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PM John Howard Address To Parliament On Bali

14 October 2002


I move that this House:

1. expresses its outrage and condemnation at the barbaric terrorist bombings which took place in Bali on 12 October 2002;

2. extends its deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the families and loved ones of those Australians killed, missing or injured in this brutal and despicable attack;

3. offers its condolences to the families and friends of the Indonesians and citizens of other countries who have been killed or injured;

4. condemns those who employ terror and indiscriminate violence against innocent people;

5. commits the Australian government to work with the Indonesian government and others to bring those who are guilty of this horrendous crime, and all those who harbour and support them, to justice;

6. reaffirms Australia’s commitment to continue the war against terrorism in our region and in the rest of the world.

For the rest of Australian history, 12 October 2002 will be counted as a day on which evil struck, with indiscriminate and indescribable savagery, young innocent Australians who were engaging in an understandable period of relaxation and whose innocence was palpable and whose death and injury we join the rest of the Australian community in marking and mourning today.

In many respects the word terrorism is too antiseptic an expression to describe what happened. It is too technical and too formal. What happened was barbaric brutal mass murder without justification. It is seen as that by the people of Australia and it is seen as that by the people of the world. It is a terrible reminder that terrorism can strike anyone anywhere at any time. Nobody anywhere in the world is immune from terrorism. It is a reminder that, in this time of a borderless world with a particularly mobile young population, Australia can scarcely imagine that it can be in any way immune from such horrible attacks.

I know that the thoughts of everyone in this parliament—and, indeed, the thoughts of millions of Australians—are with those of our fellow countrymen and women who still do not know whether their daughter or their son or their brother or their sister or their lover or their mother or their father or their mate is alive or dead. The agony of waiting at the end of a mobile telephone for a call is an anxiety that we can only begin to think about and try in our own inadequate way to share, and we hope that that effort is of some comfort to them. I know that the hearts of every man and woman in this parliament will go out to them and to those who know the worst already, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who are coping with injuries, many of them horrendous burns as a result of
the flames that followed the bombing of the nightclub.

At present, the best advice I have is that there is a total of 181 dead. Very few of these have been identified. According to advice from the Indonesian authorities and our Consulate-General in Bali, 14 Australians are now confirmed among the dead and at least 113 Australians have been hospitalised following the attacks. We are still trying to establish the precise number of people evacuated to Australia, but the best advice is that it is in the order of 67 to 70. There are still 220 Australians unaccounted for. It should not be automatically assumed that all of those are dead but, given the very high percentage of Australians who were in the nightclub at the time of the bombing, we should as a nation prepare ourselves for the very real likelihood that the death toll of Australians will climb significantly when the final tally and identity of the fatalities is known.

As the House and, I am sure, the nation will be aware, a major rescue and medical evacuation operation has been under way since news of the attack came through. On behalf of this parliament and all of the Australian people, I want to express our gratitude to and admiration for the officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the men and women of the Australian Defence Force, particularly the Royal Australian Air Force; and the doctors, nurses and paramedics, many of whom have worked in very difficult circumstances. I also record my thanks to the various state governments that have offered help, to Qantas and to many other private individuals who have provided help and assistance. The willingness of the government to provide evacuation facilities for all Australians and, indeed, others in need of medical attention remains. No expense will be spared and no limitation will be placed upon our willingness to do that.

This foul deed—this wicked, evil act of terrorists—has not only claimed the lives of Australians but also claimed the lives of many of the innocent people of Bali, a beautiful, hitherto peaceful part of Indonesia. Bali is much loved by so many Australians. In many cases, it is the first place that young Australians visit. Many of us will feel the poignancy of this attack coinciding with the end of the football season in Australia. So many of the young people in that club that night were members of Australian rules football teams, rugby league teams and rugby union teams. They were having a bit of fun at the end of a hard season. It is that connection with the everyday occurrences of life which we know so well and embrace so lovingly, that cruel conjunction, which makes something such as this that much more despicable and something that all Australians will utterly repudiate to the depths of their being.

