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Abbott Says Federal Police Now Handling External And Internal Security At Parliament House

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced that the Australian Federal Police have taken over responsibility for the external and internal security at Parliament House.

Abbott reiterated his previous remarks on terrorism but little information on yesterday’s terrorism raids and arrests was forthcoming at his joint press conference today.


Abbott was accompanied by the NSW Premier, Mike Baird, Acting Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Andrew Colvin, and NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione. They refused to say how many people were still under arrest and would not comment on whether any of those detained were involved in plans to attack Parliament House.

Abbott said there had been a review of security at Parliament House: “That implementation is now taking place and as a result of that review the Australian Federal Police will be in charge of not just the external security of Parliament House but the internal security as well. There will be armed Australian Federal Police present in and around our national parliament at all times.”

  • Listen to Abbott’s press conference (32m)

Transcript of joint press conference with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, NSW Premier Mike Baird, AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin and NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.

AbbottPRIME MINISTER TONY ABBOTT: Thanks everyone for being here and I want to particularly acknowledge the presence of my friend and colleague, Premier Baird, and also Commissioners Colvin and Scipione.

As all of you know, we live in an uncertain and a changing world. I’ve often said that the citizens of a peaceful democracy like Australia shrink from reaching out to conflicts in other parts of the world, but what we’ve seen in recent times is these conflicts reaching out to us. As all of you should now know, there are at least 60 Australians who are known to be fighting with ISIL and other terrorist groups in the Middle East. There are at least 100 Australians who are known to be supporting ISIL and the other terrorist groups in the Middle East.

In recent months, we’ve seen increasing numbers of Australians seeking to go to Syria and Iraq to participate in that conflict. In recent months, we’ve seen increasing numbers of anti-terrorist investigations; increasing numbers of people who are of interest to our police and security services. As you know, a week ago, the terror threat level was officially raised and as I think all of you would now know, earlier this week a specific instruction came from a senior Australian ISIL operative in Syria to the local ISIL network to carry out what I’ve described as demonstration killings of Australian citizens. In order to disrupt this, there was a very large anti-terror event in Sydney yesterday. Some 800 police and security officials were involved, 25 premises were raided, 15 people were detained, one person has already been charged with very serious terrorist offences. Investigations are ongoing and the police expect further charges to be laid against other individuals.

I have three fundamental messages for the people of Australia right now. First, all levels of government, the national government and state governments, will do whatever we humanly can to keep our community safe. Second, what happened yesterday is about crime, it’s not about any particular religion or any particular group in our community. Third, the best way for people to respond to the threat of terror is to go about their normal lives. Terrorists want to scare us out of being ourselves and our best response is insouciantly to be fully Australian, to defy the terrorists by going about our normal business; by being the decent, peaceful, democratic, and tolerant people that Australians always have been and, as far as I am concerned, always will be.

I want to congratulate the police and the security services for the way they went about their task yesterday. It was a show of strength. It needed to be a show of strength. It needed to be a demonstration that we will respond with strength to any threat to our way of life and to our national security. I do have to say, though, that the challenges that we face are more serious today than at any time in the past. We saw on the streets of London a year or so back the sorts of things which some people would like to perpetrate here in this country, and it is a serious situation when all you need to do to carry out a terrorist attack is to have a knife, an iPhone, and a victim.

I do want to reassure the people of Australia that our police and security services will be given all the resources that they need. They’ll be given the funding that they need; they’ll be given the legislation that they need to keep our community safe.

Finally, let me just briefly refer to some changes that are taking place at Parliament House in Canberra. Earlier this month, I was advised of chatter amongst these terrorist networks of a potential attack on Government, government people, Parliament House. In response, I spoke with the presiding officers. I commissioned an urgent review of security at Parliament House. On receipt of that review, I wrote immediately to the presiding officers asking them to implement this review. That implementation is now taking place and as a result of that review the Australian Federal Police will be in charge of not just the external security of Parliament House but the internal security as well. There will be armed Australian Federal Police present in and around our national parliament at all times.

I regret the fact that in these times there will be an additional level of inconvenience from time to time to the public. I regret the fact that buildings such as Parliament House will be a little more restricted in the future than they have been in the past, but the community expects government at all levels to keep them safe. This Government will not let them down and I know Mike Baird’s government will not let them down, I’m confident that no government in this country will ever let them down.

