Malcolm Turnbull has asked Prime Minister Theresa May to convey Australia’s solidarity, love and prayers to the people of Manchester after what he called a horrific terrorist attack and shocking loss.
In a telephone conversation between the two leaders, Turnbull offered the United Kingdom “any and every support”. Earlier the federal parliament united in sympathy with the UK.
Turnbull and May discussed the importance of protecting places of mass gathering from attack.
They agreed they should continue to cooperate to defeat terrorism in their home countries and in the Middle East. They acknowledged gains were being made in the conflict zone but were concerned this could result in terrorist fighters moving elsewhere.
Turnbull told May Australia had been inspired by the courage of the first responders after the Manchester attack as well as by the members of the general public who rushed towards the danger to help others. He said this was an example of the character of the British people.
In the wake of the attack Turnbull consulted security chiefs about the local situation. Asked on Nine if Australia needed to have metal detectors at big sporting events and concerts, he said he had discussed this on Tuesday with his counter-terrorism coordinator, the Director-General of ASIO, and the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.
“These are constantly under review. They will assess each event, in the light of the risk assessment that is appropriate. It’s a very dynamic environment. We have to constantly monitor the intelligence and constantly adjust the levels of protection in the light of what we’re seeing as patterns developing both here and overseas,” he said.
After an earlier terrorism incident abroad, Turnbull asked the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee, which brings together federal and state agencies and New Zealand, to prepare a new, upgraded plan to defend places of mass gathering. “That is nearly complete”, he said.
He noted that since September 2014 in Australia, 63 people had been arrested on terrorism offences, including a person on Tuesday.
“We have thwarted 12 plots - there have been four terrorist incidents that have occurred during that period. So the protection that our agencies give is substantial but it cannot be 100 per cent. There is no guarantee that a terrorist event cannot occur,” he said.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra