TUESDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2014
SUBJECT: Martin Place Siege.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning. Today is an incredibly sad day for our nation. For the friends and loved ones of two innocent people, 17 hours of dreadful anxiety has ended in unimaginable heartbreaking loss.
To all those touched by this tragedy, I join with the Prime Minister in offering the heartfelt condolences of the nation. Australia is with you in this unimaginable loss and to all those who have escaped from this ordeal with their lives, the wounded and the frightened, Australia is here for you.
The bravery, professionalism and skill of the New South Wales Police and other police agencies has brought the siege in Martin Place to an end in the early hours of this morning. Today, and always, we thank you for your service and your courage.
Martin Place plays a special role in the life of Sydney. Hundreds of Sydneysiders have already laid flowers at the scene this morning. I hope in time there can be a permanent memorial to the victims of this horrific event.
There is still a lot to learn about why this happened and indeed what happened. We need to also learn how we can ensure that this does not happen again. This important work has already commenced.
My final words today are for the millions of Australians who right now are trying to make sense of this cowardly act of deranged evil. This was a crime aimed at the innocent. Every day Australians stopping off before they start work for that cup of coffee. Indeed, yesterday millions of Australians did stop off for a coffee before they went to work.
It was a senseless act of violence - a crime designed to divide our country.
But it has failed. It has failed because I believe Australians have not lost faith and will never lose faith in our peaceful, multicultural society.
It has failed because Australians will never surrender to fear, to ignorance and to intolerance.
We will never reward the perpetrators of inhuman violence by abandoning our Australian values and our common humanity. We will stand united, we will face the challenges of this dark moment together, and together we will endure. Together we will prevail.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Do you think this will divide or unite Australians?
SHORTEN: I believe Australians understand that we will not reward the perpetrators of this inhuman violence by dividing, which is what this act was aimed to do. I think we are stronger and cleverer. We are both tenderer and tougher than the people who would try to divide our society.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the question needs to be asked why a known criminal with extremist ideas wasn't in custody.
SHORTEN: The police have said investigations are underway. What I think is incumbent upon all people in leadership at this time is that we need to create the space for the calm investigation of the very important questions that you are asking. Now is not the time for hasty conclusions. There are families and friends grieving two innocent people, caught up in events, not of their making on a Monday morning and in the last 24 hours, Australians too have experienced these horrible events indirectly. The best thing that we can all do now is to understand that what unites us is greater than what divides us. Best thing we can do now is let the police get on with their job.
JOURNALIST: Are you planning on travelling to Sydney at some point?
SHORTEN: I travel to Sydney frequently and regularly. I have been touched, as all Australians have, by the scenes this morning of ordinary people, taking control of their lives again by the simple demonstration of sympathy by laying flowers. I hope in time there is a permanent memorial to what these hostages have been through. Also, literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Australians, have been on social media indicating that they won't give in to intolerance or attacks on anyone or any group. In all these ways, including support for Sydney from the rest of Australia, we can demonstrate that this inhuman violence hasn't achieved the purposes that it was driven to do.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on the Prime Minister’s commentary and language?
SHORTEN: I support the actions of the Prime Minister in dealing with our safety and security. Within an hour of hearing about the hostage-taking, I was in contact with the Prime Minister. I believe Australians can rightly expect that Liberal and Labor at times like this, are united. The very best thing we can offer is our unity, by sticking together that is what I think Australians want to see.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister referred to this as an act of terror, are you comfortable with his references to death cults and a like?
SHORTEN: I am certainly not going to be criticising the Prime Minister today, that is not what Australians need. When I say that, what I also recognise is that the Prime Minister and I are united by protecting the security and safety of Australians and that is what Australians want to hear from our political leaders.
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