SATURDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2018
SUBJECT: Bourke Street attack
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. I’ve just come down here, like hundreds of other Melbournians, to express my sympathy. What a tragic, shocking incident that happened here yesterday afternoon in the middle of Melbourne. I want to congratulate the bystanders who bravely intervened. I want to particularly congratulate the frontline of the Victoria Police Force. I think every Melbournian, in the midst of this senseless evil, murder, felt reassured nonetheless by the speedy response of Victoria Police, and of course the other bystanders who heroically stepped in.
I also want to extend my sympathies to the people who've been injured. This is shocking, and no doubt recovery will be very difficult, not the least of which will be for any emotional or mental scars.
In particular though, I was shocked this morning to discover the identity of the man who was murdered, Sisto Malaspina. I'm like most Melbournians, I've been going to Pellegrini's on, off for decades. Pellegrini's, run by Nino and Sisto, always gave the people of Melbourne a sense that we're quite cosmopolitan. It was just a glimpse of Europe. The coffee was fantastic.
I was talking to Sisto as recently as last Monday. It was a good day to come into town, it was Cup weekend, it wasn't very busy. He served up a freshly baked almond cake. And he was always good for a chat about politics and Melbourne. It's tragic when anyone's killed, it brings it home in a particularly strong way when you know the person who has been killed. And I think many Melbournians will be experiencing that sense of unreality. He's a Melbourne icon. I know we use the word icon perhaps a bit easily or bit casually, but he and Pellegrini's and the staff and the people who've run that place since the mid-70s are part of Melbourne life. In my lifetime they've been there forever. I can't imagine the random misfortune which will put him in the path of this evil wrongdoer.
I also just want to talk a little bit about the crime that's been committed. We need to be ruthless and relentless against people who are going to commit this sort of violence and whatever twisted, perverse definition of religion or ideology makes them do this.
Ever since 2014, the security threat in Australia has been upgraded. I've worked with Prime Ministers Abbott and Turnbull and now Morrison, and we've all shared the same desire to do everything we can to oppose the violent Islamic extremist message which has become prevalent in a very small part of a radicalised minority.
We need to keep working together. When people get frustrated with day to day politics in this country, perhaps that's fair enough, but they should be reassured that when it comes to matters of national security, Liberal and Labor, we all know that we're in this together.
We know that we've got to keep doing it better, provide the resources that are needed to our security agencies and security forces who keep us safe and do the very best. We need to be aware that these lone wolf attacks with simple weapons are a real threat. We need to keep doing better and better, and we need to keep united as we do this.
I'm happy to take a couple of questions on this matter.
JOURNALIST: So you’d side with the Prime Minister on his description of blaming the radical violent extremists for this incident, and is this a problem in Australia?
SHORTEN: Yes it is a threat. People can give all the explanations in the world why people do this. But it's no excuse. The violent Islamic extremist message is a real threat. Now, of course we shouldn't lump everyone of the faith into that basket though. This is a small, radicalised proportion of that general group, and our best weapon to help keep us safe is working with the rest of the community to make sure that these extremist elements are identified, apprehended and dealt with.
JOURNALIST: How big of a challenge are these lone wolf attacks for authorities?
SHORTEN: Lone wolf attacks are a challenge all around the world. Sadly we're not immune to them in Australia. I understand our security agencies have done well in interfering and disrupting some 14 assaults since 2014. But I also understand the difficulty where you've got a lone wolf who is off the grid, using simple weapons - and thank God we've got strong gun laws in Australia - but it is difficult. And we need to make sure that any lessons that can be learned, and perhaps it's a bit early to be talking about the lessons that can be learned, are learned from this.
JOURNALIST: And do these attacks have an impact on Australians and their behaviour?
SHORTEN: I don't know if Australians are getting used to them, you should never get used to this. I think, what they do is they determine people's resolve. I just can't believe that Sisto, who as I said, I was speaking to on Monday, is not here today on Saturday. And I think a lot of Melbournians will feel that shock.
A lot of us have families who travel through the city for work, for shopping, for entertainment. Of course even for schooling. So this is shocking, it brings it home, this is not somewhere in the Middle East, somewhere far away.
On the other hand our security agencies are well resourced. Our political system is united to fight the message of violent Islamic extremism. But of course the lone wolf operators are – they are a very small number, but we always need to remain alert and make sure we're all doing what we can to ensure that this doesn't happen again, and that we minimise the chance of this happening again.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to see Islamic leaders come out strongly against these sort of incidents?
SHORTEN: I'd like to see leaders across the community – as I said, there's no doubt that this is, in this case, the early signs of, the inspiration for this has been violent Islamic extremism. The message which has really been channelled out of the Middle East since 2014. But by the same token, our best weapon or one of our best weapons in dealing with these radicalised violent troublemakers, these few, is to work with the rest of the Muslim community, just as we work with all of our communities to apprehend and detect the very few who would seek to harm everyone else.
JOURNALIST: Are these incidents becoming too common in Australia?
SHORTEN: When it happens once it's too much. But as I say, our security agencies, and I'm privileged to get some of the information, put a lot of effort into this. They're dealing with up to 400 different investigations and people shouldn't take from that every one of those is a live problem. But nonetheless, we've got to keep doing better and better. We've got to keep united, we've got to keep stable. Thanks.