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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9600


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:00): Before question time today, the House is going to engage in some reflections on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9-11. Last night I and the Leader of the Opposition, as well as a large number of others from the parliament, gathered for a commemoration of that event. It was cold and it was wet and the mood was necessarily sombre as we reflected on the lives lost in 9-11, including 10 Australian lives, and of course the lives lost over the decades since in Bali, in London, in Mumbai and in Jakarta. There was a sombre mood of reflection and a sombre mood of grief, but there was something else there last night apart from that sombre mood of reflection. I detected defiance and I detected resolve. People joined together because they wanted to say: 'Even as we mourn what we have lost, we are defiant and we will continue to live our lives in freedom. We are resolved to do everything necessary to ensure that we continue to live those lives in freedom.'

Last night at the same event I received, in person from the US Ambassador, a letter to me as Prime Minister from the President of the United States, President Obama. They are words of reflection for all of the Australian people. It is my intention to table in the House today a copy of the letter I received last night. President Obama reminded us of Prime Minister Howard's presence in Washington on that fateful day and how important his words of comfort were to the American people. President Obama said:

Australia's quick declaration that these attacks were an assault on the values and freedoms shared by our two countries comforted us; your invocation of Article IV of the ANZUS Treaty strengthened our resolve to prevail over this menace. Americans were moved by the expressions of sympathy from so many Australian citizens, and we shared your grief at the loss of ... Australians in the September 11 attacks.

President Obama went on to say:

In the decade since the attacks, we have had no more steadfast partner than Australia in our effort to defeat terrorists in Afghanistan, in Bali, in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia. Australia's robust cooperation in these efforts has made a tremendous contribution to achieving the alliance goals we share, and has won the lasting affection and gratitude of Americans.

I bring those words to the House because I believe they are important words of reflection on the bond between us and our friends in the United States of America. They are also important words of reflection on our shared resolve to keep combating terrorism in Afghanistan, ensuring that it is no longer a safe haven for terrorists and doing what we need to do in this country to keep our people safe and secure. I table the letter.