Finally, let me just say that we have so much to be proud of in this country. One of the things that we can be most proud of is the way that people have come to this country from the four corners of the earth to become decent and proud Australians. That is the glory of our nation that must continue and as far as I am concerned it will continue. But along with that, we will do whatever we can to keep our community safe and we will respond with great strength to any threat to the Australian community.

I’m going to ask Mike to stay a few words and then we’ll give Commissioner Colvin a chance to provide an update on police activity.

PREMIER MIKE BAIRD: Thanks, Prime Minister.

I just want to add a couple of comments to the Prime Minister’s words, and the first thing I want to do is pay tribute – and it is a tribute that comes from everyone across this State – to the New South Wales police and the federal police and all the intelligence agencies working on the operation that was executed yesterday. There is a strong sense across the community that we are very thankful they are there and I don’t think we do it enough, we do not celebrate these men and women that look after us while we go about our daily lives and sometimes when we put our head on the pillow at night, we don’t know they’re working and they are for our safety.

That exercise that was executed yesterday – so large, so comprehensive – but determined for one thing and that was to ensure that the community is safe. So, we thank every single one involved, we thank you for their continued work and certainly on behalf of the State I say thank you, because it was done in a way that gives assurance to everyone in the State that we’ll do anything possible to ensure the community is safe.

The second point I want to make is that this is not going to be solved overnight. This is something we’re prepared for for the long-term. As long as it’s required, whatever is required, to ensure our community is safe, it will be done. And certainly the Commissioner has made it very clear that we have the resources, the capability and the determination to ensure exactly that: that we keep the community safe and whatever measures are required, we will undertake them because that is paramount as we face the challenges before us.

But there’s also a simple message to those out there that might be thinking they want to harm the community, they want to jeopardise the security of the community. If they are, we are watching, we are listening, and we will catch you and that’s what you saw yesterday. You saw a determination, you saw a plan, to actually take apart an attack or a potential attack on this community – well, tribute to our forces, they ensured that didn’t happen. So, anyone in that position, they need to understand as you saw yesterday we will take whatever measure is needed to ensure the community is safe.

The last point I want to make, as the PM said, is that we do want to celebrate everything great, everything great in this country and this State. Multiculturalism is a key part of that. Our freedoms and harmony go right alongside them and we want everyone to continue in their daily lives as they would, but do it in a way that you’ve got strong assurance that the authorities are looking after us. And that’s what we have. So if you do encounter in your daily life, whether it be at public places or events, the police going about their work, well pat them on the back and thank them for it but at the same time be patient because that might be required.

Again, I want to thank the Commissioner and everyone involved because it is an incredible job they are doing and we are very thankful.

ABBOTT: Acting Commissioner Colvin?

ACTING COMMISSIONER COLVIN: Prime Minister, Premier, firstly, thank you for the words of support for our officers that were involved in the investigation yesterday.

What I will say just to update the public of course we did say yesterday this was very much a disruption exercise and that we should not for one minute think that this investigation has now reached its conclusion. That’s evidenced by further search warrants that were conducted overnight and we can expect to see more activity in relation to this investigation in the coming days, weeks, and months. You’ll be aware that one gentleman has been charged in relation to terrorism offences, he has been bail refused, and another gentleman has been charged in relation to possession of weapons offences and he has been bailed.

What I will say is that the investigation continues. We have seized an extraordinarily large amount of material yesterday across all of the search warrants that were executed. Police now have an enormous task in front of us to not only to continue the investigation, but to review the material that we have seized and to ascertain from that material what further detail we can about the planning and what evidence we can bring to bear to put these people before the courts which I’m sure is everybody’s intention.

Finally, can I just say that the community should continue to feel reassured and should continue to feel protected by the work of their police and security agencies. What you saw yesterday as the Prime Minister has said, was a show of force, and it was a show of force of a scale that we have not seen before in this country. Security agencies and law enforcement will continue with this investigation and will continue to have the priority of protecting the community.

Thank you.

ABBOTT: Ok. Are there some questions?

QUESTION: You talked about resources and funding in order to get everything you need. Is there going to be extra money allocated to security? New South Wales is doing high visibility policing – will those police come from extra areas or is there new money? How is it all working?

ABBOTT: Well, some weeks ago I announced that the Commonwealth would commit an extra $630 million to our security services and to the police. There will be more ASIO officers, more ASIS – Australian Secret Intelligence Service – officers, there will be more for Customs and Border Protection, and more for the Australian Federal Police. So, that $630 million, that will be added to the base funding of our police and security services at the Commonwealth level and if more is reasonably needed, more will be given. As I say, this Government will do whatever we need to ensure that our police and security services have the funding and the laws that they need to keep our community safe.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, how many people are still being detained without charge and are they being held under a preventative detention order or an ASIO detention?

ABBOTT: I’ll get the Commissioner to respond.

COLVIN: Thank you for the question. There are certain things that we can’t talk about for operational reasons. A number of people are still being detained, but I’m not in a position where I can confirm under what legislation or provisions they’re being detained. A number of people have been released yesterday as well. So, we spoke yesterday about 15 people that were detained, and were assisting police. A number of those have been released.

QUESTION: Can you just clarify, surely that’s not an operational secret is it, how many people are still being detained?

COLVIN: I’d prefer not to comment about numbers, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: [inaudible] been arrested are innocent until proven guilty?

ABBOTT: I think the term used is detained, and people have been detained because they are of interest to our police and security services in connection with terrorist events that we believed on the basis of intelligence were likely within a few days. So, that’s why these people were detained. Obviously, the presumption of innocence is the foundation of our legal system. On the other hand, the highest priority of Government is keeping our community safe and I have to say that we will keep our community safe, we will keep our community safe, and just at this point in time I would err on the side of keeping our community safe and I think that’s what the public would expect of us.

QUESTION: Just on this chatter surrounding Parliament House, was this chatter that you refer to, was it emanating from the 15 detained yesterday or are we talking about separate networks?

ABBOTT: There are close links between Australians fighting with ISIL in Syria and Iraq and networks of support back here in Australia and the chatter involving Parliament House was chatter between Australians in Syria and Iraq and their supporters here in Australia.

QUESTION: Were any of those supporters among the 15 detained yesterday?

ABBOTT: I’m not going to go into that level of detail. If Commissioner Colvin chooses to say more, that’s up to him.

COLVIN: All I would say is that agencies in this country have been increasingly concerned for some time about the chatter, about the number of people who are drawing on events in the Middle East and these conflict zones in terms of their own motivations to do certain things. Specifically in relation to Parliament House, as the Prime Minister has said, we’ve become increasingly concerned over the last weeks and months, again, about government installations, government buildings and Parliament House in particular. In terms of the investigation yesterday, I think we also need to put it in the context of the raising of the threat level last week as well. I don’t want to be specific about individuals or particular groups because it’s not that specific, it is more general than that, but it’s around the number and the scale of what we’re starting to see with this chatter.

QUESTION: Commissioner Colvin, has a continuing order been sought before a magistrate to continue the detention of any of the individuals that are still being detained?

COLVIN: I’m not in a position to answer that question. I’m sorry. It’s not trying to be difficult. It’s not a question that I can lawfully answer.

QUESTION: [inaudible] that is question, that is something that would, there would be a public proceeding in that, that’ll be publicly listed? So, why can’t…

COLVIN: I think I’ve answered your question.

QUESTION: But why? Can you just explain why you’re keeping this a secret, why you’re not telling us how many people have been detained?

COLVIN: Well, we have operational reasons why we don’t confirm or deny numbers of people and we have legislative restrictions about what I can say publically and that is the limit of what we’ll say, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, this morning, I think you said members of government might be a target. Are you able to elaborate a bit on that and can tell us were you a target?

ABBOTT: I’m not aware that specific individuals have been named as part of this chatter but certainly government, government people and parliament have been referred to as part of this chatter.

QUESTION: Are you worried for your own safety?

ABBOTT: No, I’m not. I am concerned for the safety of the Australian people. This is not about me, it’s not about Mike Baird, it’s not about the Commissioner Scipione or Commissioner Colvin, it’s about the safety of the Australian people and better or for worse we’re all in this together. An attack on any of us diminishes all of us and our determination is to ensure that there are no attacks on any of us. Our challenge is to stay one step ahead of those who would do us harm and yesterday, thank God, we were.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, can you outline a particular time frame in terms of increasing the security presence at Parliament House, [inaudible]?

