Australian Prime Minister Radio Interview – 2GB Drive 17 April

Prime Minister

: The Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, is on the line for us. Prime Minister, thanks for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon. Good to be with you, although these are, of course, really difficult circumstances and they’re tough times for Sydneysiders and for Australians.

O’KEEFE: I think the designation of a terrorist attack surprised many of us.

PRIME MINISTER: Indeed, that declaration was made overnight. It was on the basis of the motivation that was seen to be behind this attack that it was an ideologically-motivated attack. The police, of course, investigation is ongoing. I received information in the very early hours of the morning and then I received an early morning briefing. I convened the National Security meeting this morning. What happens when a terror incident is declared is that the state police, in this case the New South Wales Police, together with the Australian Federal Police and our security agencies in particular, ASIO, set up a committee, basically, to work together to make sure that all of the agencies are using all powers at their disposal to deal with an incident such as this. This is just an awful situation. There’s no place for violence in our community. There’s certainly no place for violent extremism. We’re a peace loving nation and I want to see the community united, not divided. And the police last night, going about their work, should always be respected. They responded professionally and with a very quick response last night. And the fact that they were set upon in such a way is disappointing, to say the least. And it is good news that you just broadcast there that the police have been released from hospital. And certainly, I think all of your listeners and all Australians will wish our police officers all the best.

O’KEEFE: So the belief that this was religiously-motivated clearly was the catalyst for determining and declaring that it was a terrorist attack. Are you concerned that this teenage boy has been radicalised by people who are still living in Sydney, or is this a matter that he may have well been radicalised online?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I am concerned about his radicalisation. I’ll leave any declarations, if you like, information to the police to release at an appropriate time. I don’t want to say things that interfere with their ongoing investigations. I can assure your listeners, though, that the police are very focused on this, as are our security agencies, in particular ASIO, using powers at their disposal.

O’KEEFE: And what are they telling you? Are they telling you that there is potentially still some sort of a threat that is alive here in Sydney?

PRIME MINISTER: They are saying that this person acted alone, is what they have found. But they are, of course, going through this gentleman’s media with all of his phone conversations, with people who he’s been in contact with. There will be a full and comprehensive investigation into this and they will, when it is appropriate, ensure that that information is made public in a transparent way. I want to, my job as Prime Minister is to give every support to our police officers and to our security agencies, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.

O’KEEFE: Now, there’s been some suggestions that this was religiously motivated from the Muslim faith. Clearly, Bishop Mar Mari is an Assyrian Christian. Are you worried where this heads?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I want to see a de-escalation here. It’s important that people don’t take things into their own hands. That’s something that we saw last night, unfortunately. It is completely understandable that people would be distressed with an attack on an Assyrian bishop in a church. But police should not have been set upon in the way that they were. Police vehicles should not have been damaged. People need to allow our law enforcement authorities, who do such an amazing job. I mean, remember – it’s only a few days ago that we were all praising police inspector Amy Scott, who did such an extraordinarily brave thing in entering the Westfield at Bondi Junction there and taking out the perpetrator, Joel Cauchi, before he could cause even more catastrophic damage to people. We need to respect and honour those men and women in uniform who serve our community. They put themselves at risk in order to protect our community.

O’KEEFE: So is it your wish and your expectation that anyone who attacked police officers last night at Wakeley, damaged police service vehicles and cars and the like, are met with the full force of the law?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, and police have said that they will do that. There’s no justification ever for turning on police. These are men and women who put themselves in danger in order to protect us.

O’KEEFE: We don’t do vigilantism in Australia.

PRIME MINISTER: Exactly, they deserve, our police deserve our thanks and praise each and every day. And one of the honours of my job is I get to know, as you can imagine, I have very close personal protection from the Australian Federal Police. They are great people. They just serve their community. They deserve to be honoured, not deserve to be threatened in such a way. One of the police officers had his jaw broken last night. That is just beyond unacceptable.

O’KEEFE: Prime Minister, before I let you go just on the Bondi Junction issue. I know that you’ve commented on the visa conditions of Damien Guerot, a Frenchman who has been nicknamed ‘Bollard Man’. He’s been having a few issues with his visa. Are you happy to let him stay?

PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely, I am. This guy’s a hero. He can stay as long as he wants, as far as I’m concerned. And we will, I’ve spoken with the Minister today, to ensure that he is looked after. I think that Australians who watched that footage on Saturday will be in awe of someone who, the story is almost more extraordinary, the fact that many people stood up on Saturday on behalf of people that they didn’t know in that shopping centre. This guy is a French national who stood up and stood at the top of those escalators, stopping this perpetrator from getting near more citizens. It was an extraordinarily brave thing to do. And that’s the sort of person who all of us, I think, want around us.

O’KEEFE: Sounds pretty Australian to me. Prime Minister, I appreciate your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Sure does. Thanks very much.

/Public Release. View in full here.