We must remember, though, that this will have an enormous impact on the people of Indonesia and the economy of Bali. The Indonesian economy is a fragile economy. It relies very heavily on tourism. Those who did this are no friends of Indonesia. Those who did this sought to inflict misery on and deliver hatred to not only the people of Australia and the people of the other nations who lost their sons and daughters but also the people and the government of Indonesia. We must understand essentially what has happened. This is a vile crime which has claimed the lives of an as yet uncounted number of Australians on Indonesian soil.

All of us have a right to feel a sense of deep anger and a deep determination to do everything we can, as a nation and as a community, working with the government and the people of Indonesia, to bring to justice those who are responsible for this crime. We owe it to those who died, we owe it to those who have been injured and we also owe it to a proper sense of justice. Nothing can excuse this behaviour. No cause—however explained, however advocated, however twisted, however spun—can possibly justify the indiscriminate, unprovoked slaughter of innocent people. That is what has occurred here. We must do all we can, as a nation and as a community, to mete out a proper response—a measured, sober, effective response—which brings to justice, if we can, those who are responsible.

It is necessary, in the course of this, for us to cooperate with the government and the people of Indonesia. Yesterday I spoke by telephone to President Megawati. She expressed her horror at what had occurred. She agreed with me that, on all the evidence available to us, this was clearly the act of terrorists. There can be no other explanation. Both of us agreed that every effort should be made to bring those responsible for this act to justice.

In that context, the House will be aware that a number of Australian Federal Police and some ASIO officers have already gone to Bali. I can also announce that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison, will travel to Indonesia either tonight or tomorrow morning. They will go first to Bali to visit a number of those who are still hospitalised there and will then go on to Jakarta for discussions with the Indonesian government regarding cooperation between our two governments in the pursuit of those who have been responsible for this outrage. They will do that against the background of the memorandum of understanding against terrorism which was signed in Jakarta during my visit earlier this year. They will be accompanied on their visit by Mr Mick Keelty, the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, and also by Mr Dennis Richardson, the head of ASIO. Their mission will be to maximise cooperation between Australia and Indonesia in pursuit of the murderers. Their mission will be to emphasise, by their presence and by what they convey on behalf of the Australian government, the willingness of Australia to offer all available resources to assist the Indonesian authorities in tracking down those responsible.

I can also inform the House that this morning the National Security Committee of cabinet met in the wake of this outrage. We discussed the proposal that the two ministers travel to Jakarta. We also decided to institute a review of the adequacy of domestic terrorist legislation. It is inevitable that, in the wake of what occurred in Bali over the weekend, the thoughts of Australians will turn to the potential vulnerability of our own soil, our own mainland, to a possible terrorist attack. There is no point in ignoring that. I do the Australian people no service if I pretend that, in some way, it cannot happen on the Australian mainland. In a sense, this is sequential. I do not think any of us believed that something like 11 September 2001 would happen until it really happened. We might have intellectualised afterwards and said, ‘Oh yes, we thought that might happen,’ but in our hearts we did not really believe it was going to happen.

Equally, I do not think many Australians contemplated that what happened at the weekend in Bali would in fact occur. It is therefore very important that we disabuse ourselves for all time if any of us entertain the notion that something like that cannot happen in one of our cities and on our own mainland. We must dedicate and commit ourselves to doing all we can to guard against such an event. We therefore need to again assess the adequacy of our domestic law. I know it has been only recently reviewed, but further events have occurred and we are required as a matter of responsibility to almost 20 million Australians to do that. It is also necessary that we review the adequacy, which I have asked be done, of our counter-terrorism capacity. Once again, that was the subject of significant review after 11 September 2001 and major augmentation of the assets followed as a result of that review. It is therefore timely that those assets and that capacity also be reviewed.

I do not say these things lightly or in any sense of overdramatising the situation, but we are living in different circumstances and different times. That has been the case since 11 September last year; it is dramatically more so the case now, because what happened at the weekend claimed our own in great numbers, was on our own doorstep and touched us in a way that we would not have thought possible a week ago or even three days go. It has been the case that all the world, including Australia, has been more vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks since 11 September last year. In relation to the events in Bali, it is obvious that the Australian government has been concerned for some considerable time about the existence of extremist groups in the region, especially in Indonesia, with links to al-Qaeda and the real possibility of terrorist attacks against Western interests. That has been not only a concern of the Australian government but also a constant concern of the government of the United States. That concern, and the concern of our American friends, has been regularly communicated to the Indonesian authorities. It was one of the reasons that lay behind the negotiation of the memorandum of understanding on terrorism, to which I referred a moment ago.