ABBOTT: Well, numbers are ramping up already. Numbers of AFP in Parliament House are ramping up already. The armed element in Parliament House will increase and people will notice that security in Parliament House is tighter very quickly because the last thing we want to do is offer a tempting target to those who would do us harm. We’ve seen in other countries that have been more terrorism-prone for longer than Australia attacks on parliaments and other government buildings and we want to ensure that no-one is tempted by a lack of security to take on a target such as this.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, has the terror threat been made worse because we have committed to Iraq?

ABBOTT: Look, I understand the question and I certainly can understand why people might worry about that, but this has been building up for months and months and months, as David Irvine made very clear a week ago when the terror threat level was raised. There has been chatter about government and government people and parliament for some time – long before any specific commitment on Australia’s part to the Middle East was made, if you go back in time. I should remind everyone that Australians were the subject of a terror attack in Bali long before we got involved in the 2003 Iraq war. The United States was subject to the September 11 atrocity long before any American involvement in Iraq. So, we are a target, not because of anything that we’ve done but because of who we are and how we live.

These extremists – who, in my view have nothing to do with Islam, whatever they might claim – these extremists hate us because they don’t like our way of life, they don’t like our freedom, they don’t like our pluralism, they don’t like the acceptance that we extend to minorities, they don’t like the freedom that we give to women. This is why they target us and they will go on targeting us regardless of anything that the Australian Government may or may not be doing in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Just talking about the ADF deployment, you have ruled out operations inside Syria but how can the ADF be effective, how can our mission be effective, given that IS no longer respects that border? Aren’t we just providing a sanctuary for Islamic State in Syria by ruling out operations inside Syria?

ABBOTT: Well, they haven’t been ruled out, although they are not in contemplation at this time. As I have previously said, the legalities of operating in Syria without the consent of the regime are quite different from the legalities of operating in Iraq with the full consent and cooperation of the Iraqi Government.

Our readiness is to operate very forcefully inside Iraq in support of the Iraqi Government to disrupt and degrade ISIL’s activities because we believe very strongly, and I think with enormous justification, that if the advance of this murderous death cult can be halted and reversed, that will certainly be of very substantial demonstration value to extremists everywhere, including here in Australia.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about a backlash against the broader Muslim community and there’s already been attacks on social media, and also how do you respond to claims at a rally at Lakemba last night that these raids were profiling and designed to whip up hate against Muslims?

ABBOTT: Well, the encouraging thing about the demonstration in Lakemba last night is that it was much smaller than had been expected. There were only about 100 people involved and, sure, they were noisy and they were emphatic but they were utterly unrepresentative of Australian Muslims. The vast majority of people in this country, regardless of their faith, are first-class Australians. They are absolutely first-class Australians. They are here. They came here because they wanted to join our team. They wanted to join us not to change us. So, I have great faith in all of the Australian people. Yes, there is this small network of extremists. Yes, under the wrong circumstances they could do us very serious damage, but I am absolutely confident that they are not representative of any community in this country. The words that I like to quote are those of Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia. Prime Minister Najib is a pious Muslim but the phrase that he has used of ISIL and its activities – it doesn’t represent God, it doesn’t represent religion, it doesn’t represent our common humanity, in fact it’s against God, it’s against religion, it’s against our common humanity. I think that’s a splendid message and I hope it’s heeded by people all over the world including in this country.

QUESTION: Did you just say that the people who protested last night were not first-class Australians?

ABBOTT: No, I didn’t say that. What I said was that…

QUESTION: Isn’t it an Australian right to protest?

ABBOTT: Look, of course it’s an Australian right to protest. I’d be very disappointed in any Australians who would protest in favour of that murderous death cult ISIL, and I would be very disappointed in any Australians who would be misguided enough to support anything that could lead to demonstration killings of innocent Australians. I think disappointed is putting it incredibly mildly. Anything of that nature is utterly reprehensible and that’s why I would say to those people who were noisily demonstrating – that very small group that was noisily demonstrating in Lakemba last night – have a good, long, hard look at yourselves and I’d commend to those people the words of Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia.

