Twenty years ago, President Bush addressed a nation struggling to make sense of a terrorist attack that had claimed almost 3000 innocent lives.
He finished by saying: “None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”
Twenty years on, while we have so far avoided a mass casualty terrorist attack here in Australia, we have certainly not forgotten.
We have not forgotten New York, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania; we have not forgotten a nightclub in Bali; a café in Sydney; a police station in Parramatta; nor a Mosque in Christchurch.
We have not forgotten London Bridge; Bourke Street; a Promenade in Nice; or the end of a marathon in Boston… to name just a few.
As if we needed any reminder that we cannot afford to forget, an ISIS-inspired extremist recently attacked seven innocent shoppers in Auckland. Thankfully New Zealand Police were able to respond quickly and professionally before more people were hurt.
It’s a sad reality that terrorism is a real and enduring threat… to Australians, to our way of life, and to our national social cohesion.
While national attention has – rightly – been on COVID-19 for the last 18 months, we cannot be complacent about terrorism.
The National Terrorism Threat Level remains at ‘probable’. Individuals, groups, and ideologies – both old and new – continue to plot and fantasize about doing us harm.
Sadly, it’s a wide and diverse list: religiously and ideologically motivated extremists, violent ‘incel’ misogynists, extreme COVID conspiracy theorists, and those driven to violence by online misinformation.
With little to no warning, any person motivated by hate and extremism, and holding a knife and smart phone, can cause shockwaves around the world.
That’s why ASIO assesses ‘lone actor attacks’ – such as we saw in Auckland, on Bourke Street, and at the Lindt Café – are the type of terrorism we are most likely to experience in Australia.
I don’t say this to scare – rather, to ensure we’re clear-eyed about the threat.
As Australia’s National Plan sees us emerge from prolonged lockdowns we will once again gather in crowds. Sporting arenas, shopping malls, airports, and other iconic locations will once more need to contend with the spectre of terrorism.
We all look forward to returning to those freedoms, and that way of life, after the challenges of the past 18 months; but we cannot take our safety for granted.
The Australian Government and our security and intelligence agencies are taking the threat seriously; I encourage all Australians to do the same.
Today of all days, we cannot forgot the price of doing anything different, and of the vital importance of defending “all that is good and just in our world.”