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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19881

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) (2:00 PM) —On indulgence, could I address a few remarks, today being the second anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001. Millions of words have been written about this incident and there has been plenty of analysis of what it represented and what it meant. This House, both in the wake of the attack and also on the first anniversary, had a very moving debate on the issue. It brought together all of us in a united condemnation of that barbaric act of terrorism, it united the Australian people through their national parliament in a resolve to do all we could in the future to fight the scourge of terrorism, and today I want to simply reiterate those two things.

I want to express on behalf, I know, of the Australian people and of all of the members of this parliament our continuing horror and revulsion at all forms of terrorism; our belief that terrorism is the enemy of societies which are open and free, such as Australia; our belief that terrorism is about intimidating people from embracing and practising freedom; that no perceived political injustice or denial can warrant or authorise or sanction in a moral way the indiscriminate taking of the lives of innocent people; and remind this parliament that acts of terrorism are inflicted regardless of the individual faiths, beliefs and political values of the victims.

It is a sobering reality that the terrorist attacks in recent months have claimed the lives of more Islamic people than they have people of the Christian or Jewish faiths. It is a reminder to all of us that it is obscene that these acts are done in the name of Islam, because these acts prostitute and degrade the values of Islam. The values of Islam are not violence, terror and intimidation; they are values which encourage men and women to aspire to peace, liberty and harmony amongst people of different faiths and different nations.

The parliament will have an opportunity as the anniversary of the attack at Bali, which claimed the lives of 88 Australians, approaches. It will be then proper that a motion be presented to this parliament. But it is appropriate today, as we remember the events of 11 September and as we understand again how much our world has changed, that we particularly—

An incident having occurred in the gallery—

The SPEAKER —Order! Remove that man from the gallery.

Mr HOWARD —One thing can be said: the terrorists have not denied this country free speech. It is a remarkable thing and it is something that is worth preserving and defending, consistent with taking all necessary steps to protect ourselves against attacks.

The other thing I want to do, particularly on behalf of the Australian people, is to extend our very warm thoughts towards our friends in the United States. Although Australians and several hundred people of different nationalities died in the World Trade Centre and in Washington, the great bulk of those who died were of course citizens of the United States. The United States, being the only superpower in the world, is often attacked and criticised. It seems that if, in international terms, you are the big bloke on the block, you cop all of the criticism. The reality is that, whatever people may think of the United States, it has always been a force for liberty, decency, freedom and openness in the affairs of the world.

I posed a question in an article I wrote for the Australian newspaper this morning, and I will repeat that simple question: if the world is to have a superpower, would we wish it to be other than a country that aspires to and endeavours to practise the values of the United States? For all its faults, I think the United States is a nation which has not only saved this country from invasion—which is something that Australians should never forget—but it is also a nation that has stood unambiguously for good and it has stood unambiguously for liberty, openness and the freedom of people.

In concluding my remarks, I would like to read a brief letter I received this morning from the President of the United States. It is marked `11 September', and it reads as follows:

On behalf of the American people I would like to extend to you our solidarity and support as you remember your citizens who died in the terrorist attacks in the United States on the 11th September 2001. This barbaric act of murder took the lives of innocents from many countries as they peacefully conducted their daily business.

It concludes by saying:

Our struggle to rid the world of terror continues and it is a living monument to our fellow countrymen, mine and yours, whose lives were taken on the 11th September 2001. It is our shared struggle and, as we go forward, the memory of the victims of the 11th September attack will remind us that we fight for high principle, but we also fight simply so that our people can be safe from fear and violence.

I am sure they are sentiments and words with which all members of this House would wish to be associated. We will not forget the terrible things done in the name of terrorism to the people of the United States on 11 September, and we will, as common lovers of freedom, continue with them the fight against terrorism.

The SPEAKER —I will of course extend the same indulgence to the Leader of the Opposition and, by arrangement, to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and to the member for Griffith.