PM moves to reassure Australians after London attack

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during question time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 23 March 2017. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesMalcolm Turnbull described the Westminster terror as an attack on parliaments everywhere as he moved to reassure Australians that local authorities were working tirelessly to prevent a similar assault here at home.

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Amid heightened security at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday, the Prime Minister told the chamber almost every element of Australia’s democratic tradition was modelled on Westminster, the mother of parliaments.

“It is the birthplace of our free, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law which sustains it,” he said. “It was an attack on parliaments, freedom and democracy everywhere in the world.”

British High Commissioner Menna Rawlings was among those present in the chamber for speeches by Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Mr Turnbull confirmed a woman who lives in South Australia was among those injured and was being treated in hospital.

Australia’s agencies had spoken with their British counterparts as the investigation into the attack – which killed five people, including the attacker, and injured 40 more – continued.

“Australians should be reassured that our agencies are today, as every day, working relentlessly and tirelessly to keep our people safe. We are very alert to the vulnerabilities of places of mass gathering and open spaces and the risk of relatively unsophisticated attacks like that perpetrated in London,” he said.

Mr Shorten said Australia stood united with all parliaments in condemning the attack on “the world’s oldest democratic institution”.

“Today, our screens are full of Westminster Bridge, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, the tower which holds Big Ben. The place names and scenery are so familiar to us. Unfortunately too, so is this ritual,” he said.

“These instances of offering our condolences to the victims of terrorism and standing in solidarity with the nation infected have become too common, too frequent.

“We say to those who seek to spread fear, who shed blood to spread fear, you will not succeed. You will not divide a people or a world determined and too strong to defeat your ideology of evil.”

Extra police were deployed to guard Parliament House in the wake of the attack, which began when a man drove a car into pedestrians on the Westminister Bridge before ramming a gate outside Westminster Palace and then fatally stabbing a police officer.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan described it as a “standard response” to a major international terror incident.

Australia’s terror threat level has been set at “probable” since September 2014.

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