Tuesday, 12 April 2005
My fellow Australians, I said that announcements of measures being taken to counter the bombing campaign would be made in due course, and here is the first.
As Sydneysiders will have noticed, the trains are running once more. Not quite to the normal timetable yet - though regular commuters may say that that is nothing new - but everyone can be assured that they will be able to get to work safely tomorrow. The NSW police now believe that it was unlikely the bomb was put aboard at the depot, and may have been taken aboard by a passenger.
All busses leaving depots have now been checked, and measures are in place to prevent any bomb from being planted there too.
The prohibition of luggage in passenger compartments - and that means anything larger than a purse, small briefcase, or laptop computer - will be strictly enforced. I have been informed by the NSW premier that State Rail Police on board trains and busses will be checking all smaller items that may be carried. I urge you to co-operate fully with them. As a temporary measure, pending construction or conversion of special-purpose rolling-stock, obsolete carriages are being attached to each train to carry essential items. Prospective passengers with such items are warned that their travel may be delayed, and boarding may be refused.
As was done many years go, with the Sydney Hilton bombing, rubbish bins near major public buildings will be sealed. In the longer term, new blast-diverting designs will be installed in their place. So please dispose of rubbish thoughtfully, and keep it to the mimimum for now.
But amidst the sea of minor inconvenience and niggling delay, there are some bright spots. The State Rail Police and station staff are going to be far too busy checking for bombs to worry about checking tickets, so for the foreseeable future, travel by Public transport in the Sydney Metropolitan area will be free of charge - though carrying luggage may not be. This arrangement is intended to become permanent, and I have assured the NSW premier that the state will not lose out financially as the result.
Sydneysiders will also have noticed that there are planes up in the sky again. Not many - and they're mainly carrying people travelling on compassionate grounds. So I urge you not to make travel plans by air for the next week, as there will be long delays. A compensation scheme is being set up to reimburse those who have suffered personal financial loss due to expiry of tickets or unplanned accomodation costs. Tourists currently in Australia can be assured that we're doing our very best to make sure you're inconvenienced as little as possible. There will be no difficulty for those who involuntarily overstay their visa due to the current emergency.
With the help flowing in from friendly governments - and I must mention the particularly helpful contribution of our neighbours across the Tasman here - normal airline schedules will be reintroduced as circumstances permit. I do ask everyone to restrict their planned travel over the coming weeks though, to ease the problems.
Interstate Rail and Interstate Busses have not been affected as yet, but passengers should expect some delay due to extra-ordinary security measures, and there may be some closure of smaller bus termini where an alternative exists. If you travel interstate by public transport, you can avoid much inconvenience if you travel with only one piece of luggage, checked-in at least six hours before your journey.
Forensic evidence has shown that at least one of the bombs was detonated remotely via an untraceable prepaid mobile phone. This is a technique that has already been used by Al Qaeda against Australian servicepeople in Iraq, but it's far too early to draw conclusions from this. Each of the bombs was of about 4 Kg weight. It is to prevent recurrence that the restrictions on luggage are in force.
As a result of this forensic information, the sale of prepaid mobile phones has been temporarily embargoed. For the time being, it will be a criminal offence to supply one. This restriction will be eased in due course, but retailers will henceforth be required to record personal data of any customers, including a passport-quality photograph and biometric data, as well as the usual 100 points of identification required for a passport or bank account.
All owners of prepaid mobile phones will soon receive automated phonecalls. If you don't answer, then you can expect repeated call attempts at random intervals.
Anyone who finds a mobile phone attached to a package is urged to contact authorities in the immediate area without delay, so a swift evacuation of the area can be arranged.
Any terrorist listening to this broadcast would be well advised to switch any mobile phones attached to bombs off, to leave them off, and to inform any other members of your organisation about this new danger. Should you give yourself up to authorities now, you may be treated as a Prisoner of War. If you don't, in accordance with International Law and the Geneva Conventions, you will forfeit that protected status, and will be subject to the traditional penalties of being an illegal combatant. Any misguided Australian citizens guilty of treachery, or giving material aid and comfort to the enemy, will in addition be subject to normal peacetime criminal prosecution under the Crimes Act. Anyone who aids the terrorist bombers will be deemed accessories after the fact to Murder, and subject to the most serious penalties.
To those involved in any way with this monstrous evil, I say to you that this is your first and only chance. We are now confident that you will be caught regardless, but there may be some of you who have acted out of unwisdom and foolishness rather than evil, and find yourselves out of your depth. It is to them that I extend this one opportunity to recoil from the abyss. To those who planned the barbaric deeds, I have nothing to say : our actions will speak louder than words.
To the rest of you, may I congratulate all Australians, and Sydneysiders in particular, for the comradeship and mateship I've seen everywhere I look. From giving mates a lift home, to cabbies giving people free rides, to those giving stranded tourists a helping hand, to the many people who have spontaneously raised funds to help the victims, you've acted just the way I thought you would. As Australians.
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