over the coming hours.

The latest information I have is that there are confirmed dead of 169 with hundreds injured.

I don't at this stage, nor do the Australian authorities in Jakarta or Denpasar know the exact extent of Australian casualties.

There are many Australians unaccounted for, many.

We must therefore prepare ourselves as a nation for the possibility of a significant number of Australians deaths amongst the fatalities.

The indiscriminate, brutal and despicable way in which lives have been taken away on this occasion by an act of barbarity will, I know, deeply shock all Australians and accepting that shock I also express my condolences to the people of Indonesia who I know have lost many of their citizens in this outrage.

Many of the Australians in this nightclub were doing something that thousands of young Australians do at this time of the year, they mark the end of a season of sport with some fun in another place.

They were carrying on that innocent and understandably exuberant pastime that is something that we take for granted as Australians.

Sadly and tragically terrorism has touched that innocent pursuit and touched it in a brutal and very barbaric and quite unforgivable fashion.

The view that this is a terrorist attack is not my view alone.

It is the current assessment of both the Australian and the Indonesian authorities. A short while ago I spoke on the telephone to President Megawati of Indonesia.

I expressed to her my condolences at the loss of life suffered by Indonesia and she conveyed her sorrow and shock at the likely loss of Australian lives.

Both of us agreed that this incident was a brutal reminder that the world has in fact to face the challenge of terrorism.

The warnings of the last year or more that terrorism can touch anybody, anywhere, at any time have been borne out by this terrible event.

And I can only say again that the war against terrorism must go on with unrelenting vigour and with an unconditional commitment because terrorism strikes indiscriminately, it strikes at civilian targets, it strikes without justification, it strikes without pity and it strikes in a way that I know outrages the civilised world.

I want to immediately record my thanks to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force for the speedy way in which the crisis response went into action this morning.

A C-130 with a medical team of seven doctors, including experienced surgeons and nurses is already on its way and will be in Denpasar at 8.00 pm this evening.

It has a capacity to bring back to Australia litter patients of some 30 and if necessary further aircraft will be despatched to bring people back to Australia for treatment and I've indicated to the Department of Foreign Affairs that all of the resources of the Air Force will be available for this task.

We are determined to provide the best possible medical assistance for Australians, we'll bring them back, we'll offer medical treatment for others who have been injured in this outrage.

I offer that medical assistance and I also offered police assistance to President Megawati when I spoke to her this afternoon.

But we had, in admittedly very sad circumstances, a very constructive and positive discussion about the need to work together as closely as possible in the wake of this attack.

I also want to thank Qantas for immediately dispatching additional aircraft.

I've spoken to the chairman of Qantas, Margaret Jackson, a short time ago and she indicated that the airline stood ready to provide all additional assistance that may be needed.

I want to issue a very strong piece of advice to Australians not to travel to Bali until further notice. In the wake of what has occurred it is clearly not a safe place and I would counsel people in unmistakably clear terms not to take the risk.

We have issued a number of travel warnings about Bali and about Indonesia generally in recent times but in the wake of this terrible event they certainly have an added point.

I've spoken to the Leader of the Opposition and offered him briefings from the Department of Foreign Affairs and other agencies as appropriate and equated him with any additional knowledge I have of the circumstances.

We both agree this is a huge national tragedy for Australia and for Australians and it is something that the Australian community should as far as possible confront and respond to together.

I have also had two conversations with the Premier of Western Australia Dr (Geoff) Gallop.

Quite a number of the people in Bali and apparently the nightclub were from Western Australia and because of the proximity of Perth and the rest of Western Australia there is always a significant number of Australians from that part of our country in Bali.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very sad day; it's tragic that young Australians seeking nothing other than innocent enjoyment, Australians generally - not only young - many, of all ages over the years have made Bali a holiday destination; they've enjoyed it and have enjoyed the hospitality of the Balinese people.

I can only say again that my thoughts are very much with the families waiting to hear.

It is an awful time for them and I hope that they may find some comfort from the fact that their fellow Australians are thinking of them, are feeling for them and are trying in our different ways to share their anxiety and to express the hope that there prayers will as far as possible and in as many cases as possible be answered.

This event is a terrible reminder that terrorism can touch anybody anywhere and at any time and any country or any people, any leader or any nation that imagines that in some way they have secured immunity from terrorism because of this or that attitude or this or that part or position in the world, or this or that accident of geography is deluding themselves.

That is not the case, and this event sadly has brought that home.

ENDS

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