TRANSCRIPT: Tony Abbott, Jeff McCloy, Jaimie Abbott media conference

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR

JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH CR. JEFF MCCLOY, LORD MAYOR OF

JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH CR. JEFF MCCLOY, LORD MAYOR OF

NEWCASTLE CITY COUNCIL AND MS. JAMIE ABBOTT,

NEWCASTLE CITY COUNCIL AND MS. JAMIE ABBOTT,

LIBERAL PARTY CANDIDATE FOR NEWCASTLE,

LIBERAL PARTY CANDIDATE FOR NEWCASTLE,

NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES

NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES

Subjects: the Coalition’s policy to support victims of terrorism.

Subjects: the Coalition’s policy to support victims of terrorism.

JEFF MCCLOY:

I’d just like to welcome the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott and Jamie Abbott here today and some of the Newcastle victims of the Bali bombings. They’ve had a terrible ordeal and this new legislation that Mr Abbott proposes will give them compensation and more recognition of the ordeals that they’ve gone through. So, I want to hand over to Mr Abbott for a few words.

TONY ABBOTT:

Jamie?

JAMIE ABBOTT:

Thank you very much for coming. I’d just like to say what an absolute honour it is to have Tony Abbott here in Newcastle today. We are not related. I get asked that question five times a day, but it is absolutely fantastic to see him here. The seat of Newcastle is the only original seat since federation that has only been held by Labor continuously and we think it’s time for a change. The people of Newcastle have been taken for granted for far too long and it’s fantastic to see Tony Abbott in Newcastle today.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks Jamie. Ok, well thank you everyone for being here today. For me, this is really an important milestone and a bit of a personal journey because as some of you might remember, my family and myself were holidaying in Bali the night of the second Bali bombing and as the Health Minister in the Australian Government at the time, I thought it was incumbent on me to do what I could to try to assist the Australian victims of that bombing and I spent the next 14 or 15 hours in the Sanglah Hospital until the Australian casualties had all been safely evacuated.

It was a remarkable day and I felt incredibly honoured to be in the company of some remarkable people. Those who had been injured in that terrible atrocity and also those who were helping the victims of this unspeakable crime. Dr Adam Frost, a Newcastle GP who did remarkable work to help everyone that day. Also Brian Diamond, the Australian Consular General in Bali at the time who performed above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that all of those victims got the best possible treatment.

Today, I'm here with some extraordinary Australians. I'm here with Paul Anicich, formerly the senior partner of one of our major law firms who was very badly hurt that night. I'm here with Tony Purkiss who was very badly wounded that night and still obviously carries the impact of that with him. I'm here with Peter Hughes, who was one of the victims of the first Bali bombing. Again, a remarkable Australian. I'm also here with Clair Marsh, who along with her husband David, did so much to help the victims of the first Bali bombings.

These four people are representative of Australia at its best. They are stoical, they are decent, they are courageous and all of them in their own way have tried to bring good from the terrible tragedy that they experienced.

What I am announcing today is that an incoming Coalition government will finally provide a measure of justice to the victims, the Australian victims of overseas terrorism. As again, some of you might know, back in 2009, I introduced a Private Members Bill into the Parliament to provide similar assistance to the Australian victims of overseas terrorism to that which is typically provided to the victims of domestic crime here in Australia – the victims of crimes here in this country.

Typically, if you are the victim of a crime here in Australia, under State and Territory victims of crime legislation, you will get access to payments of up to $75,000. After discussing this matter many years ago with Paul Anicich, it seemed to me that the best way to proceed in terms of acknowledging and helping the victims of overseas terrorism was to try to put in place a scheme parallel to the domestic scheme for the past and if there are any future victims, past and future victims of overseas terrorism. Now to its credit, the Government did actually, after a fair bit of arm twisting accept that legislation, but to its discredit, it never made the retrospective declarations necessary to ensure that the victims of these terrible atrocities overseas. The existing victims of terrorism in Australia would receive that modest compensation. I'm very disappointed that this is the case because I did my best to appeal to the Government that this would be something that could be an achievement of the Parliament, it could be to the credit of all of us and I'm disappointed that nothing was ever done in the last Parliament to bring that about. But in fidelity to something which has been a concern of mine for many years now, in fidelity to people like Paul Anicich and Peter Hughes and Tony Purkiss, I do make this solemn pledge that an incoming Coalition government within 100 days will take the steps necessary to ensure that this scheme does apply to the existing Australian victims and their next of kin so that this significant but modest assistance can be provided to them.

As I said, it's an honour to be here with Paul Anicich, with Tony Purkiss, with Peter Hughes, Clair Marsh – all of them who have been dramatically impacted one way or another by overseas terrorism – all of them very decent and honourable Australians and I'm proud to be with them today and I think it's incumbent upon me and any incoming government to do what it can to support them. Now I'm not going to take questions today on general subjects, not here anyway, because there will be the opportunity in a couple of hours' time for a more general press conference. I will take a few questions on this subject but before I do, if Tony or Paul or Clair or Peter would like to say anything, I will invite them to do so now.

TONY PURKISS:

TONY PURKISS:

Just on what you're doing, it's very much appreciated. We haven't been forgotten. We are all carrying the scars in various ways and from my perspective, it's one thing being in your 50s and unemployed, it's another thing being in your 50s blind and unemployed. So, it's just a small token of where I think it should be. I really appreciate it.

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you so much mate. Ok, Clair?

CLAIR MARSH:

CLAIR MARSH:

After that, it is really important that this piece of legislation go through and that we need the support of everybody. We see so much in the medical world of the kind of things that happen to people who are victims of domestic violence. There is no difference between them and what we can do for people who have been victims of overseas terrorism. In fact, it's more important in some ways because they do get forgotten here. So it's really important and I would urge you all to write this up and say yes, let's do something about it. Thanks, Tony, I really appreciate it.

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

Paul?

PAUL ANICICH:

PAUL ANICICH:

Thank you, Tony. It's very much appreciated what you are doing, Tony and your role in all this has been extraordinary for a man who could well be the leader of this country. At the time you were involved with those hurt in the second Bali bombing, you describe yourself as the then Minister of Health. You were not acting in that capacity that night on the Island of Bali, as I understand it, you were acting as the man you are. You, from what I'm told, took yourself away from your family and to the site of where you had been told Australians had been bombed, at personal risk to yourself, to do what you could for your fellow man. There you found, I say, a dreadful scene to behold. I was part of that. You were told by the doctor you mentioned that my life was in the balance. You had the ability to acknowledge, to call from the skies an emergency air service which was able to then fly myself and another Novacastrian whose wife had been killed that night, to Singapore for essential medical services. Because I think you had been told by the doctors on hand that if that did not happen, it was unlikely that I would live. So, you can imagine the gratitude that I have for you. This is by no means a political matter for me, Tony. You and I have worked on this for the time you said. And thank you.

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks, mate. Thanks so much. Peter?

PETER HUGHES:

PETER HUGHES:

I would like to thank Tony for taking up the crusade. 11 years ago I guess to be part of the first Bali bombings, it was horrific. We had to go through I guess your worst experience – I said to Tony earlier that Bali made me a better person but I wouldn't want people to go through it. Tony has taken up the crusade because it's a human thing. This has got nothing to do with politics. We've spoken about this before. I think what you are doing and what the Liberal Party is doing is sort of breaking that apart. We want it to be bipartisan. We want all politicians to realise that we are human beings, we are Australians, we are after a fair go. I was with people that were 20, that are 30 now. I with was with people who are 30 that are 40 now. I was with people that were 55 that are 65 now that are silent sufferers and I guess at the end of the day mate, you are doing something that's good for humanity. I guess that as an Australian, I'm a proud Australian, there is no doubt that politics does change things in Australia. I just hope that maybe in the next hundred days past I guess the election next week that there's a result for the wellbeing of a lot of people that not only out of the Bali bombings but also many years before that and I guess that we want to be treated just not as special people because we know there's worse off people than us, but just for the victims’ families. The 88 Australians that didn't come home and many others that didn't come home from the second bombings and also from Mumbai and Jakarta and stuff like that. So I think about those families all the time and I might be a spokesman for the people that didn't come home, but well be it because they are silent sufferers, thanks Tony. Thanks to all politicians and I hope you all do well next week.

