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Foreign Affairs, Defence &
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist
attacks of 11 September 2001 when four hijacked planes in the US were crashed
into either the ground or buildings, including the World Trade Center in New
York, killing almost 3,000 people from more than 80 different countries. This quick
guide summarises the initial response to the attacks and some of the comments made
by Australian parliamentarians at significant anniversaries over the last two
decades, and remembers the ten Australians killed.
Australian flag recovered
from the ruins of the World Trade Center, New York, after the attacks of 11 September
2001. It is now held in the National Museum of Australia.
(Source: National Museum of Australia)
The then Australian prime minister, John Howard, who
happened to be in Washington at the time, began a press
conference on 11 September 2001 by reading a message he had just
sent to the US President, George W Bush:
Dear Mr President. The Australian Government and people share
the sense of horror experienced by your nation at today's catastrophic events
and the appalling loss of life. I feel the tragedy even more keenly being here
in Washington at the moment.
In the face of an attack of this magnitude, words are always
inadequate in conveying sympathy and support. You can however be assured of
Australia's resolute solidarity with the American people at this most tragic
My personal thoughts and prayers are very much with those
left bereaved by these despicable attacks upon the American people and the
Describing it as ‘a very tragic day in the history of a
great nation’, Mr Howard went on to say:
I can only hope, as I know all
decent people around the world will, that those responsible for this despicable
series of attacks upon the United States will be hunted down and meted out the
justice that they so much deserve.
But the only other thing I can say to you is really on behalf
of all the Australians here is to say to our American friends who we love and
admire so much, we really feel for you. It is a terrible day … And as I say
words aren’t very adequate but they are a sign that we feel for our American
friends. We will stand by them, we will help them, we will support actions they
take to properly retaliate in relation to these acts of bastardry against their
citizens and against what they stand for.
On 12 September the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution
1368 (2001) condemning the attacks, and members of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization sought to invoke Article 5
of NATO’s foundational North Atlantic Treaty, which provides for the
collective self-defence of member states against armed attack:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of
them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all
and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them,
in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by
Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or
Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the
other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed
force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result
thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures
shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary
to restore and maintain international peace and security.
Similarly, on 14 September Prime Minister Howard announced
that the Australian Government had decided, in consultation with the US, ‘that Article IV of the ANZUS Treaty applies to the terrorist attacks
on the United States’, based on the belief that ‘the attacks have been
initiated and coordinated from outside the United States’. This was the
first—and remains the only—time the ANZUS Treaty had been invoked since its
inception in 1952. Article IV of the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States
of America (ANZUS Treaty) provides:
Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific
Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and
declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result
thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United
Nations. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken
the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and
This action was included in a parliamentary
motion moved by the prime minister and agreed to on
17 September 2001, which stated that the Australian House of
(1) expresses its horror at the terrorist
attacks which have claimed so many lives in the United States of America;
(2) conveys to the Government and people of
the United States of America the deepest sympathy and sense of shared loss felt
by the Government and people of Australia;
(3) extends condolences to the families and
other loved ones of those Australians killed or missing as a result of the
(4) declares that such attacks represent an
assault, not only on the people and the values of the United States of America,
but of free societies everywhere;
(5) praises the courageous efforts of those
engaged in the dangerous rescue operation still underway;
(6) believes that the terrorist actions in
New York City and Washington DC constitute an attack upon the United States of
America within the meaning of Articles IV and V of the ANZUS Treaty;
(7) fully endorses the
commitment of the Australian Government to support within Australia's
capabilities United States-led action against those responsible for these
tragic attacks; and
(8) encourages all Australians in the wake
of these appalling events to display those very qualities of tolerance and
inclusion which the terrorists themselves have assaulted with such awful
Another 59 members spoke to the motion, which was agreed
to with members indicating their support by rising and standing for a minute’s
silence. Select comments made in support of the motion follow:
It goes beyond the death so cruelly inflicted without
warning, without justification and without any skerrick of moral authority on
innocent people merely going about their daily lives; its context represents a
massive assault on the values not only of the United States of America but also
of this country—the values of free men and women and of decent people and
decent societies around the world. It is an act of terror. It is an act which
is repugnant to all of the things that we as a society believe in.
As we struggle as Australians and as we struggle as citizens
of the world to come to terms with what has happened, it is certain, as others
have said, that the world has changed. We are all diminished, we are all
changed, and we are all rather struggling with the concept that it will never
be quite the same again.
