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Election 2004: Opposition Leader suspends campaign commitments out of respect for those killed in the bomb blast outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.

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Friday 10 September 2004

Election 2004: Opposition Leader suspends campaign commitments out of respect for those killed in the bomb blast outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta


TONY EASTLEY: The Labor leader, Mark Latham, says the terrorist bombing in Jakarta is "an attack on our nation." He's cancelled a planned policy announcement today and, like the Prime Minister, is headed to Canberra. 


Matt Brown is traveling with
Mr Latham and filed this report from Cairns. 


MATT BROWN: The Labor leader's reaction to the Jakarta attack was intense. 


MARK LATHAM: Horror and fear - the horror of innocent people being killed, people getting about their work in the security and defence of Australian interests in another country.  


It's distressing in the circumstances, I suppose relief to learn that the Australian embassy staff - Australian citizens - have been accounted for… but still the horror of what's happened to innocent people working out the front of our embassy, innocent passerbys. I mean, this is just the horror and blatant stupidity of terrorism. 


MATT BROWN: Mark Latham says this attack was "an attack on our nation." His debate with the Prime Minister on Sunday will still go ahead, and he will still be doing media interviews. 


But in response to the Jakarta bombing the Labor Leader has opted for a two-day hiatus, cancelling paid advertisements and policy announcements. 


It's a period in which the Australian political agenda will be transformed as minds also turn to the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States three years ago. 


MARK LATHAM: We were suspending the normal campaign activities to pay respects on Saturday the 11th of September, and it's appropriate to do that in these shocking circumstances for our nation - the attack on the Australian embassy, an attack on our nation in Jakarta. We suspend our normal campaign activities. 


MATT BROWN: National security has, until now, been a minor factor in the election campaign. But a terrorist attack, for the first time apparently so clearly targeted at Australia, means Mark Latham can't allow any question to arise about whether a Labor government would be strong on national security. 


MARK LATHAM: I just want to make the Labor Party's approach clear in the circumstances. We always step forward against the terrorists - determined to identify them, to eliminate them, to give the Australian people every guarantee that's possible that we can make this country safe and secure for the future. We want to win the war against terror, especially in our part of the world.  


MATT BROWN: Emphasising the need to fight terrorism "especially in our part of the world" was a key part of the argument Labor mounted last year when it opposed joining the war in far-off Iraq. 


But given the sensitivity over this attack, Mark Latham won't be drawn on the political implications. 


MATT BROWN: Does this attack demonstrate the need to focus on fighting terrorism in our part of the world? 


MARK LATHAM: Well, I've made my statement, but we're not making policy initiatives in these shocking circumstances. We're suspending normal campaign activities and commentary, and I just hope you can understand that.  


Seven or eight Indonesian citizens, it appears, have been killed. These were people, some of them it seems, security guards who were there trying to defend our interests in Jakarta. It's a time for Australians to pay their respects. 


TONY EASTLEY: Opposition leader Mark Latham in Cairns last night.