[Article requested by the Sydney Morning Herald but never published]
I was shocked, as were all Australians, over the tragic hostage event in the Lindt Café, Martin Place, Sydney at 9.45 am on Monday 15th December 2014. It was very near to where I was Chairing an Inquiry Committee Meeting at 9.00 am into the Loose Leaf Asbestos issue, known as Mr Fluffy brand, in the NSW Parliament House, in Macquarie Street, Sydney.
When the Committee meeting concluded and we became aware of events, I went down to Martin Place to inspect the situation and found police barricades everywhere.
I later laid flowers in Martin Place in honour of the two hostages who had died, Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson. Tori Johnson certainly deserves a bravery award because of the reports that he was shot by Man Haron Manis as he tried to remove the shotgun from the Islamic terrorist when he became sleepy.
This hostage attack by Manis revealed a complete breakdown in our ASIO-Security Protection System and our own legal system.
An anonymous call was made to Australia’s anti-terrorism hotline, 48 hours before the attack, concerning Manis’ website, where he pledged allegiance to “the caliph of the Muslims”, the Islamic State leader Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi and denounced moderate Islam.
Apparently the ASIO reviewed his website and his social media but found nothing to indicate he was likely to commit an act of terrorism.
Our own legal system failed by giving him bail in spite of a number of charges he was facing, including as an accessory to the brutal stabbing murder of his wife.
This murder was so brutal, his wife being stabbed eighteen times and being set on fire while still alive, that it points to Manis rather than his new female partner. He should never have been on bail!
Another question concerns his main target? Was it the Lindt Café which was a very innocent location or was it the Channel 7 TV offices in Martin Place which he particularly hated, or even the NSW Parliament House at the top of Martin Place as occurred in Canada?
I fully support Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recommendation to the Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, that Mrs Dawson and Mr Johnson should be honoured with posthumous bravery awards. He also recommended that proper consideration should be given to the actions of others involved, including other hostages and police.
Mr Abbott wrote “there may well be other significant acts by surviving hostages, police and others involved that are worthy of recognition”.
I do not believe Mr Abbott was recommending that all the hostages should receive bravery awards, he only stated “that are worthy of recognition”.
If the current police Inquiry reveals any brave actions by the hostages then they could be considered for a bravery award or some other award.
It is also reasonable that all the hostages who endured such a traumatic situation should be given recognition as “hostage survivors” with a suitable medallion or ribbon.
All the hostages, which totalled eighteen (eight staff of the Café and ten customers) deserve the Federal Government’s Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment and any similar State Compensation payments. In addition, the overseas payment should be available for Australian hostage events, especially for the three hostages who were wounded during the police raid – Marcia Mikhael, Robyn Hope and her daughter Louisa Hope.
The remaining question to be asked is what more could the male hostages have done to protect the female hostages?
The only relevant case was in the Twin Towers September 11th 2001 Islamic Terrorist attack when the male passengers attacked the armed terrorists which prevented the passenger aircraft being used as a flying bomb, probably to be used to destroy the White House and kill the President. Sadly, all the passengers lost their lives when their aircraft crashed.
The similar question arose in the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris recently when a frightened female staff member opened the office security door with her security code. Did she realise it would result in the deaths of many of her colleagues?
In all these situations we have to examine our own consciences. If I, as a male, were in that hostage situation, what would I have done? Save myself or try to protect the women?
Rev Hon Fred Nile MLC