In every way, the attack on New York and Washington and the
circumstances surrounding it did constitute an attack upon the metropolitan
territory of the United States of America within the provisions of articles IV
and V of the ANZUS Treaty. If that treaty means anything, if our debt as a
nation to the people of the United States in the darkest days of World War II
means anything, if the comradeship, the friendship and the common bonds of
democracy and a belief in liberty, fraternity and justice mean anything, it
means that the ANZUS Treaty applies and that the ANZUS Treaty is properly
John Howard, Prime Minister
We show our support for the United States in this fight
because the fight against international terrorism is our fight. This is not
only because of those Australians missing, believed killed, but also because of
our belief in freedom, a belief we hold in common with the United States. It
was an attack on all of us and all of ours.
Joining the strong international coalition to fight terrorism
wherever it threatens democratic and peaceful nations, as suggested by
Secretary Powell, is the right way to go. This will mean integrating more
closely our intelligence and police agencies with their international counterparts.
It will also mean providing appropriate military and police support to
international counter-terrorist operations. A long-term counter-terrorist
strategy and resource commitment are now required. The role of the SAS, of
Commonwealth law enforcement and of intelligence and other agencies will be
critical. They must have the tools to do their job in the modern terrorist
Kim Beazley, Leader of the Opposition
… the terrorist attack on the United States, on New York and
Washington, last Tuesday will mean that 11 September will be a date that
lives on in infamy. It is a date that we will not forget; it is a date that we
cannot forget; it is a date that we should never forget. It was a monstrous
act, a premeditated and calculated mass murder aimed at ordinary people who
were not just Americans but rather from a multitude of nations going about
their ordinary lives. As others have said so eloquently, it constitutes an
attack on decent people everywhere.
John Anderson, Leader of the National Party and Deputy
… these attacks on America are really attacks on freedom
everywhere, and must be defended. I formally extend my condolences to the
American people and to all of those who have been hurt here in Australia and
across the world. It is my hope that the bond that has developed amongst the
citizens of the world in reaction to this horror can be a springboard for a
more tolerant and compassionate world.
Anna Burke, MP
A mood has descended over the civilised world: a complexion
of grief, anger, resolve and unity. Australia joins the international
expressions of solidarity, support and friendship with the United States. As it
faces one of its greatest challenges in its proud history, the United States is
Julie Bishop, MP
The actions we saw on 11 September mark a turning point in
human history, in the history of international relations, in terms of how one
nation deals with another. We have not just turned a page; we have closed one
chapter and we have begun a new chapter.
Kevin Rudd, MP
The attack on 11 September on the United States was a
world-changing experience. The world will never be the same as it was on 10
September, following the events of 11 September. In some ways that will be a
tragic thing; in other ways it may be a catalyst for a war on terrorism, which
has been long overdue amongst the nations of the free world. This was an attack
on the free world. It was an attack on our values, on our way of life, on our
commitment to peace and on our commitment to democracy.
Chris Pyne, MP
Despite some reluctance
by the Australian Greens and the Australian
Democrats to support paragraphs 6 and 7 in their original form, the same
motion was also ultimately agreed to by the Australian
Senate on the same day, with senators also standing for a minute’s silence.
Select comments made in support of the motion follow:
Let us make no mistake: this was not just an attack on the
United States but also a direct attack on the institutions of freedom,
democracy and the rule of law that we in Australia, and so many people around
the world, hold dear. If we truly value our own freedom, we must be ready to
defend the freedom of others from the barbaric acts of terrorism we have
witnessed in the United States. Those responsible must be found and punished.
Senator Robert Hill, Leader of the Government in the
We need to acknowledge that the feelings of sorrow, fear and,
in some cases, anger extend to many Australians. The immediacy of the images
makes it feel so close. Courage, compassion and respect for the rule of law
must guide us. We cannot turn our backs and we cannot strike out blindly.
International cooperation and the role of the United Nations will be the key.
There is no quick salve and justice may be slow. The difficulty of bringing
those responsible to justice is frustrating, but I believe that the guilty will
be punished and that justice will be done. It is important that grief does not
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, Leader of the
The perpetrators, as many have said this afternoon, must be
carefully and logically identified, pursued and punished. Their efforts to
destroy the fabric of the community of the United States with their attacks in
New York, Washington and Pennsylvania will not succeed. The world
community—including the Australian community—has rallied behind the United
States in this battle against terrorism. I believe that is where our strength
lies: in that cohesion that we have to protect the fundamental freedoms of this
Senator Marise Payne
These were deliberate attacks against very powerful symbols
of democracy and a country that is itself a powerful symbol of democracy. These
attacks were designed to strike at the heart of all Western democracies that
respect freedom and are governed by the rule of law. If these attacks were an
attempt to damage or somehow change our view towards freedom and democracy,
then these attacks will have failed.
