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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10239


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (18:12): It is now a decade since 11 September, 2001, when terrorists with the deluded intention of advancing an evil and fanatical cause perpetrated an act of mass murder with the aim of sending freedom and democracy into retreat. I think everyone can remember what they were doing on that day. I can recall watching the television at home and remembering the many trips I had made to New York and the visits I had made to the World Trade Center. I remembered reading a plaque at the front of those buildings which said that 10,000 people visited each day. I thought of the massive loss of life that would occur.

A decade on, the terrorists' aim of sending freedom and democracy into retreat has failed. The planners of the attacks are either dead or behind bars. Not only do freedom and democracy remain strong but, with the recent popular revolts in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and the ongoing revolt in Syria, there is a clear desire for democracy and freedom to continue to grow throughout the world. One of the greatest lessons from September 11 is that our freedom and democracy can never be taken for granted. It is a lesson whereby ordinary citizens who enjoy the benefits of freedom and democracy must, at a single moment's notice, be ready to stand to fight to protect those very same rights.

That lesson is evidenced by the efforts of the passengers that boarded United Airlines flight 93 on that fateful day. Flight 93 was United's scheduled morning flight on September 11 departing from Newark and bound for San Francisco. Although the plane had the capacity to carry 182 passengers, the September 11 flight carried just 37 passengers, four of them terrorists. But what the terrorists did not count on was how 33 ordinary citizens, passengers on that flight, and the flight crew were prepared to fight back to protect freedom and democracy. I am sure many of us here today have made that early-morning trip from downtown Manhattan to Newark airport, travelling through the Lincoln Tunnel or on the George Washington Bridge, just like many of those 33 passengers had on that day. They would have walked down the concourse of terminal A, breezed through a security gate and walked the 100 yards to the long, circular hallway, waiting for the boarding call, just like the other 100,000 people who pass daily through Newark airport. Those 33 passengers included: a 33-year-old account manager who had travelled from California for a business meeting and who had planned to return home on a red-eye flight that night to be with his two children; a 41-year-old computer engineer who had a wife and two daughters and was heading to a business meeting in San Francisco; a 73-year-old retired bank officer who was travelling to San Francisco on a vacation; a 20-year-old Japanese student who was heading back to Japan for his second year of college; a 60-year-old ironworker heading off on a vacation; a 37-year-old husband and father from Germany who was flying to San Francisco on business; a 38-year-old advertising sales consultant returning home from her grandmother's funeral in New Jersey; a 20-year-old university student who was returning home from a visit with friends; and a 31-year-old small businessman, a former rugby player who stood at six feet, four inches and was an automatic selection at No. 8 and who also happened to be a gay man. And there was a 51-year-old lobbyist for the disabled who was the vice-chairwoman of the New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council and who was born with an inherited bone disorder that kept her height at four feet six inches. She was on her way to a grant-writing seminar. The people on the flight that day were a typical cross-section of people from a free and democratic society.

We will never know for sure all the details of what happened on that flight. But we do know that the passengers, through communicating with mobile phones to family on the ground, decided that they must make a stand and they must attempt to overpower the terrorists and storm the cockpit. And we know the final words of passenger Todd Beamer: 'Are you guys ready? Let's roll!'—a phrase which has come to symbolise self-sacrifice, heroism and initiative in a tough situation. And we do know that that plane never made it to its intended target, which was most likely either the Capitol building or the White House. Flight 93 crashed just after 10 am on 11 September 2001, in a rural Pennsylvania field just outside the tiny town of Shanksville. All 40 people on board died, but hundreds and possibly thousands of lives were saved thanks to the passengers of flight 93, who, at a moment's notice, were ready to stand and fight to protect freedom and democracy.

The permanent Flight 93 National Memorial was opened just a few days ago, on 10 September 2011. At the official dedication ceremony it was noted:

A common field one day; a field of honor forever. May all who visit this place remember the collective acts of courage of the passengers and crew, revere this hallowed ground as the final resting place of those heroes, and reflect on the power of individuals who choose to make a difference.

A decade on from 9-11, we must continue to remember that the threat of terrorism remains real even here in Australia. We have the Australian Federal Police, the Victorian and New South Wales police forces, the New South Wales Crime Commission and ASIO, whose tireless work with little recognition we have to thank for preventing several planned terror attacks on Australian soil. In 2008, five men, including a Muslim cleric, were convicted of planning a terrorist attack. During the trial, the jury heard evidence of plans to bomb the 2005 AFL Grand Final, the 2006 Australian Grand Prix and the Crown Casino. And only last year a Victorian Supreme Court jury found three men guilty of plotting a shooting rampage with automatic weapons at the Holsworthy army base in my electorate of Hughes. These perpetrators had planned on infiltrating the base and shooting as many people as possible with high-powered weapons until they were either killed or captured. Thankfully, they were arrested before their plans could be enacted. Their hatred of our country and our lifestyle was evidenced by comments recorded straight after their convictions, when one terrorist said in reference to the Black Saturday firestorm that killed 173 people in Victoria and injured another 414: 'Fires broke out around the country and we were all happy.' In the second decade after 9-11 we must assist nations in the Middle East in their transition to democracy and freedom because that is the best antidote to terrorism. But we must continue to be vigilant against those who threaten us. We must continue to remember that our freedom and democracy can never be taken for granted and must be defended, often with the point of a gun. And we must always remember that those who enjoy the benefits of freedom and democracy must be ready at a moment's notice, as those were on flight 93 that day, to stand up and fight to protect these very same rights.