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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 3089

Mr TURNBULL (5:19 PM) —The Australian parliament stood together, as indeed our whole nation did, expressing our condolences to the people of New Zealand following the shocking earthquake in Christchurch. It is often said that Australians and New Zealanders are very close, although our rivalry in sporting events, particularly rugby, would indicate that there is a healthy degree of competition. Nonetheless, it is difficult to imagine any two countries which could be closer. As we know from our own Constitution, it was contemplated that New Zealand would enter into this great federation. While I think that is unlikely to occur anytime soon, who knows—perhaps our nations will become closer still in terms of our political relationship. There are over half a million New Zealand citizens living in Australia. That is a very large percentage of the total number of New Zealand citizens. A very significant percentage of that country’s citizenry live among us, and most Australians would not regard them as being anything other than fellow Aussies. So our bonds are very, very close.

So our bonds are very close. We have fought side by side in many wars, and indeed the greatest military tradition, the greatest military ethos, of our nation is of course a shared one. The Anzac tradition, the Anzac spirit, is an Australian and New Zealand tradition. So when an earthquake or a natural disaster occurs in New Zealand it has an impact on all of us, in the same way as it would have had it occurred within the Commonwealth of Australia so described. And so we were deeply shocked by the Christchurch earthquake. As we know, more than 180 people were killed. The earthquake occurred on 27 February, less than six months after an earlier earthquake had hit Christchurch, causing heavy damage but fortunately causing no loss of life.

We had of course grieved earlier over the Pike River mine tragedy, which had claimed the lives of 29 miners. Again, that tragedy was felt as keenly here as though that had been an Australian coalmine with Australian miners. The earthquake of 22 February was less severe in a technical sense than that of September, but because it was at a more shallow depth, and because it was much closer to the city of Christchurch, the damage was very considerable. John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, declared his nation’s first ever national state of emergency. Immediately, Australians were generous in their support of the Red Cross earthquake appeal, and our overall Australian effort at the height of the crisis involved more than 600 people assisting in the largest search and rescue operation in New Zealand’s history. It is worth noting that rescue workers came from many countries—the United States, Britain, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. A number of Japanese students were killed and injured in the earthquake, and it is, as I reflected yesterday, a matter for some sober reflection, some grim reflection, that the Japanese search and rescue team, as they were completing their work in Christchurch, had to rush home to deal with an even greater earthquake and a tsunami in their own country—a reminder of the awful strength of nature and the way nature’s forces can overwhelm even the most technologically developed and sophisticated works of mankind.

In my own electorate of Wentworth there are many New Zealand citizens, as there are in every electorate in Australia. I suppose my electorate, being on the coast in Sydney, is one of the closest to New Zealand. We have a very fond and deep relationship with the people of that country. I was with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, at the Gallipoli celebrations only last year. He spoke eloquently there, as he spoke eloquently at the memorial service in Christchurch. New Zealand is very fortunate to have such a great leader as John Key. He is an outstanding man with a great record of achievement and a quiet patriotism, and he combines the stoicism, the ingenuity and the moral courage that we have come to recognise as part of the New Zealand spirit—and, may I say, also part of the Australian spirit, because our nation’s ethos and traditions are so very similar.

So, on behalf of the people of my electorate of Wentworth, I join all of our colleagues in the parliament, whether they have spoken in this debate or not, in expressing our very deep and sincere condolences to the people of New Zealand, recognising the close ties that bind us together and recognising that, while we see in these natural disasters the worst that nature can fling at us, we also see the very best that men and women of courage, conviction, commitment and character can bring to bear in the face of the awful strength of nature.