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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19883

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (2:14 PM) —With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I would like to speak briefly on the attack that has taken place in the last few hours on the Swedish foreign minister, Anna Lindh. I want to say how much the government regrets this terrible attack, which took place yesterday. Anna was stabbed by an unknown assailant while she was shopping at a department store in Stockholm. I telephoned the Swedish ambassador earlier today and he informed me that she has been undergoing microsurgery for the last few hours. His latest information was that her condition was stable but serious.

I know Anna Lindh personally and I think that other members of the House have met her from time to time as well. She is a good friend of Australia and highly respected not just as foreign minister but more broadly as a politician in Sweden. Her attacker has not been arrested and the motive for the stabbing is therefore quite unknown at this stage. I understand from my conversations with the Swedish ambassador and also with our embassy in Stockholm that Sweden is in a great state of shock and sorrow. We do not know whether the attack was politically motivated; we clearly hope it was not. This incident will trigger traumatic memories for the Swedish people of the tragic murder in 1986 of their Prime Minister, Olof Palme. So we wish the Swedish people courage at this time.

It speaks well for Anna that she is a well-respected politician of the people and one of Sweden's most popular ministers. It is noteworthy that she was attacked while unprotected in a fairly ordinary department store in Stockholm, while mixing freely with Swedish citizens. On behalf of the government, I offer my best wishes to Anna and her family for a speedy and full recovery and a return to the world of international affairs where she still has a great contribution to make.