Photo: AAP Image/Daniel Pockett
PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s a deeply humbling experience to be here with Matthew Guy today on Bourke Street and to stand where Sisto used to be every morning, read his paper and have his coffee. But I tell you, the response of Melbournians just chatting to people in and around Pelligrini’s, swapping the stories, I think was truly inspirational. This is an amazing city. It’s got such a heart, it’s got such a soul, and Sisto I think captured that spirit and that soul in a way that it’d be hard to replicate.
But there are so many Sistos here in Melbourne. The Sistos of Melbourne built this city, particularly after the Second World War. They created the businesses, they raised their families, they worked hard. They were honest people. They looked after each other. They were caring. They were compassionate and this is the great city it is today because of people just like Sisto. And so to come here and be able to pay respects to him today, as others have, and rightly have, and more will - you know, the best way we respond to these horrific and radicalist, extremist, Islamist attacks, is to do the very thing that they would have us stop doing and that would be to stop smiling, like Sisto would every day, to stop living a life full of joy and full of compassion and full of freedom, like Sisto did every single day. I mean he came here for the life that he was able to live here, and he lived it. He lived it, and he touched so many other lives. And they would have that taken away and for us to live a different way in this country and so to wear that Sisto smile, to follow his example, to embrace that, I think is the greatest tribute we can pay to him.
But it also says to those who want to have none of this, and would have us live very differently, that we won't cop that and we will always live the way that we have the freedom to live in this country and you will never take from us, you will never wipe that smile from our face. Because we will always know that this is the greatest country on earth in which to live and the values and the beliefs that enable it to be that great country, and the sacrifices that have been made from people to make it this great country are things that will always put a smile on our face and on those of our children.
It's wonderful to be here with Matthew. I want to commend you, Matthew, on the great support you've been giving to authorities and others, as Melbourne has worked its way through this crisis. And I particularly want to thank the first responders who we both had the opportunity to meet with earlier today and their families and to thank them. As someone who grew up in a police family, it was quite moving to meet the boys and girls and they have to deal with every day with what their dad goes out and faces or other police families, their mum. And you know, that is a thing for families to deal with, but for the first responders, the way they were able to step up with their training and do exactly what was called upon them to do, they are the front line of these things and they did their duty on that day and they kept more Melbournians safe and our cities safe. And it's important that we do keep Melbournians safe and it's important that our streets are safe and it's important that we do all we can to ensure that's the case. So it's a great honour and pleasure to be here today but it's obviously tinged with sadness. But as I hear the stories of Sisto, it's full of hope for our future. Thank you, Matthew.
MATTHEW GUY, LEADER OF THE VICTORIAN OPPOSITION: Prime Minister, thank you. It is a real... tinged with sadness to be here today but it's an honour to, again, have been through Pellegrini's. I was here just two weeks ago with colleagues talking with Sisto, speaking with Nino and others in the shop. Can I just say as a lifelong Melbournian, we are so in awe of our first responders and the police and the work they did last Friday. I want to thank them so much and put on record our deep appreciation for everything they do. Meeting their families this morning and seeing how these guys are ordinary, hard-working Victorians. They're in a job that puts them on the front line of these circumstances. They put so much out there for us and how appreciative we are of the work that our emergency services and first responders do.
