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Melbourne, Victoria: transcript of media conference: terrorist attack on the United States.

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Kim Beazley - Terrorist Attack On The United States //media/0901/kbmcvic120901.html Wednesday, 12 September 2001

Kim Beazley - Media Conference Subject: Terrorist Attack On The United States

Transcript - Melbourne, Victoria - 12 September 2001


BEAZLEY: Well, thank you very much for coming here today on this very sad and tragic day. I think all of us have been horrified by the images that have unfolded before us on our television screens. Today I wrote to President Bush on behalf of the Opposition and those whom we represent here in this country but I am sure having seen Prime Minister Howard's remarks I am positive that all Australians stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends and allies in their moment of deep sorrow as they contemplate the consequences of these evil attacks.

Can I say first, to those who have lost loved ones and who are bereaved and who have been injured that our thoughts and prayers are absolutely with them at this time They are with too those who are engaged in the rescue effort and some of those who paid with their lives who were engaged in the rescue effort associated with these vicious crimes.

This is an indication of the terrible penalties our principal ally pays for accepting world responsibility. We are grateful that they do so in full consciousness of the fact that they do not need to do so from the point of view of their own comfort. The United States and its citizens take upon themselves awesome responsibilities because they feel a sense of responsibility for us. So in circumstances in which they pay that penalty we must stand shoulder to shoulder with them - and we do.

No stone must be left unturned in working out who is responsible for this. There are two layers of responsibility here. One is for the perpetrators, those who have committed the act of terrorism, the other is for those who sponsored or harboured them - they have committed an act of war. That is a very serious dimension in international relationships for which there are the most severe consequences.

I have total confidence in the capacities of American police and intelligence to arrive at a reasonable and detailed assessment of who is responsible for this absolute outrage and that in the light of finding those responsible there will be consequences for them and for anyone else who has harboured them.

Terrorism, international terrorism, is the principal international security problem of this century - that has been obvious for some time now. We have a close relationship with the United States much of it of necessity secret but I am positive now that our intelligence services and our arrangements with the United States will be playing a substantial role in establishing a line of evidence and then assisting

ultimately in conclusion related to all of that.

Acts of evil like this cannot go unpunished but that is for the future. For today it is a day of the most intense sorrow and we sorrow with our American friends.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, are you concerned about security in Australia?

BEAZLEY: Yes. I think we need to be realistic. We are not a target like the US is a target but the lesson these days of international terrorism is that decent open democratic societies like ours are enormously vulnerable. And in a sense we will always stay that way. Why? Because we are decent open and democratic societies and that places a special burden on our governments, our militaries and our police to be ever vigilant and to establish those international relationships which enable us, in our open and democratic way, to get the most protection we can.

It has been so encouraging to see from figures such as President Putin of Russia, as diverse as President Putin of Russia, Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, his German and French counterparts and those moderate states in the Middle East, like Egypt, absolutely determined that the culprits will be brought to book. This determination to deal with this incident has the potential, I believe, to spread into a determination operationally to deal with the evil across the board and for the future permanently.

JOURNALIST: What punishment do you think is appropriate…?

BEAZLEY: Well, the truth is this: if you commit an act of war and you apply to it deadly force you receive deadly force in return. That is why this is a situation where having established, and it's necessary, the United States clearly accepts this as such, is necessary for evidence to be established but the evidence will be established related to a terrorist. If any particular government has given support, aid and comfort to that and abetted it they have committed an act of war and they bring upon themselves consequences.

JOURNALIST: Do you think America is on a war footing?

BEAZLEY: The Americans have their security forces on full alert. I think what the United States is doing now, and quite appropriately, and I saw that Secretary for Defence Rumsfeld was most anxious to play down events in Kabul as anything related to the situation which has occurred in the course of the last 24 hours, they will react calmly. They will react on evidence they can be guaranteed to give this cool and clearheaded consideration. There won't be anything hasty out of the United States but when ultimately the evidence is there then there will be action and we should indicate to the United States that on the basis of that we would stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

JOURNALIST: So, you would support an alliance similar to the Gulf War alliance…?

BEAZLEY: We don't know what the circumstances are as yet - it is far too early to call those particular shots. But it is not too early to say that they are our ally, they are our military ally and we do stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their hour of need and concern. Having said that, of course, you know that they will be going through these processes with great caution. No circumstance is exactly like any other that occurs internationally - we are in new territory now. There has not been an attack like this on the United States by an external force ever and we need to get calmly to the bottom of it - they will - and then they will act.

JOURNALIST: Is the Australian Government doing enough to protect this country at the present time?

BEAZLEY: It is always difficult to make a decision on what you should do to protect yourselves and balance that with what are the obligations of a democratic community. We have been well served in this country by the most intense intelligence cooperation with the United States and with other allies that has been there for as long as the American Alliance. And we have a level of understanding of what the United States does and what it is capable of that few other countries have on earth. So we would have at least as much confidence in our knowledge of these sorts of affairs as the Americans have but you can't prepare for absolutely everything in a democratic society - you can't live that way - and that means when events as horrible as this occur then you need to be absolutely certain that deterrents are established in the future by virtue of the fact that those who have perpetrated it go punished.

JOURNALIST: … it may play in the US Defence Shield for example?

BEAZLEY: That is a different issue I think. These are the sorts of terrorists' attacks which are most potent. They are less likely to be delivered by missile then they are by people getting inside under your guard. I mean, that would be the process of choice, if you like, by the international criminals who perpetrate these sorts of things and it is necessary to develop coordinated action to deal with that sort of problem. And it is not as though people aren't alert to it - they are - and that is part of the basis of the exchange that we have with the United States but there will always be opportunities to do things better than we have done them hitherto and they should be taken.

JOURNALIST: You say we are in new territory now, once the dust settles literally and metaphorically does it give Australia perhaps reason to reassess its support for the US position as the world's policeman?

BEAZLEY: Well, the United States position is more complicated than simply being the world's policeman - they don't want to be that and they are not - and nor are we in that context, because they are not that, we are not deputy to that particular proposition. We are a proud independent nation but we are in an alliance and we respond to what our allies have to say about the threat that they judge is aimed at themselves. Now the US has one set of responses in place but they have never experienced anything like this, certainly not the continental United States. Of course, Pearl Harbour experienced something like this in World War II but that is not continental US. They have never experienced this and this will have brought home to all Americans their vulnerability and the administration will want to respond accordingly.

JOURNALIST: Commentators have said that this is like Pearl Harbour, would you agree to that assessment Mr Beazley?

BEAZLEY: History, thank God, never repeats itself exactly. No, it is not exactly like Pearl Harbour. Pearl Harbour was, at least as far as we know now, Pearl Harbour was an attack by a formal government albeit not having properly declared war before that attack was made and they owned up to that attack, however, immediately after they made it and there was a response accordingly. This is different. We don't yet know what lies at the bottom of this. Who is responsible - we don't know these things. And, of course, the attack on Pearl Harbour, though it had civilian consequences was an attack on military installations. This is not an attack on military installations this is an evil, savage attack on ordinary American citizens in a building that virtually all of us who have visited the United States, as I have, have visited ourselves. We know the dimensions of the tragedy which has occurred here. Many Australians who have been through New York will have been up and down the elevators of that building and they will have seen people coming out of it and they will understand that they are just ordinary human beings like us who are not military trained, they don't spend their lives taking a bet on their lives they just expect

to go about their business on a day to day basis. I think there were more dissimilarities with Pearl Harbour than similarities here.

Ends Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.