I can inform the House that the intelligence available to the government highlighted the general threat environment but was at no time specific about Saturday night’s attack in Bali. Indeed, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s travel advice reflected the heightened level of concern which followed the terrorist attacks in September of last year. It was very much against the background of the general threat disclosed by intelligence that the government issued its alert in early September about the possible threat to Australian interests in the region around 11 September 2002.

It is apparent from the words of the resolution and from what has been said over the last 36 hours and what is self-evident from an examination of the realities that confront Australia and the rest of the civilised world today that the war against terrorism must go on in an uncompromising and unconditional fashion. Any other course of action would be folly. Retreat from the war against terrorism will not purchase for the retreaters immunity against the attacks of the terrorists. That has been the experience of the last year; that has been the experience of mankind through history. You will not escape the reach of terrorism by imagining that if you roll yourself into a little ball you will not be noticed, because terrorism is not dispensed according to some hierarchy of disdain; it is dispensed in an indiscriminate, evil, hateful fashion. Those who imagine that it is dispensed according to a hierarchy of disdain do not understand history and are deluding themselves.

The war against terrorism is not, as has frequently been said in this place, a war against Islam. People of good Islamic faith will abhor what happened in Bali. They will find it as despicable to the tenets of their faith as Christians, Jews and many others will find it despicable to the tenets of their faith. It is therefore important that we reaffirm again our commitment to a tolerant Australian community—an Australian community that, while embracing all, is an Australian community bound together by common values of openness, individual liberty and individual freedom. We fight terrorism because we love freedom; we fight terrorism because we want to preserve the way of life that this country has; we fight terrorism because we share the values of other countries that are in the war against terrorism; and we fight terrorism because it is intrinsically evil and you do not seek to covenant with evil and you do not seek to reach an accommodation with those who would destroy your sons and daughters and take away the security and the stability of this country.

In the hours that have followed this terrible outrage—this dark day for the people of Australia—there have been many expressions of concern from world leaders. I spoke at length this morning to President Bush of the United States and I received a call last night from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark. Her Majesty The Queen has sent a message of sympathy and condolence and I have received messages from many world leaders. All of them have a common theme and a common resonance, and that is that, in the world in which we live, our problems are the problems of others and the problems of others are so often ours as well. We live in a globalised world. We live in a world in which the young, in particular, are more footloose and more mobile than even their mobile parents and grandparents, and there is no escape in those circumstances from the reaches and the ravages of terror.

I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for the constructive way in which we have been able together to discuss these challenges to our country. Our country belongs to all of us, and this is a challenge to the fabric of this country and what it stands for. The Leader of the Opposition wrote to me and suggested that we might have a national day of mourning in relation to the events, and I am very happy to support that proposition. I propose that next Sunday be observed as a national day of mourning. It is of course sadly the case that we do not know the full extent of the horror that has overtaken our people—the precise death toll may not be known for several days—and it does seem that a national day of mourning next Sunday would be appropriate, and perhaps at some later stage it would also be appropriate to have a national memorial service.

In different ways, different communities in different parts of our country will mourn the abrupt and brutal deaths of so many and reflect on their own lives. In our own way we must try to offer comfort, care and hope to their bereaved friends, lovers and relatives. It is a very sad time for our country but it is a time—as always in cases like this—that has brought forth heroism, decency and goodness. Already stories of people assisting others at enormous risk to themselves are emerging, as are stories of the dedication of the staff of the hospitals and the commitment of so many. We think also of the lovely people of Bali who have been such friends to so many Australians of so many generations on so many occasions. We extend our thanks, our warmth and our affection to them.
I am saddened beyond words of proper description by what has happened. I hope I speak for all Australians in sending my and their love to those who are grieving and in expressing the fierce determination to do everything I and we can to bring to justice those who have done such evil things to our people.


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