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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 7973


Ms MACKLIN (3:19 PM) —These are very sad times. We meet here today at the end of a terrible week for so many Australian families who are experiencing the sort of anguish and trauma that none of us here can comprehend. Both here in Australia and in Bali we know that people are suffering some sort of torment, particularly because many of them just do not know what has happened to the people that they love. So many of the stories are just plain heartbreaking. We have seen the stories repeated again and again in the newspapers, on the television and over the radio. There is the story of the terrible circumstances facing one Melbourne mother who has managed, I do not know how, to remain positive in circumstances just too horrible to contemplate. She lost one son to a motor accident and is now facing the possibility that his twin brother did not survive Saturday night's attack. There is the Sydney couple who have been scouring Bali since Sunday trying to find any trace of their daughter, tormented—and there is no other word for it—by not knowing of her fate. I think this is what is facing so many people today and, unfortunately, it is a torment they will continue to face over the next little while.

There is the Internet billboard carrying the plaintive appeal: has anyone seen my brother and his girlfriend? I think that really sums up this torment of not knowing. There is the emotional horror suffered by the Sydney man who was preparing to bring the body of his dead wife home only to find that it was not her. Then there are those who have arrived home bearing not only physical scars but, as we have heard particularly from the football teams, many of the far more painful feelings of guilt that they survived while their mates did not. Many more Australians are sharing the same anguish and uncertainty in trying to find out what has happened to those that they love in a place that is very unfamiliar to them.

As the tragedy continues to unfold, so of course the devastation caused by Saturday's attack continues to expand. None of us have been immune from that and certainly none of us have been untouched by the horror of it all. Even those fortunate enough to escape physical injury have not been unscathed. My colleague Graham Edwards spoke earlier today about a mother whose son was in Bali about to celebrate his 21st birthday when the attack occurred. Fortunately, he is now home in Perth physically unharmed but deeply traumatised by what he has witnessed and experienced in those terrible hours and days following the attack.

Among the stories of despair and devastation, we can acknowledge the wonderful acts of what must be described as heroism, generosity and compassion, values which exemplify the sort of spirit with which we are familiar. There are the seven mates who plunged into the burning remains of the Sari Club to rescue their friend; the injured who, although badly hurt, were more concerned for the welfare of their friends than themselves; and the doctors, nurses and counsellors. There is the plastic surgeon Graham Southwick, who became an accidental hero when his Bali get-away turned into a battle to save the lives of dozens of badly injured people. And there are so many other people—we do need to take this opportunity today to say—who have worked courageously and tirelessly to minimise the casualties and the trauma, and this is continuing even as I speak. They include RAAF personnel, Federal Police officers, and officials from ASIO and the Department of Foreign Affairs; all of the Indonesian emergency workers, doctors and nurses, who have done the best that they can under very difficult conditions—and there is also the generosity of the Balinese people, who have been greatly devastated by this attack as well.

Despite the goodwill of those trying to help out, both here and in Bali, the family and friends of those killed, injured and missing feel understandable frustration and anger, and we have to respond to that anger. They are angry that they are not being given the information they want and they are very frustrated by what they certainly see—and it is understandable that they see it this way—as the sort of bureaucracy that is very hard for them to understand in these terrible times. They want to know if their loved ones travelling through Asia were in Bali at the time of the attack. They want to know whether their loved ones are safe, wherever they are, and whether or not they can get home. Those fearing the worst just want to identify the remains of the people they love and bring them home. They want some degree of closure for the terrible grief that they feel. At a time like this, we must all do the very best we can to make sure that families have the answers that they want and get them as quickly as possible.

We all recognise that many victims of the attack were young people, and that makes it so much more painful for all of us, both here in the parliament and right around the country. Many members of this House have spoken to the families of the victims and many have been to Bali. Some, I gather, have even been to the Sari Club and Paddy's Bar where these terrible events have taken place, making it that much more possible for all of us to recognise the importance of making sure that this type of attack does not occur again. There is one thing we want to do above all else, in addition to helping those who have been hurt and making sure that the bodies of those who have been killed are safely brought home: we have to find who perpetrated what can only be described as a terrible act of murder and make sure that they are brought to justice. We support very strongly the government's initiatives in working closely with the Indonesian police and the Indonesian government to achieve that.

But it is very important in all this, just as with September 11, that we put the blame squarely with the terrorists and the terrorists only. There is no blame to be cast anywhere else. It is particularly important for us to continue to reiterate that this is the work of criminals and fanatics. It is certainly not the work of any person of faith. We all welcome particularly the statements that have been made by the Australian Islamic leaders unreservedly condemning the attacks that have occurred. They, understandably, are as outraged as all of us. I believe that it is important today for us to ask all Australians to continue to show respect for people of all faiths so that, following these terrible events, people here in Australia do not suffer any repercussions—as they certainly do not deserve to suffer any repercussions.

We know that the Australian people want maximum effort to go into the task of getting the bodies of people home and tracking down the perpetrators. To this end, we have put forward two positive suggestions to the government both to advance our fight against terrorism and to assist the victims of the terrorist attack. The first suggestion was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition on Monday earlier this week in proposing that we have a regional summit on the elimination of terrorism in South-East Asia. I was pleased to hear the Acting Prime Minister's comments in question time when he emphasised the importance of engagement with South-East Asia.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs may like to respond to this proposition when he is called on to speak in this debate. As he was not here on Monday, I will mention briefly that the proposal is to have our governments work together to identify and bring to justice those responsible for these terrible acts and then to put in place regional institutional machinery necessary for a continuing campaign against terrorism in our neighbourhood. We know that that will not be done just in one meeting. We know that it will only be done by our governments working together with absolute determination in the period ahead to get rid of this terrible scourge of terrorism from our part of the world.

The second proposal which the Leader of the Opposition put forward today was the appointment of a single coordinator-general to direct the Australian relief effort in Bali. We are very pleased to hear that the government has appointed Mr Ric Smith, and that he is on his way to Bali today. I am sure that the families of the victims, and all Australians, will be pleased to know that this has occurred. It is the case that all Australians are doing what they can, even in their small ways, to support the victims of Saturday's attack. At times of adversity we know that Australians do pull together.

The important thing to say right now is that we have an opportunity on Sunday to show, particularly to the victims of the attack—many of whom are still in terrible situations in hospital—and also to their families, as well as families who do not know whether their relatives are alive or dead, that we care. We should all come together on Sunday to share in the pain of these terrible events. I encourage as many Australians as possible to get involved on Sunday, on this national day of mourning, to show all of those suffering grief, pain and trauma that we are with them, that we do care and that we are very strongly supporting them.

I commend to those families in this very difficult time the thoughts of Gary Redmond, who lost a son and a daughter-in-law in the Swiss canyoning disaster. What Mr Redmond wants to tell all of those people who have lost family or who have lost many wonderful friends is that, no matter how dark the world seems at the moment, they will come through. His view is that their loved ones will always be with them in their thoughts, but there will come a time when the sharp pain of the loss that so many people are feeling now will begin to ease. It is a terribly hard thing to imagine right now, but it can only be eased by people gaining the sort of knowledge that they are desperate to have—to know what has happened to the people who are missing, to be able to identify the people who are dead and whose bodies remain unidentified in Bali.

It is for those reasons that we need to offer our comfort and our thoughts to as many people as possible on Sunday, whether it is in the local park, whether it is in a church or whether it is through going to the hospital and showing our support for those who are injured, and of course for those providing the enormous support and treatment for people who are suffering horrific injuries. Whichever way people feel is appropriate, we do need to do exactly that on Sunday, so that people know they are not alone in this very sad time.