Australian Prime Minister Television interview – A Current Affair

Prime Minister

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joins me now in Canberra. Prime Minister, thank you for your time. Many heroes, of course, came out of this horrific attack. You’ve said the Bollard Man, who’s French, can stay as long as he likes. Does the same apply to Muhammad Taha, the injured security guard who’s from Pakistan?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: It certainly does, we expect to finalise his improvement in his visa tomorrow. Because this is, again, another person who is newly arrived, was here working and put his life on the line in order to protect Australians who he didn’t know. Amidst all this carnage and sorrow, there are stories of bravery, whether it be from Amy Scott or from Damien Guerot or Muhammad, who have done extraordinary work. And he certainly is the sort of character that we want to see continuing to contribute here in Australia.

MCKINNON: So, we could anticipate perhaps some kind of announcement tomorrow?

PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s right. Effectively the Minister has spoken with the gentleman still in hospital, Muhammad, and we wish him every swift recovery. But we’re just going through our processes, but we see no reason why this shouldn’t be approved. And I’m very confident it will be approved tomorrow.

MCKINNON: Well, that is great news and will no doubt give him a bit of a boost. Have you heard anything about how he received the news there in hospital?

PRIME MINISTER: He was very positive about it. Of course, he is still suffering from his injuries. He lost a mate, of course, on Saturday as well. One of the people who lost their lives, Mr Tahir, who’d only been here for a short period of time, it was his first day at work. And the fact that on Saturday, at the worst of times, we saw the best of humanity. It’s a reminder that amongst such tragedy, humanity does shine through and I see these statements, this action, as being a glimmer of light in amongst the darkness what we saw on Saturday.

MCKINNON: Yeah, it is something to hold onto in times of tragedy and despair. Should we look at shopping centres and security guards, whether they need to be better resourced or perhaps better armed, where do we go from here?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, after an incident like this, there needs to be an appropriate review. It needs to be a considered response, not an emotional one, going through exactly what occurred, what went right, so we confirm some actions and processes that clearly were got right on Saturday, but also what improvements can be made for the safety of the general public. These things are always difficult. It’s difficult to balance freedom of movement with public safety. But after an issue like this, there no doubt will be consideration given. And any changes, I’m sure, we’ll work with the New South Wales Government as well, on whether there needs to be any federal response of federal laws as a result of Saturday’s incident.

MCKINNON: The other thing to look at is the mental health system. We spoke to the Bondi attacker’s parents earlier this week and they spoke of their agony of trying to get him help and trying to have him medicated and trying to find out where he is. Is our mental health system failing people?

PRIME MINISTER: We can always do better when it comes to mental health. But we have put substantial additional resources into mental health in our last Budget. You have a range of programs that have been introduced and then improved by governments of all persuasions. But we need to do better. I think we need to also look at the impact of social media. And the impact that that’s having particularly on young people. I don’t talk to a single parent who isn’t concerned about the amount of time that their young one is spending online on their devices and concerned about their exposure to material. So one of the responses that we’ve had in recent days is the Communications Minister and the eSafety Commissioner, directing X, formerly known as Twitter, and Facebook to take down some of the violent videos that had been uploaded as well. Those issues are really important. It’s important as well to remember that on Saturday, one of the messages from the police was please don’t upload videos if you were there at Westfield, send them to the police rather than putting them on social media. How do we work to promote social cohesion? How do we give support to each other as a society? Because at the moment, our whole society is grieving, we feel vulnerable, and we need to give support to each other. We will come through this overwhelmingly, we have I believe, the best society in the best country in the world. But we need to continue to work on how we can make it better.

MCKINNON: Prime Minister, we’ve had psychiatrists petition the Government that their workforce is under pressure. The day before the attack, two Sydney mental health hospitals closed. Shouldn’t the opposite be happening? Is there more money for mental health in the next Budget?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the issue here is that there aren’t enough personnel. And you can’t train someone to be a professional in the mental health area quickly, overnight, or in a week, or even in a year. So we clearly need to train more people to be able to provide that assistance and support.

MCKINNON: So, will we see changes in the Budget regarding mental health? Is that something that is on the agenda?

PRIME MINISTER: We’re always looking at every budget. We have had increased support for mental health. And we always look at ways in which we can improve the healthcare system, including with Medicare at its heart. That’s something that my Government will always do.

MCKINNON: Prime Minister, thank you for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.

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