A Decade in Defiance of Terrorism By Hon John Howard The Bali attack in October 2002 rocked Australia to its very core. It was an act of murderous terrorism, claiming the most Australian lives in a single incident outside the country, except in wartime. It was a naked demonstration of Islamic extremism. As so many Australians holiday in Bali, and given its proximity, it was almost as if the attack had taken place on Australian soil. Those responsible for the attack showed little remorse. It was an exercise in blind fanaticism that we will always find difficult to understand. Yet understand its motivations we must, if we are to maintain successful vigilance against terrorism. More than 200 people, including 88 Australians, died in the attack. The terrorists wanted to show their hatred of the Western way of life. They murdered people doing a very normal thing: having a good time. They cared nothing for the indiscriminate nature of their attack. Fellow Indonesians, as well as Westerners, died or were horribly injured. They would have cared nothing for the relationship between Indonesia and Australia. If they had given it any thought, they would have hoped their deeds would create a greater gulf between the two countries. Advertisement As most of the perpetrators died at the hands of an Indonesian firing squad, they will never know that their attack has had the opposite effect. The Bali attack was a time of great testing for Australia, and our character as a nation was not found wanting. We cared for the injured, we comforted the bereaved and, with our Indonesian friends, sought and brought to justice those responsible. If there can be a legacy of a tragedy such as Bali other than the pain and grief of those who lost loved ones, then it can truly be said that out of this dreadful deed Australia and Indonesia grew closer together. I am sure that Mukhlas, Samudra and Amrozi - three of the Bali murderers - would not have wanted that. To them, Australia epitomised Western evil. The co-operation between the Indonesian and Australian police was immediate. It was fortunate that Mick Keelty, then commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, and General Pastika, the man charged with the Indonesian investigation, had become friends years earlier at a police management course in Canberra. Almost within minutes of the attack, Keelty had been in touch with his opposite number, General Da'i Bachtiar, to begin planning the operation that would track down and bring to justice those responsible for the atrocity. Three days after the attack, the then foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer, travelled to Jakarta with the commissioner and senior intelligence officers. There he saw Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, then co-ordinating minister covering security issues, later the President of Indonesia, and a true friend of Australia. That meeting began a process of intense cooperation between security agencies and other authorities of the two countries. Their brief was to catch those responsible. This they did most successfully, and out of that effort grew unprecedented levels of collaboration between Indonesian intelligence, the intelligence services of Australia, the CIA and Britain's MI6. This evil attack would bring a closer relationship between Australia and Indonesia, taking it to a level of intimacy not previously experienced. There would emerge the interfaith dialogue, which brought together representatives of Christian denominations, the Jewish faith, Buddhism and, of course, Islam, united by a common abhorrence of terrorism and based on the peaceful nostrums of all those religions. Two days later, I went to Bali with John Anderson, then deputy prime minister, and Simon Crean, the leader of the opposition. This visit was above any semblance of party politics. I spent a great deal of time with the relatives and friends of the 88 Australians who had died. They were a group of grieving Australians, bewildered by what had happened, each in their own way trying to come to terms with their devastating losses and drawing support and comfort from being together in such tragic circumstances. Many would come to display great stoicism, as they waited days longer than they might have hoped as the slow and painstaking process of identifying victims, horribly burnt or mutilated, was completed. They desperately wanted to take their loved ones home, but they quietly accepted the need for proper identification processes. A mistaken identification would only multiply the intense agony already being experienced. Before I left Bali, I called at the AFP operations centre, already in full swing and under the control of Graham Ashton - now deputy commissioner of the Victoria Police - who had been the AFP liaison officer in Jakarta and spoke fluent Bahasa (Indonesian). It comprised about a dozen Australian police officers and two officers from Scotland Yard; 34 British citizens had died in the attack. Ten years on, we remember with sadness the great loss of so many Australians; we thank the Indonesian authorities for their co-operation in bringing to justice those responsible, and we renew our commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and finally, and importantly, we should calmly note that far from this terrible act driving a wedge between Australia and Indonesia, it had the opposite effect. The perpetrators had wanted to sow greater hatred. In that, they failed. John Howard was prime minister at the time of the Bali bombings.