QUESTION: Premier, while we’re on the subject of faith and forgive me I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, but you being a man of strong faith and the Prime Minister as well, there’s a new archbishop announced in Sydney. How important is it, as he says, to put the focus back on the victim and make sure there’s no more culture of cover-up?

PREMIER MIKE BAIRD: I welcome his appointment, obviously, and, certainly, I think that’s absolutely the right approach.


ABBOTT: Well, I know Anthony Fisher. I don’t know him very well but I know him a little and he’s a brilliant scholar. I’m confident that he will be a fine pastoral bishop to the Catholics of Sydney. Like the Premier, I welcome his appointment. Obviously, he’ll have big shoes to fill. Cardinal Pell was one of the really fine leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia, but I know he’ll do a very good job. He’s a very decent, patriotic Australian; a very good and thoughtful and prayerful man and I think he’ll be a fine archbishop.

QUESTION: Commissioner, there are no secrecy provisions that I can see that would indicate that you are not able to tell us how many people are still being detained. When will you tell us how many people you are still holding and the nature of their detention?

COLVIN: As I’ve said, a number of people have been released and for a range of reasons I’m not going to confirm how many people are still detained. I’m sorry. I’m just not going to confirm that. It’s an ongoing operation. I’m sure you respect that. There are limitations with what I’m prepared to say, both legislatively and operationally. I’m sorry.

ABBOTT: Could I just add something on this score? Winston Churchill used a famous phrase back in the 1926 general strike, he said, “I refuse to be impartial as between the fire brigade and the fire.” Now, you’re perfectly entitled to ask these questions, but I think the vast majority of Australians are absolutely on the side, as they should be, of the police and the security services who are there to keep them safe.

Now, the last thing any of us would want to do is to damage our freedoms in order to preserve our freedoms. That’s the last thing any of us would want to do. But I don’t think any reasonable observer would say that Australian police, that New South Wales police, that our security services are unreasonable or over the top. We are simply doing what is necessary in difficult circumstances to keep our citizens safe. The highest duty of government, the first call of government, is the safety of the community. We don’t apologise for that. In fact, we’re proud that we are able to deploy, as necessary, police and others in strength to demonstrate to those who would do us harm that it will not work – that it will not work – that our community is stronger than you are.

QUESTION: Can I ask the Premier and the NSW Police Commissioner what can the people of NSW can expect by Operation Hammerhead in terms of high visibility policing just in general and specifically related to the, say, football games over the weekend?

BAIRD: I’ll let the Commissioner respond directly but in simple terms there will be more police in more places that will give more assurance to the community over all. I think the sense is what you’ve seen of events in the last 24 hours, this is not something that’s solved overnight, but what the community can do is it can go about its daily life with the confidence that the police are putting more resources and more attention into ensuring the community is safe and Operation Hammerhead is just an extension of that.


Ladies and gentlemen, I think probably one of the most important messages I’ve heard today from the Prime Minister, the Premier and certainly Commissioner Colvin, is that Australians should go about their daily business as they would have on any other day. That’s the most important thing that I take away from today’s press conference. Let me talk a little bit about that. The one thing that we all cherish is our freedom and we know and respect that that freedom is something that was hard-earned. Right now, those that would choose to intimidate us through acts of terrorism are doing that on the basis of us changing the way we go about our life – we should not let that happen.

In support of that, yesterday, we launched Operation Hammerhead. Hammerhead was 220 police involved and engaged in high-visibility policing across this city. It will be an ongoing operation for as long as it is needed. We will be having extra police at places of mass gathering, including football games, and we’re mindful that we’re in the finals season for both codes at the moment, but also in and around our iconic and our critical infrastructure – generally where people are and where the risks are greatest.

So, that will be an ongoing, very visible, most engaging patrol arrangement that we will continue to run until we feel that it’s not necessary any longer but, again, I think the message we would like to put and get out there is that communities need to be reassured. We’re there, we’re there for a reason. They should remain calm, they shouldn’t get worried simply at the sight of extra police but understand that Hammerhead is there to give them the assurance that we are working with communities to look after them, to keep them safe and, as I’ve said, Hammerhead will go as long as it’s needed.

Thank you.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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