Can I just again say our sympathies, our heartfelt sympathies to Sisto and his family and everyone at Pellegrini's. It is a Melbourne institution that we love. But I want to say again as a lifelong Melbournian enough is enough for our city. We will not accept, whether it's terrorism or violent crime, that this is going to be the norm for our city, that this is going to be the norm for a city of 5 million-plus people. It is not the norm. We don't have to accept it. We will stand up to it at every turn. We will make sure that every Victorian is safe and that every Victorian deserves to live in a safe community, a safe environment. We'll make sure those who commit crime are appropriately punished, that those who are protecting us as first responders have every method at their disposal to keep us safe and that the attitude in government is one that your safety if first. Your family's safety is first. There is no greater challenge, and there is no greater responsibility for government to keep the population safe and that is what Melbournians expect and that is what they should be receiving. PM, I think that questions are for you.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Sheikh Omran of the Hume Islamic Centre has referred to you as "the bloody Prime Minister" and suggested that you have scapegoated the Islamic community over Friday's attack. What's your response to that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well look I'm not going to get into personalities. What I am going to say is simply what I said on the weekend, that the violent extremist Islamic terrorist who did this on this street was radicalised in this country. He wasn't radicalised in a suburban mall, he wasn't radicalised in a schoolroom. He was radicalised in a community here in Melbourne. Now, we all have jobs to do to keep Australians safe. It's my job to ensure that our intelligence agencies and our law enforcement agencies both have the resources and the powers to enable them to do their jobs. It's the job of state governments to do similarly. It’s the job of communities to protect themselves and to keep the wolves from coming in amongst the sheep in their own religious communities.
We want a country where people can have freedom of expression and freedom of belief. Of course we do. I'm a passionate supporter of this. But with that comes great responsibility. In religious communities, we need to ensure that people who would seek to infiltrate, people who would seek to take advantage of vulnerable people and spread hateful doctrines and ideologies that can inspire people to the most evil of acts, religious communities have a responsibility. So I won't cop the excuses. There are responsibilities for all of us and, importantly, in religious communities, there are Imams and there are Muslim communities that are absolutely doing this and they are protecting the integrity of their religious communities. And I applaud them and I know people and I've worked with people who are doing exactly that and they are brave and they are courageous.
But for those who want to stick their head in the sand, for those who want to make excuses for those who stick their head in the sand, for those who want to walk past those comments and allow those excuses to be offered up, you not making Australia safer. You are giving people an excuse to look the other way and not deal with the things that are right in front of you. If there are people in a religious community, an Islamic community, that are bringing in hateful, violent, extremist ideologies into your community, you've got to call it out. Because it will take root and it will take root with your sons and daughters, with your friends, with your uncles, with your cousins, and it will infest and it will lead to the sorts of things that we have seen here on Bourke Street and I don't want to so see that happen ever again.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is it in poor taste to be here at a site of mourning campaigning in the Victorian state election?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm not. I'm here to pay my respects and talk to the very issues that took place right here in this street.
JOURNALIST: You previously criticised Victoria Police for not being a force like they are in New South Wales. How do you view those comments in light of what happened on the weekend?
PRIME MINISTER: I wasn't criticising the Victorian Police. That's not what I was doing. What I was doing was talking about the arrangements that are put around the Victorian Police. They're the decisions of politicians. They're decisions of governments. I applaud the Victoria Police officers, the first responders, those who serve in the police force around the country. They serve in the environment and in the organisations that are created by their governments. And I have made the observation on many occasions that in New South Wales I believe they have been able to get that right and they've been able to ensure that the men and women who serve in their police force have the right support and the right settings to enable them to do their job. I stand with police officers all across the country and I want them to have the right environment, I want them to have the right policies, to support them to do their job and that's as important here on the streets of Melbourne as it is in Perth or Darwin or anywhere else.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that mental health is being used as an excuse, particularly in the last three violent episodes in Melbourne involving cars?
PRIME MINISTER: While in any incident these issues can be factors, they should never be used as a shield or a cover for tolerating radical, Islamic fundamentalist radicalisation.
JOURNALIST: Who is tolerating?
PRIME MINISTER: Communities need to ensure that they weed this out. I mean we can't have the situation, frankly, where you have in religious communities, you know, police officers and others - these are places of faith. These are prayer rooms. These are places of instruction. There are people who are seeking counselling and guidance on any number of issues as they should be able to do and that's happening in their communities. Now look, I'm a member of a religious community and my Pastor knows what's going on in our church community. He would know if there was someone, or his wife would know if there was someone who was leading a local Bible study group or something like that who was teaching things that were not in accordance with what our faith believed. They'd be pointing that out and they'd be dealing with it because that's the responsibility of a religious leader, to actually protect the integrity of your faith community.
