Radio interview with Sabra Lane, ABC AM

24 May 2017
Prime Minister
Manchester terrorist attack; Lindt Café siege
Defence and National Security

SABRA LANE: Joining us now from our Parliament House studio is the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Mr Turnbull, thank you for joining AM.


Great to be with you.


You’ve spoken with the British Prime Minister Theresa May – she’s just raised the terrorist level to critical there. Authorities must have credible evidence of other attacks or other people who are perhaps involved in this event who might launch further strikes. What information did she share with you?


We discussed the matter, this shocking attack last night and I conveyed the heartfelt sympathies and prayers of Australians to the people of Britain and to the victims and to the families of the victims.

But above all Sabra, I reaffirmed the resolute solidarity of the Australian people, standing - as we always have - shoulder to shoulder with the people of Britain in freedom's cause.

We will not be cowered by terrorists, we will not be intimidated by them, we will not change our way of life and we will continue to fight together, united, to defeat them.


Troops will now be deployed on the streets of the United Kingdom at popular spots. Is that kind of security now required here?


My advice is that the threat level remains, here, as it is - at probable.

What they've found in the United Kingdom, Sabra, is evidence of a wider plot, that this evidence of a wider plot, that this criminal, this unspeakably reprehensible criminal who targeted young people, young girls, the fans at this concert - this shocking criminal was working with others. That is what the police believe there at the moment.

So in that sense the attack is not over until all of those associated with this criminal have been rounded up, their networks broken and their connections uncovered, and brought to justice, there is the threat of another attack, another assault on freedom.

That is why the threat level has been raised in the United Kingdom.

Here, my advice and speaking as recently as a few minutes ago with the Director General of Security, the head of ASIO and my Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, our advice is that the threat level remains unchanged here at probable.


The terrorists appear to be changing their tactics here. We've got this attack in an arena. Recently we've had that car used to kill people at Westminster. Is there a view that we need to change, look at how we can tackle this kind of threat?


Our response has to be as agile as our opponents - indeed more agile. This is a very dynamic policy area. This is not an area where you set up a policy that you set and forget. We are constantly reviewing our policies and, indeed, changing our laws.

Just in recent times, you've seen that we have changed the laws here in Australia to give our security agencies, indeed our defence forces, greater capabilities to identify - and in the case of the ADF - kill the terrorists.

We changed the targeting laws so that our defence forces in the Middle East are able to target terrorists working with ISIL, whether they are engaged as combatants, as active combatants, or not. They could be behind the scenes raising money or planning, doing logistics. So we've broadened that.

It is vitally important that we destroy the terrorists in the Middle East, destroy the so-called caliphate which they've used as such a big recruiting tool, both drawing people into the Middle East and of course, recruiting adherents outside. We have to do that and we also need to be constantly vigilant and improving our intelligence services and hard security protections, here at home.


What are authorities here doing to ensure security for crowded places like malls and footy matches and I think there's an event later this week in Sydney, the Vivid Festival?


This is under constant review and you will see heightened police presences at events like this. You’ll see more obstacles, bollards, barriers put in the way to prevent vehicle-borne attacks. I mean this was something that I started work on immediately after the Nice attack. It became obvious that vehicles were going to be used, likely to be used as an attack by a terrorist – and as we have seen tragically already in Australia, an individual vehicle can be a weapon of mass murder.

So we would need to harden up places of mass assembly and there is a piece of work undertaken at the moment by the Australian New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee which brings together under federal leadership all the Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand and that is developing a national strategy so that we can coordinate, not just with police services and the states and the territories, but also, Sabra, with the owners and operators of various venues and events. Local government is very important. I've discussed into issues with premiers and indeed with mayors as well as obviously police commissioners.


When would you like to see this review out and the measures in place?


Well, the review will be completed very shortly. My counter-terrorism coordinator, Tony Sheehan will be discussing progress at COAG next month and the review should be completed for the Counter-Terrorism Committee and then COAG to receive and endorse from July.

But I want to say to you, though, that this is not work that is, you know, being done the basis that nothing happens until it is completed. This is a constantly evolving, it's a dynamic environment.

We must be as agile as our enemies. We must be more agile than our enemies.

So we have to learn from every incident. We have to take the learnings from that - some of those learnings we can discuss publicly, others we can't - but we must respond quickly and dynamically and we do.

We are in the closest contact. When Theresa May and I were discussing this shocking crime last night, we talked about the close collaboration and the support that the agencies in the UK and Australia give each other.

Our relationship on security could not be more intimate or more close and it is operating in real time, even as we speak.

Our agencies, ours here in Australia and those in the UK are working together, learning from this incident and sharing their respective experience. Collaboration is the key.

If I could make this point - our intelligence services have disrupted and stopped a dozen major terrorist plots since September 2014 when the threat level went to probable, including one very recently, just before Christmas, which where the conspirators were planning to detonate a bomb and commit other attacks in and around Federation Square in Melbourne.

So the key to this is good intelligence - intelligence, both signals intelligence, human intelligence, is vital to identifying these conspirators early and then disrupting their plots and, of course, bringing them into custody.


Prime Minister, the bomber was born in Manchester. How successful are Australian efforts in identifying these radical young men and intervening?


As I just said, we have identified - we have arrested 63 persons on terrorism charges.

They've been charged since September 2014, including a woman in Adelaide yesterday, as you know, and 12 conspiracies have been thwarted. There have, tragically, been a number of terrorist incidents.

And of course, as you know, today, the coroner's report on the Lindt Cafe siege will be handed down and this is a moment too to reflect on the tragic loss of life there of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.

And, again, our heartfelt sympathies, condolences and prayers go to their families.


Yes. Prime Minister, just on that point, the report will be released later this morning and it appears certain that shortfalls will be identified. If there are findings relating to the Federal Government, can you guarantee that you will adopt those recommendations?


I can absolutely guarantee that the coroner's report will be carefully studied and recommendations carefully considered but obviously we'll have more to say when the report is presented and I think that's both the responsible and respectful approach to take.


Prime Minister, thank you very much for talking to AM this morning.


Thank you so much.