The prime minister described Monday’s attack in Melbourne, which left terrorist Yacqub Khayre dead following a shootout with officers, as a shocking and cowardly crime.
While much remains unknown about the crime, the offender said it was a terror attack and Islamic State has claimed responsibility, describing Khayre as one of its “soldiers”.
Turnbull, holding a press conference in Canberra after briefings with senior police and spy chiefs, repeatedly queried how the violent offender was out on parole.
“He had a long record of violence. A very long record of violence,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“He had been charged with a terrorist offence some years ago and had been acquitted. He was known to have connections, at least in the past, with violent extremism.”
Turnbull paid tribute to the swift response of police and offered condolences to the family of a man murdered in the attack at serviced apartments in the bayside suburb of Brighton.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews earlier on Tuesday said the gunman was – until the deadly attack – compliant with the terms of his parole, which was for offences unrelated to terrorism.
But the prime minister, who has twice spoken with Andrews since the siege, highlighted comparisons to Lindt Cafe hostage-taken Man Monis as well as the killer of Melbourne woman Jill Meagher.
“More investigations and explanations will be given but it is plainly – it is very hard, I think – to understand why he was released on parole given the nature of his record and the nature of his offence,” he said.
The federal opposition also foreshadowed a potential crackdown on bail laws.
“While investigations are ongoing and the full circumstances are not yet clear, if there are lessons to be learned – such as tougher bail laws – then we need to heed those lessons,” Labor Leader Bill Shorten said.
“We reaffirm our resolve to combat extremism, in all its forms and wherever it occurs.”
Bail laws are legislated and enforced by state governments, and Victoria’s were tightened considerably after Jill Meagher’s rape and murder in 2012.
Issues around parole and terror responses would be key priorities at Friday’s COAG meeting of state and territory leaders in Hobart.
Turnbull said Australia faced a growing threat from Islamist terrorism but authorities remained committed to defeating threats.
“It is a terrorist attack and it underlines the need for us to be constantly vigilant, never to be deterred, always defiant, in the face of Islamist terrorism,” he said.
“With every development in the sick pathology of terrorism, we have to learn from it, we must be more agile that those who seek to do us harm.
“… What is clear here is that we face a growing threat from Islamist terrorism in Australia in our region and around the world.
“We will continue to defy it and we will continue to defeat it.”
Australia’s terror threat level remains at “probable”.
– AAPJump to next article