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks so much, mate. Ok.

QUESTION:

QUESTION:

As you said this is a personal journey for you. We all know these fine Novocastrians here. But these people went overseas at the time when they knew what the law was, there was no compensation available there. They have all been medically treated as far as I know and that maybe if Paul wasn't the head of Sparke Helmore at the time and a friend of yours that maybe this wouldn't be happening and that this is special pleading, that this is what the NDIS is for, but there is plenty of people suffering at the moment.

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I accept that there are plenty of people who are doing it tough, I absolutely accept that. But if you are the victim of violence here in Australia, if you are the victim of criminal violence here in Australia, you are acknowledged and to some extent recompensed through the State and Territory victims of crime legislation. If you are hurt through no fault of your own by crime, this is what happens to you – if the crime occurs here in Australia. I think that if you are an Australian and you are the victim of overseas terrorism, you have been targeted because you are an Australian. The bombs didn't go off in Bali because there were locals there. The bombs went off in Bali because there Australians there. The bombs went off in New York and in London because westerners were being targeted for their beliefs and for their way of life. Now when people suffer because of the fact that they are Australian, a decent nation should offer some acknowledgement, some recognition and this is modest enough and yet it would be a significant way of acknowledging that our fellow Australians have been badly damaged by people who had malice towards us, all of us, and they singled out fate, singled out these individuals to suffer and we should stand by them and this is a way of standing by them.

QUESTION:

QUESTION:

There were travel warnings there at the time not to travel there?

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

And look, if you are walking down the street at 2am in Kings Cross in Sydney and you get king hit, maybe you shouldn't be there. Maybe it was an unwise place to be, an unwise thing to do. But if you do get king hit and you are badly damaged, you are helped by the New South Wales victims of crime legislation and I think that the Australian victims of overseas terrorism should get similar help.

QUESTION:

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, what’s the… a couple of questions. First of all, the Budget impact, there has been hundreds of victims of terrorism overseas. That total sort of payment or an upper limit payment is $75,000 and secondly, does anyone who has been a victim to have automatically qualify, do they have to register what is the process?

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it's almost exactly parallel, as far as is humanly possible, it is exactly parallel to the State and Territory victims of crime scheme. In the end, these are discretionary payments for the relevant Minister but the relevant Minister would do it on a generous basis. There are about 300 people who have been badly hurt or who have been killed. So there is about 300 people or next of kin who would qualify, which means that the total cost of looking after in this way all of the Australian victims of terrorism so far would be in the order of $30 million.

QUESTION:

QUESTION:

If the Government had not gone as far as this, they didn’t want to put in retrospective legislation. Some would say that $75,000 isn't enough. So can you just explain, I know that it is in line with victims of crime, just explain why it's at that level and is there any reason you can see why the Government wouldn't have done this? I mean, $30 million is not a big amount?

