Martin Place Siege

I think one of the reasons the events of last year, like MH17 and the Sydney Siege, affected us so much, is because we could all imagine ourselves on that plane, or in that coffee shop.

A lot of terrible things happen every day – here and overseas.

Most of the time you think that could never happen to you.  But not this.  This was different.

A lot of us have been overseas on a plane.  Even more of us get a cup of coffee every morning from a coffee shop as part of our normal morning routine.

I was in the Lindt Café only a couple of days before.  My wife goes there all the time.

Like most Australians on 15 December I was transfixed to the TV screen – all day and all night.

I sat there thinking about the people in the café, just going about their normal routine, then suddenly they are caught up in anyone’s worst nightmare.

And I thought about their mums and dads, and their husbands and wives being called or texted and told their loved ones were in there.

They are still in our thoughts, and it was wonderful to see them in the gallery yesterday.

However there were two people who weren’t here yesterday – Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.

Victims of a sick and evil person and a warped, demented ideology.

I rang a mate of mine who is a Barrister in Selbourne Chambers and I asked him if he knew Katrina.

He did.  She worked on the same floor.  They had been friends for 10 years.  The day before, a Sunday, they were both in the office together, working on different cases.

Katrina had her kids there in the office, and they were all laughing and joking and talking about what they were going to do for Xmas.

He told me she was just lovely.

Because of the actions of a mad man, this beautiful, bright, lovely person is gone.  Forever.  So unfair.  So wrong.

The same is true for Tori Johnson. 

And for those that survived they will carry the physical and mental scars of those 16 or so hours for the rest of their lives.

Later this month the Prime Minister has promised to release the review by Federal Agenices into this tragedy.

It is an important document.  Two people died.  And more could have.  It is important that we ask all the hard questions and look at what we need to do differently to try to stop something like this happening again.

It is not an easy thing.  But we owe it to the people in the gallery yesterday and we owe it to Katrina and Tori to do that.

That includes how we use intelligence to monitor deranged and fixated individuals like Man Monis, and examine the role that the TAG East team (the 2nd Commando Tactical Assault Group based at Holsworthy) should play in situations like this, given their extraordinary capabilities.

Finally I just want to say something about the community response in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy.

I expected the sort of backlash against the muslim community we saw in September last year after the police raids – where people were spat on and pushed and abused.

Something very different happened in December.

A muslim friend of mine told me he visited the make shift memorial flooded with flowers four times.

One of those times he was crying and a woman came up to him, asked him if he was OK and gave him a hug.

He told me he never felt like he belonged as much as he did at that moment.

There is a message here.

What’s happening in Iraq and Syria is a lightning rod for some deluded people to go there and fight or try to do terrible things here at home.

People poisoned by a putrid ideology.  Triggered into action by what they see on TV or read on their phone or hear in a prayer hall.

Ottawa, Paris and Sydney are all evidence of that.

But if the purpose was to divide us it has failed.

It has only brought us closer together.

And that is a message of hope in the midst of all this violence and pain.