Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – ABC Radio Sydney

Prime Minister

Thank you for joining us, Prime Minister.


REUCASSEL: Now, when you spoke to Sarah yesterday afternoon, you were on your way to lay flowers in Bondi Junction. What was the response? Did you get to speak to people in Bondi?

PRIME MINISTER: I did get to speak to a range of people there who’d gathered to pay their respects to those who’d lost their lives, but also to commemorate the work of our police and emergency services and indeed all those who came to assist. As you were saying just before, it is remarkable that people ran towards danger in order to help their fellow Australians. Not the least of which, of course, was police Inspector Amy Scott.

REUCASSEL: Yeah, some heroic actions there. Extraordinary. Very early on when this came out, you were asking people to be restrained in their response and not to jump to conclusions too early. Do you think overall that was done? The media did that?

PRIME MINISTER: People will have their own assessments of that. There was occasions where, as people can read, people did jump to conclusions. It’s really important that that not occur. That people, it’s understandable of course, but the media has an important role to play. And I do think that the police did an extraordinary job of giving out information to the public as soon as it was appropriate to do so. So for example, the fact that there was one and not two perpetrators, the fact that the perpetrator, Joel Cauchi, was removed by Inspector Scott, was conveyed to the public so that there could be a sense that there wasn’t an ongoing risk occurring. And that was very important. The fact that yesterday morning it was released, that Mr Cauchi had known mental health issues and the fact that very early on they ruled out, or didn’t rule out, they thought that it was not a terrorism related incident was very important, I think, for the public. And they did an extraordinary job, the NSW Police in particular, but also working in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police. The ASIO Director General I spoke to on Saturday night, and I made a statement with Commissioner Kershaw on Saturday night at Parliament House as early as we could to try to give as well what information was available at that time.

REUCASSEL: Yeah, absolutely. As you say, you know, the link to mental health has come out quite early in this story and we’re not jumping to conclusions, there’s also discussions about drugs and that we’re obviously not making any judgement about the causes otherwise. But there is a lot of discussion this morning, we’re getting a lot of texts about mental health. We know the attacker had deteriorated mental health and was sleeping rough. Is there enough funding for mental health in Australia, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you could always do more, but we have had substantial investment in mental health, including in our last budget into mental health and the suicide prevention systems in NSW. It was evident there at Bondi Junction yesterday that the NSW government and Department of Health had very early on people clearly identified as being able to provide support for people. And I thought that was a real indication of how on top of things the NSW administration was, which under the circumstances is quite remarkable. Entirely appropriate, of course.

REUCASSEL: Yeah, obviously there was a great response in terms of having people on the ground to give mental health support, but I guess in more of an ongoing sense, you know, if you don’t have the money, people kind of get a mental health plan, they get 10 sessions and then they’re thrown back to their own devices. It’s, you know, do we need to look at kind of mental health care being made as free and available as Medicare is in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the issue, of course, there is the practitioners to provide the support. You can’t provide sessions for people if there’s no one to conduct those sessions. And one of the things we found was that less people were getting more support, if that makes, the finding that that was done. And that in order to ensure that people could get some level of support, then that reversion to the previous system was made upon recommendations.

REUCASSEL: Obviously, and a budget coming up, so we’ll see whether there’s any more support for, I guess, training more people in the mental health system is also, I guess, support for homeless people as well.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, that’s the key. And the Commonwealth and State governments at the moment in negotiations over the Commonwealth State Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

REUCASSEL: Yeah. Now, we had a text in from Jenny – Craig, my daughter was shown a video of a deceased victim at a party on Saturday. She’s still distraught. I’m gutted this stuff was circulating. A lot of issues about this, I mean, it was fascinating, I think, on Saturday the contrast between what I was reading in, you know, mainstream media and then what you were seeing circulating on social media. Not only misinformation, but much more graphic stuff there. Do you feel like there’s a role for government here to try and, in these situations, have it so there’s, I guess, more sense and less rumours and less circulation. Less, you know, can we regulate social media in the same way that we regulate actual media?

PRIME MINISTER: I wish it was that easy. The thing about social media, of course, is that everyone is a publisher and it is very difficult to control these things. It is a scourge in many ways, social media. The lack of responsibility, it must be said, as well of some of the social media operators that we know about allowing content to be circulated which is clearly misinformation. The government, of course, has been criticised for having some legislation that would provide some form of increased power to regulate. But this was an example of, I mean, no child should be subjected to that. The police were very clear if people had videos and photos, they should be forwarded to the police, not posted on X or Facebook.

REUCASSEL: It wasn’t just the vision that was disturbing, of course, there was also rumours circulating. A 20-year-old UTS student Benjamin Cohen was wrongly identified, predominantly on social media. He was trending at one point, but it also I think, did make its way into a Channel 7 promo as well. Again I mean, essentially, I get a sense that you’re kind of powerless to deal with this.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is not a simple solution. If it was, we would grab it. But as you just said, how is it that a mainstream media organisation just put that up? There was other declarations early on by some mainstream media that there was a terrorist attack underway. There was a range of misinformation out there, but I think under the circumstances, the NSW Police did an extraordinary job, really, in very early on shutting down some of those rumours and misinformation because they were frightening for people. And for the gentleman who you mentioned, for him to be circulated on social media, that he had been the perpetrator here is beyond belief, really.

REUCASSEL: And Prime Minister, just quickly, as we are about to head into the news. What’s the next level of investigation from the federal government? Is anything, what’s the next thing that will happen?

PRIME MINISTER: We’ll work with the NSW Government on this. I spoke with Premier Minns yesterday and NSW is, of course, the lead on this investigation. But we will provide whatever support we can and we will make decisions about what further reviews should be conducted at an appropriate time. What you need is a considered response to any security lessons that need to be learned from an incident such as this.

REUCASSEL: Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate your time, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.

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