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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10224


Ms MARINO (ForrestOpposition Whip) (17:02): September 11, 2001 is a date that is etched into the collective memory of the world. On that day, as we know, four flights were scheduled to travel from the east coast of the US to California, and we know that none would complete that journey. At 8.46 am—a time that we do remember—five hijackers crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Center's north tower and at 9.03 am another five hijackers crashed United Airlines flight 175 into the south tower. Yet another five hijackers flew American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9.37 am. There were another four hijackers on United Airlines flight 93 who were taking that plane to Washington DC, perhaps to attempt to crash it into the Capitol Building that houses America's congress. However, the passengers and crew on United flight 93 fought back and the flight recorder records show that they may have been on the verge of retaking the plane. But, in response, the hijackers crashed the plane into a field in Pennsylvania. The south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed at 9.59 am—you see the sequence of events—and the north tower followed suit at 10.28 am.

I do not think there is any person in this place or anyone out in the community who will ever forget where they were when that was happening. How many of us—like me—when watching this happening on television first thought, 'I must be watching a movie'? I just thought, 'I must be watching a movie.' I just could not believe what I was seeing. The dreadful horror of that being real is with me today, and I am sure that is echoed by every peace-loving person who values human life in this world. Anybody who watched that unfold and watched the horror of that aircraft hitting that building could not fail to be impacted by that forever, knowing the terror felt by the people in that building and those in the plane—the passengers; what was going through their minds? We fly from all around Australia to come to Canberra every week. You just have to imagine yourself being on that flight to know what would be in your head during that particular flight.

We have heard stories of what people have said. There is so much information out there about the experiences people had, about the desperation but also the courage: the courage of people in the towers—the emergency services people, the people who were running up the stairs while others were having to run out. These people knew what was most likely the outcome for them, but they still did this. And that is one reason why all of us, no matter where we are, have an incredible respect for our emergency services and law enforcement officials. We saw that on that day in the way that we see that frequently here and overseas.

We were all praying that more people would get out of those buildings. We had no idea, from where we were watching, how many people were actually getting out, making their way out from the bottom of those towers, before they collapsed and as they were collapsing. But everybody was praying, because we had been told that there were possibly 20,000 or more people in those two places. And the horror of that was with all of us.

So, as those towers collapsed, the horror was indescribable. I can only imagine what the families who had people there in those towers were going through themselves, and I would suggest that many of the emotional scars remain today—not just from the fact that they may have lost their loved ones but also from the impact of what they had to go through themselves in watching that evolve. Those are the sorts of scars that do not leave you.

Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-seven innocent people died, and the hijackers. Two hundred and forty-six passengers and crew on those four aircraft were also sacrificed. The numbers are just mind-boggling. At the Pentagon, 125 lives were lost, of whom 55 were military personnel. At the World Trade Center, 2,606 people were killed, including 411 very brave emergency services workers from the New York police department, the police fire department, firefighters and paramedics, the New York port authority police department and eight private company paramedics. Among those who were at the World Trade Center, at least 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths to avoid the flames and smoke. I suspect that everybody in this House who saw that footage will remember that sight and how we felt seeing what was happening to those people and the desperate decisions they were forced to make.

But then there were those who planned and instigated this crime against all of the world's humanity—and this was not just a crime against people in the US; this was a crime against us all. For everybody who values human life and who values a peaceful existence, this was a crime against us all. The 9/11 Commission Report alleges that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the principal architect of the 9-11 attacks. He is also alleged to have played a significant role in many of the most significant terrorist plots of recent decades, including the World Trade Center bombing of 1993, and the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed 202 people including 88 incredible Australians. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured on 1 March 2003 in Pakistan and transferred to US custody. In March 2007, he confessed to masterminding the September 11 attacks, the Bali nightclub bombing, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and various other attacks.

The horror of the September attack lives not just in America but, as I said, all around the world. For the 10 Australian people who had their lives cut short, we mourn them as their families do, and I am sure their families mourn them every day. It does not go away for these people. It is not just that you remember them one day of the year. And we should note that those responsible for these atrocities are responsible often for similar atrocities against their own people, because they do not value human life. We see that in other nations. We see it in Afghanistan. And while we see such evil in these people, the response of strength and the response of resolve from the rest of the world and world leaders is part of what we need to do to counter this threat.

In looking at the DFAT site I note that they also said that we need to be constantly aware of the need for security and for the development of strategic and sustained national responses, and that transnational terrorism presents Australia with a challenge previously unknown. We do know that the cyber world presents a level of terrorism that we have not experienced before, and we do know that globalisation has put Australia within the reach of transnational terrorists. As we know, we are international traders, and part of that reach is international trading. We travel extensively, and we also engage internationally as peacekeepers and peacemakers, as we see in the community-building that is happening in Afghanistan. It is critical that Australia and Australians acknowledge that we are part of the transnational threat and that the need for vigilance is constant. This is the world as we know it now, and so counter-terrorism efforts in this nation and around the world are an area of great focus for this nation and need to be ongoing.

In closing, let me say that we do need to stay the course. We need to maintain our focus on counter-terrorism activities, and we need to maintain a relationship, a very strong activity, with the US and our alliance—those who, on the day, John Howard grieved with and supported and about whom he made a very strong statement on behalf of Australia and Australians. As a nation we cannot afford to drop our guard on this, and I urge all members to recognise the responsibility we bear in that in this place.