13 Oct 2012

Terror attack in Australia less likely: Howard

6:27 am on 13 October 2012

Former Australian prime minister John Howard says Australians are more wary and better prepared for a terrorist attack than they were before the Bali bombings 10 years ago.

Mr Howard, who was prime minister at the time of the Bali bombings on 12 October, 2002 in which 202 people died, said no government could guarantee against extremist attacks, but the Bali atrocity had made Australians more wary and better prepared.

"I don't think the likelihood of it now is any greater than it was 10 years ago. In some respects it's less than it was," he told AAP after attending a 10th anniversary memorial service in Bali.

Australia had stronger laws, terrorist networks had been damaged and security forces had more timely intelligence.

"If you're saying to me could I (as prime minister) have guaranteed no attacks, or can Julia Gillard guarantee it, the answer is no. Nobody can," he said.

"All you can do if you are in office is take all necessary steps, including having tough laws and talking frankly about the causes of terrorism."

Mr Howard said tough anti-terrorism measures had been vindicated by the capture of all perpetrators of the Bali bombings, including three who had been convicted and shot by firing squad.

Mr Howard told AAP the Bali attacks had made Australians more wary and worldly, but had not destroyed their spirit or their appetite for adventure overseas.

He said it had given him a deeper affection and respect for the duality of the Australian character.

"We can be as tough as tungsten when needed, and also gentle and compassionate when needed," he said. "It's not a bad double."