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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2750

Mr HAASE (Durack) (18:45): I rise this evening to, firstly, endorse the remarks by the Prime Minister in relation to the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Broome and to add further comments of course as the member for Durack. Broome is one of the jewels in the Durack crown, so to speak. I wonder if any of us in this place have any sense of what it must have been like on that idyllic morning, a typical Broome morning, 3 March. You would think the world was a wonderful place. There was a little extra activity because of the comings and goings of dawn aircraft that were being refuelled on Roebuck Bay. Suddenly, out of the morning sky, came nine Mitsubishi Zero fighters. They proceeded to bomb 17 flying boats moored on Roebuck Bay and left a total path of destruction, killing an estimated 88 persons. Twenty minutes of that and then there was a silence of aircraft, a silence of gunfire and a silence of bombs, but there were screams for help from burning victims. A tide was running and it was almost impossible to carry out the rescues of those who had been injured and the victims of this attack.

I cannot imagine that we would have any sense of that. Immediately after the destruction had been inflicted upon those flying boats in Roebuck Bay, those nine fighter aircraft adjourned to the Broome airport where they took out numerous American and British aircraft. They left after, at most, an hour, leaving total destruction and about 88 people killed. Not one serviceable aircraft was left on the ground in Broome. The only Japanese fatality was a result of a Mr Gus Winckel, a crew member of one of the Dutch Dorniers, who was able to face an oncoming Zero with a machine gun from the hip and he took that aircraft down. Less than an hour and total havoc was wreaked on that idyllic spot, that jewel in the Durack crown, and the war had come to Western Australia. Nevertheless, as things unfolded, the Dutch supplied great asset to Australia by numerous merchant navy ships providing a lifeline to the Australia trade activities.

On 3 March this year, at the 70th anniversary of those events in Broome overlooking Roebuck Bay, we had present representatives from the United States embassy, the US Consul General Aleisha Woodward; Ambassador Willem Andreae, Kingdom of the Netherlands; Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett; Special Minister of State, the Hon. Gary Gray, representing the Prime Minister; and the much-loved local, Graeme Campbell, President of the Shire of Broome. What a different place Broome was on 3 March 2012 than on that dreadful day in 1942.

One of the sad things that I am very frustrated by in my research into those days is that, because of the turmoil of the time, there is a lack of detailed information. The best of research through the Australian War Memorial reveals numerous entries but, might I say, conflicting entries. One is not able to determine absolutely the number of persons who lost their lives that day. No-one is able to determine whether or not any local Indigenous people lost their lives. Some 25 Dutch nationals whose bodies were able to be rescued were buried in Broome and later exhumed and transported to the war graves at Karrakatta, a suburb of Perth. Some 25 bodies were so exhumed and transported. But one cannot get an exact figure or the list of names of those who lost their lives that day.

Of heroic deeds there are numerous examples—local people who responded to cries for help and threw themselves into high-running tides and burning water, covered in burning diesel, to rescue women and children from those flying boats. Not well known is the fact that from early February to that point in early March there were something like 8,000 Dutch nationals transferred from Batavia through to Perth via Broome—Broome being an appropriate landing and refuelling spot in the northern portion of Western Australia. So Broome suddenly became a hubbub of activity. And of course in the latter stages of the war in 1942 many things unfolded. There was a migration south from Northern Australia, the Brisbane Line was created and MacArthur directed activities in Northern Australia, and there was the war in the Pacific et cetera.

More and more I find that this current generation is much concerned with those things that occurred during the Second World War. It is something of a phenomenon. Whether or not it is the passing of the veterans of those battles and of that era I cannot be sure. But it is certain that there is a renewed interest. This last 70th anniversary and the spectacle that was re-enacted overlooking Roebuck Bay on 3 March this year will, I believe, be an occasion that is rerun; the occasion will be used to pay our respects and recall that history. I note that more sage individuals than I have urged us today to reflect on the past in order to be better prepared and to cope with the future here in this wonderful land of ours.

So I have had great pleasure in rising this evening to remind the House of the 70th anniversary of the events that took place on that dreadful day, and in anticipating that in years to come that fateful 3 March 1942 will be commemorated on numerous occasions and so teach us of the horrors of the past and prepare us for the future—a future, we trust, that will not see warfare on these wonderful shores of the nation Australia.