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

No, look, again if I can tell the story. I mean I've stayed in pretty close touch with Paul Anicich since that fateful night and day and night in Bali back in 2005. Late in 2006, Paul and I were talking about what would be an appropriate way of looking after people because by that stage, their medical expenses had all been met. The various expenses associated with the evacuation and everything else had been dealt with. But plainly, the people who had been damaged in that particular bombing were struggling, in many cases, to put their lives back together again. Some couldn't go back to work. All had the physical and mental scars of the dreadful experience that they had been through and having talked it all through with Paul, it seemed to me that the best way to handle this was to do something which was very similar to that which would be done for people who had been similarly damaged by a local crime, because terrorist crime is crime. Ok, it's differently motivated to ordinary crime, but nevertheless it is crime and if the victims of crime receive certain acknowledgement, certain recognition, certain recompense here in Australia, why not do as far as we can in exactly the same thing for those who are the victims of this particular type of crime overseas. Because again I say, people were targeted simply because they were Australian. As Australian they were representatives of a way of life, of a system of values, which the terrorists found hateful. Now, if people have suffered because they are Australian, why shouldn’t Australians collectively look after them in this way? Now the Government obviously found that logic powerful because they did accept the legislation. What they failed to do was make the relevant declarations so that the existing victims of terrorism would be looked after and this was the Government's failure, in my judgment and this is the failure that will be rectified should there be a change of government on September the 7th.

QUESTION:

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, isn't it the failure of the Howard Government? Why didn't they increase this compensation when they were in power?

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

That is a perfectly legitimate question – a perfectly legitimate question and it's true. I first approached the Howard Government from memory, early in 2007 with a suggestion along these lines. As those of you who were around at the time would remember, we had a lot on our plate in 2007 and I suppose we were perhaps a little past our prime back in those days. So you're right, we didn't do it. We should have done it. It was neglected. I guess in the press of events in that fateful year but I just want to say that the omissions of the past will be rectified – they will be rectified.

QUESTION:

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, you could see that this kind of scheme could become tangled up in bureaucracy. Can you give a commitment on when people involved in the Bali bombings and the London bombing will receive these funds and also why not extend it to anyone who is a victim of crime overseas?

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

It's a question of to whom is the greatest duty owed? Who is in most need of our care and recognition? Where is the Australian Government's duty heaviest? And look, if someone goes overseas in the ordinary course of events and is the victim of a crime which is just a random crime, I'm not proposing that they should be covered. But where they are the victim of a terrorist crime, which is specifically directed against Australians or against westerners more generally, that is a qualitatively different situation. Now as you will see from the legislation which I brought into the House and which was ultimately accepted by the Government, this is about as unbureaucratic a scheme as it can be. It simply authorises the relevant Minister to make an appropriate payment up to the level of $75,000. So, no new bureaucracy, no new institutions, very little paperwork. The Minister simply has to be satisfied that the person was a victim of the relevant terrorist incident and make the relevant payment. So, it's about as simple and as straightforward as anything can be in this complex modern world.

QUESTION:

QUESTION:

Does a person have to be targeted because they were Australian? If someone, for example died in Turkey for example in a terrorist attack that wasn't particularly targeted at westerners, would they still get funding, for example?

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

Well this would be something that would have to be considered at the time, but the incidents that I believe should be covered by this are September the 11th, London, Mumbai, Bali one, Bali two and Jakarta one and Jakarta two. Now all of those incidents were specifically targeted at Westerners and some of them were particularly targeted at Australians.

QUESTION:

QUESTION:

Will those people have their claims assessed and paid within a hundred days, is that your anticipation?

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

The relevant declarations will be made within a hundred days and let us not try to expect miracles, as it were. Within a hundred days after that, I would expect that these matters could be fully dealt with.

TONY PURKISS:

TONY PURKISS:

Can I just say one thing which probably hasn’t been sort of spoken about today.  Like you said, we were targetted. A lot of people here don’t realise that the three suicide bombers in the 2005 attack, they were at that restaurant in Jimberan Bay for lunch and they quizzed the wait staff there as to who was coming to the restaurant that night and when the wait staff advised them that there was going to be like 30-plus Australians sitting at this table, come that night, it wasn't a random attack from a suicide bomber that came out of the crowd and just let off his bomb. He came to the table where he thought there was going to be over 30 Australians sitting at. So we were targeted and I believe we were victims of war, right. We weren't walking down the street and had a random attack. We were specifically targeted as Australians and that's what they were aiming for. It's not a random attack as we were walking down the street so to speak. We were enjoying a meal at the restaurant.

TONY ABBOTT:

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks mate. Thanks so much to everyone.

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