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Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Page: 9082

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (4:14 PM) —Mr Speaker, on indulgence: I just want to draw the House’s attention to the fact that today is the fifth anniversary of the terrorist bomb explosion outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta on 9 September 2004. The explosion killed 11 Indonesians and injured over 200 others, about 30 very seriously. Some of the victims themselves worked in the Australian embassy. Today our thoughts are of course with the families of the victims. This will be a sad reminder for them.

It is also a reminder of the professionalism, the stoicism and the courage of Australian officials who were in the embassy at that time. I was reminded of this recently when I visited Jakarta in the aftermath of the July Jakarta hotel bombings. This is a group of Australian officials who have been through a lot of pain and hardship in recent years—the Bali bombings, the Garuda air crash, the embassy bomb attack and the recent Jakarta hotel bombings. We very much value their professionalism, their courage and their dedication to the work they do for Australia in Indonesia.

Members on both sides might recall that our ambassador at the time was Ambassador David Ritchie, who was actually seated at his desk when the bomb went off. A metal fence post went through the window and he narrowly escaped serious harm, if not death. Fortunately, he was unscathed. He then immediately set about the task of establishing a command post. We pay tribute to the good work that he did on that occasion. Since then he has been Deputy Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, serving governments of both political persuasions with distinction. Recently he advised the acting secretary of the department and me that he was proposing to retire as deputy secretary, effective on Friday. I have asked him to conduct some offline projects, which he will do, and towards the end of the year he will prepare for an overseas mission, the details of which I will announce in due course. But, on the fifth anniversary of the attack on the embassy, where Ambassador Ritchie performed with such courage and distinction, I want to draw his longstanding contribution to the attention of the House.

Could I also just make the point that, in all of these very difficult and tragic events that we have dealt with, our cooperation with the Indonesian government continues at a first-class level. No country has done more than Indonesia to hunt down terrorists and to offset terrorist activity, and we continue to very much applaud their efforts in this respect.