PRIME MINISTER: Australia and New Zealand are not just allies, we’re not just partners, we are family. As family members with our New Zealand cousins, today we grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist that has taken the lives, stolen the lives, in a vicious, murderous attack, that has claimed so many New Zealanders.
This attack reminds us of the evil that is ever-present and would seek to strike out at any time. I particularly want to convey my heartfelt sympathies not only to all New Zealand people, as I'm sure all Australians would join me in doing, but I particularly want to express my sincere prayers and thoughts for those New Zealanders and indeed Australians of Islamic faith today, who have been the subject of this vicious and callous right-wing extremist attack.
I’m not going to go through the details of this today, because that is properly done by the New Zealand authorities. The New Zealand authorities are conducting that investigation and I have just concluded a briefing with our own authorities and agencies here. It is for New Zealand, who are obviously leading the investigation, to be able to confirm details of any individuals and certainly the number of casualties. I will leave it to them to make those announcements.
I have already been in contact with Prime Minister Ardern. She is obviously caught up in many briefings today. She described it as their darkest day and I agree with her, I agree with her absolutely. Australian authorities have already put in place all the necessary responses and precautions that are necessary here in Australia. Our agencies are working closely with New Zealand authorities and have prepared other capacities to be stood up to support New Zealand as and when requested.
I can confirm that the individual who was taken into custody, I have been advised, is an Australian-born citizen and obviously that element of the investigation Australian authorities are involved in. They will be proceeding with their investigation, which has already been stood up, involving all the relevant agencies.
We will keep Australians safe in every way possible we can. We will work with our partners in the region, our family in the region in New Zealand, to do everything we can to support them to keep their people safe as well. But right now there is a numbness. There is just a still shock that has laid upon us all, as we thought would be unthinkable in a place like Christchurch. But it has happened and it is such a sad and devastating reminder of the evil that can be ever-present around us.
Happy to take a couple of questions, but as I said, in terms of the details of the investigations they are properly addressed by the New Zealand authorities. We are obviously being kept abreast of developments in those investigations and our participation in supporting those investigations, that information is needed to help us to our part of the task. But I want to assure all Australians that the immediate responses that are required to ensure the security and safety of Australians, have already been actioned. Our authorities are working together - ASIO, the AFP, State police - to ensure that those arrangements are in place. I have also contacted the Leader of the Opposition, or contacted me actually, we almost contacted each other at the same time. He has been offered a full briefing on these matters and I’m sure as we just discussed, he would join me in the sentiments I have expressed.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister was the Australian man already known to authorities?
PRIME MINISTER: The information I have available to me at the moment is that he was not.
JOURNALIST: Does it concern you that a man who was not known to authorities is capable of something like this?
PRIME MINISTER: It concerns me that this horrific and appalling attack was capable of any human being. But sadly it is and in the quietest of places. That’s why we take the steps we do. That’s why we put in place the capacities that we have to seek to try to keep Australian safe and work with our partners and allies and family across the ditch and within the region to keep their citizens safe as well. It is a truly saddening day.
JOURNALIST: What else do we know, what else do we know about the man, what else can you divulge?
PRIME MINISTER: At this stage I’m not in a position to be able to communicate anything further about this individual, other than to say that he is an Australian-born citizen. That obviously leads to an Australian -based investigation and all of our inquiries here will be absolutely shared and communicated with New Zealand authorities.
JOURNALIST: Do you know if any Australians have been shot?
PRIME MINISTER: I have no information at the moment to suggest any Australians have been killed in this terrible attack, this terrorist attack. But it’s very early on and as is often the case with these terrible events, the first reports can often be misleading. As the night proceeds I will be receiving further updates from the AFP and ASIO and others, as to how matters are progressing. So I would just say to Australians and our New Zealand cousins, hug each other tonight. Hug each other tonight.
JOURNALIST: Is there an elevated level of risk to Australian Muslims?
PRIME MINISTER: That decision has not been taken and Australia's settings have not been altered. But I can confirm that Australian authorities and police have been working closely together at a State level and at the Commonwealth level to ensure that an inappropriate response and upgrade to ensure Australians’ safety has already been actioned.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] greater vigilance at mosques, would that be sound advice or not?
PRIME MINISTER: I think that is a responsible action. I do know that in New Zealand some very and even more specific warnings have been provided as you would expect, in New Zealand. But here, I think obviously people should act with caution, but the New South Wales police, State police around the country have all been advised and are being updated on these events and they will be taking the necessary precautions in each of those places.
But this should always be the case, Australians should always be alert, they should always be aware. These horrible and sickening events in New Zealand are just a terrible reminder of the need for that and there are people who live in our community who hold some appalling, disgusting and abhorrent views that have nothing to do with our way of life and our values. It’s important that we assist our authorities at all times to ensure that they’re best placed to be able to understand where that threat exists.
Terrorism, as we’ve seen today, can be visited upon anyone, anywhere and it is not unique to one particular world view. In this case, as I said, it was a radical, violent, right wing extremist terrorist who has done this and I am appalled and sickened.