Now, this isn’t an assault on those communities, I should stress. I'm standing up for the integrity of their communities and want to work closely with religious leaders and others in the community to ensure that they don't allow these wolves in, because these wolves will take advantage of vulnerable people. And I want to protect those people and I am looking to work together with religious communities, particularly Islamic communities, where we know that radical extremist Islam can take seed and we've seen it here again and we have seen it on other occasions and let's not forget about the attack in Parramatta. That radicalisation took place at lightning speed with a young boy, so this can happen fast. It can happen over a longer period of time and I'm not going to look the other way and I'm not going to allow others to make excuses for people who want to look the other way.
JOURNALIST: This man was known to counter terrorism police, should they have done more to prevent this?
PRIME MINISTER: There are 400 people on special investigation. There are 230 individuals who have had their passports cancelled and the advice is that in this case there had been no reporting, there had been nothing to suggest they should have been put on a higher level of observation than they are on.
I mean it is simply impractical. This is why I stressed the issue of community cooperation. You know how you stop these attacks? And remember 14 attacks have been thwarted, including a very serious one here in Melbourne. A very serious one here in Melbourne. And seven have been able to go ahead. So our authorities have done an extraordinary job working with communities to be able to thwart these attacks. And what I am calling for is an even higher level of cooperation, standing up even more and to ensure that we don’t look the other way and we call this out and we root this out of religious Islamic communities in Australia so the fundamental extremism, the violent extremism, the hate, can take no place in these peace-loving communities.
JOURNALIST: It was the evidence - not in this case - that he in fact wasn't participating in mosques, he wasn’t participating in religious communities.
PRIME MINISTER: You must be looking at different information to me.
JOURNALIST: Have you had information on where he was radicalised in the community?
PRIME MINISTER: These are matters that are, you know, within the cone of silence of the investigation and they’re not things I would be prepared to comment on. What I'm telling you, and I can tell you authoritatively, is he was radicalised in this country. He was radicalised as an Australian citizen, he came here when he was five years old, for goodness' sake. And so those who suggest it's an issue of migration, he was five years old.
What happened here, happened here. And so we need to focus on what happened here and that is a man grew up in this country, and was radicalised with these hateful views and beliefs and he didn't get it from the postman. He didn't get it from the police. He got it from the community he was living in and the people he was speaking to. And this is what we have to ensure does not take hold in this country. We're in a position where we can deal with this.
So I'm urging, positively, to encourage all leaders, all those who take positions of responsibility in these communities to ensure that they work closely with authorities so that this does not take hold, because it's your children, it’s your cousins, it’s your family members, it’s your community, and I want to work with you to protect the integrity of these communities, so they are resilient to this sort of hate and violent extremist Islamic practices are not taking root in this city, or any city in Australia or any other part of the country.
JOURNALIST: Just one other, can Matthew Guy win the election?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course he can and I hope he does. I really hope he does, because that’s what Victoria needs and it’s not just on issues of law and order where Matthew has stepped up big time. But on the issues of cost of living equally, he's been stepping up, on the issues of infrastructure and congestion-busting. Last time we were standing together down at Frankston, working together on that Baxter line, and that’s one of the many projects that I would hope to working closely with Matthew Guy on. He's got a plan for Victoria. He's got a vision for Victoria. As a lifelong Melbournian, the heart and soul of Melbourne beats in him as well and I think would beat passionately in a government that he would lead and I think he'd do an outstanding job and I'm really thrilled to be here with him today. But the circumstances of us coming together today are obviously very tragic and very sad, but at the same time I leave hopeful because of the wonderful spirit of Melbournians and the way that they're responding to this and putting their arms around Sisto's family and all of those, not just his direct family, but the family of Pellegrini's who are up there today. It's tremendous to see that response from a great city. Sisto was the heart of this city and the heart of this city will always beat proudly. Thanks very much.