Senator Joe Ludwig
In an address to a joint session
of the US Congress on 20 September, President Bush characterised the attacks as
an ‘act of war’ and made
five demands of the Taliban in Afghanistan (pp. 1347–1348), where it was
believed those responsible for planning the attacks were hiding:
· deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of Al Qaida
who hide in your land.
· release all foreign nationals, including American citizens, you
have unjustly imprisoned.
· protect foreign journalists, diplomats, and aid workers in your
· close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp
in Afghanistan, and hand over every terrorist and every person in their support
structure to appropriate authorities.
· give the United States full access to terrorist training camps,
so we can make sure they are no longer operating.
The President made it clear that the demands were ‘not open
to negotiation or discussion’ and warned that the Taliban must ‘act
immediately’ to ‘hand over the terrorists’, or ‘share in their fate’.
This was followed by NATO determining
on 2 October that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty
did indeed apply to the attacks, making it the first time in NATO’s 52-year
history that Article 5 had been used. Two days later NATO agreed to a package
of eight measures that would provide military, intelligence and logistical
support to the US. This paved the way for NATO to mount its first-ever
operations outside the Euro-Atlantic region and to use its military assets in
support of Article 5 for the first time.
On 7 October 2001 the US and UK initiated military
action in Afghanistan, and on 22 October, the first
Australian troops departed to join the US-led operations. It would not be
until July 2021 that the Australian Government announced that all Australian
Defence Force personnel had left Afghanistan, ‘bringing
our nation’s longest war to a close’.
Significant anniversaries since
Every year since 2002 a ceremony is held on the anniversary
of the attacks at the site of the World Trade Center in New York at which the
names of those killed in the attacks are read aloud. Ten Australians were among
people killed and some 343 firefighters and paramedics, 60 police officers
and more than 700 employees from a single company died in the attack
on the World Trade Center alone. Approximately 2,000 children overall lost a
Every one of the victims who died
on September 11th was the most important person on earth to somebody.
President George W Bush, 11 December 2001
1st anniversary (2002)
In an address
to an ecumenical service in Canberra on 11 September 2002, Prime Minister
So as we gather in this Cathedral in our national capital to
remember those terrible events, we grieve for those we lost, we grieve for the
families of those ten Australians who died, we grieve with our American
friends. We resolve to work ever closer together to root out evil, we resolve
ever more firmly to extend the hand of Australian friendship and mateship to
all Australians irrespective of their religious or ethnic background. We are
Australians together. We are Australians and Americans and others together in
the campaign against evil. We owe to the memory of those who died a year ago
today a commitment to a continuance of the values of tolerance and decency
which are above all else the foundations on which our society is built.
At a memorial
service at the Church of the Epiphany in New York on 11 September 2002,
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, stated:
11 September galvanised not just the United States, but
Australia and New Zealand, prompting many to demonstrate their sense of shock,
and affinity. In the end, our feelings of compassion and resolve have prevailed
over those of fear, or horror, or retribution. This was, I am sure, in part
because 11 September was an attack on the lifestyles and values that we hold so
dear. The enormity of the crime was such that it brought home to us all the
need to be resolute, deliberate, and measured – both as individuals and
collectively. I believe that it is our common belief in individual rights,
tolerance and diversity – the values which the perpetrators sought to undermine
– that will help us to remember, and recover.
In a statement issued on 11 September 2002 the Leader
of the Opposition, Simon Crean, observed:
September 11, 2001 is a day none of us will forget. Its first
anniversary is a day for remembrance, reflection and resolve.
We reflect on our own sense of vulnerability from this new
threat of global terrorism. September 11 was not just an attack on America, it
was an attack on us all. It was an attack on the universal values of tolerance and
freedom. Watching the people in the World Trade Centre Towers confront the
prospect of their deaths had a profound impact on us all.
5th anniversary (2006)
Noting in a speech
to parliament on 11 September 2006 that the 5th anniversary of the attacks
was ‘an occasion for both remembrance and reaffirmation’, Prime Minister Howard
It is an occasion to remember the tragic loss of life, which
included some 10 Australians. It is also an occasion to mark what an
extraordinary change in the affairs of the world that terrorist attack ushered
The most important observation to make today is that fighting
terrorism is a cause that involves us all. It is not just for the United
States. It is not just for the United Kingdom or what used to be called the
West. It is not just for Australia. It is for the entire world. If terrorism is
to be defeated ultimately—and it will take years; let us not delude
ourselves—it will require the marshalling, the commitment, the resolve, the
resources and the spirit of men and women all around the world. It will involve
the commitment of all faiths as well as people of no faith at all.
Terrorism is a threat to our way of life. The attack on 11
September was not just an attack on the people of the United States; it was an
attack on the free people of the entire world. In our responses, let us
understand the grim reality that, whereas in so many other cases prevention is
better than cure, in relation to terrorism there is no cure. The only effective
antidote against terrorism is to prevent it occurring in the first place.
In response, the Leader
of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, commented:
We know that, as a result of our experience over these last
five years, only through vigilance and courage will we win the battle against
those who seek to destroy our society and the societies in which they are
largely located. We know they may break our hearts, but they cannot diminish
our resolve and our spirit.
We have to be resolute; we have to be effective; we have to be
forthright; we have to be clever. This is a challenge that will outlast, I am
afraid to say, the political careers of both the Prime Minister and me. It is a
challenge that will go on through several generations. I can only hope that we
get better and better at meeting it, that we have the same reserves of courage,
resilience, love and affection that have been shown by survivors of September
11 five years ago …
10th anniversary (2011)
In marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks on 11
September 2011, Prime Minister Julia Gillard related some personal stories in
to the National Commemoration Ceremony, concluding with the words:
And so on this day, on behalf of millions of Australians, I
We do not forget. We never forget. United always in
remembrance. United always in our resolve.
During a visit to Australia, the
French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, said on 11
I am happy to sign this morning a tribute with my colleague,
Kevin Rudd, about 9/11. The fight against terrorism is not finished and there
is very much a cooperation between France and Australia in the struggle against
this barbarian form of violence.
statement released by Mr Juppé and the Australian Minister for Foreign
Affairs, Kevin Rudd noted:
Mindful that this weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the
terrorist attacks of 11 September, Mr Rudd and Mr Juppé reaffirmed their
support for the victims of those abhorrent acts as well as the victims of
terrorism throughout the world. While there have been some notable successes in
combating terrorism, they agreed that the persistent terrorist threat reminds
us of the importance of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in tackling
international terrorist networks. Australia and France, together with other
partners, will continue to respond decisively and swiftly to counter the threat
of terrorism, at home and abroad.
15th anniversary (2016)
In March 2016, at a reception in Canberra for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum
in New York, the
US ambassador to Australia, John Berry, said:
Mr. Howard, the United States will never forget that your
first action upon returning to Australia was to invoke, for the first time
ever, the ANZUS treaty. Then and now the United States is immensely thankful
for Australia’s unwavering commitment to the war on terrorism and extremism.
Australia and the United States are united against an evil
that spreads distrust and hatred in an attempt to undermine democratic
societies. Just as we are united by the values that come to the fore after too
frequent attacks on the innocent – freedom, tolerance, and respect. It is these
values that the terrorists hold in contempt. It is these values that nourish
our alliance and our resolve.
On 11 September 2016 Prime
Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the following remarks at a press conference:
That was an attack, a terrorist attack which changed the
world. It was the largest mass casualty attack on American soil, of that kind.
It saw John Howard invoke the ANZUS Treaty and it saw us stand then, as we
stand today, shoulder to shoulder with free nations in the battle against
terrorism. We have been shoulder-to-shoulder in that battle ever since.
We remember, when we mourn those who died in the 9/11 attacks
we also honour the heroism of those who rushed to the aid of the victims in New
York and in Washington—the heroes of that hour. We honour them. Next week in
New York I will visit the 9/11 Memorial with Lucy and honour those who lost
their lives both as victims of the attack and also as victims of the attack
while they were seeking to rescue those who had been assaulted by that
The Australians known to have died in the attacks were (in
- Kevin Dennis, 43, Queensland
- Alberto Dominguez, 66, Sydney
- Elisa Ferraina, 27, Sydney
- Craig Gibson, 37, Sydney
- Peter Gyulavary, 44, Victoria
- Yvonne Kennedy, 62, Sydney
- Andrew Knox, 29, Adelaide
- Lesley Thomas, 40, NSW
- Steve Tompsett, 39, Sydney
- Leanne Whiteside, 31, Melbourne
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