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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10242

Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (18:29): I pass on my appreciation for the thoughts and views on this 10-year anniversary that I have been able to sit and listen to as the members for Bennelong, Hughes, Page and Melbourne Ports have spoken. This is an event that has left a lasting legacy for us all—every member of the House, every member of the Senate and every member of the Australian community, including all the members of my electorate of Wannon.

On this 10th anniversary of what were four coordinated acts of suicide it is worth remembering what actually happened. There were two planes which flew into the Twin Towers, one which flew into the Pentagon and another which crashed into a field near Shanksville. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks. The footage of the attacks will live with us forever and the imprint it has made on our collective psyche will, I am sure, be with those who watched what happened until the day they die.

I take this opportunity to pass on my condolences to all the families, relatives and friends of those who died in the attacks. I would also like to note that if there was one theme that came out of the attacks it was that of bravery—the bravery of those who tried to help people who were caught up in the middle of the attacks and especially the bravery of those who were on the plane that crashed into Shanksville. They gave their lives so that others did not lose theirs, and I do not think you can have a greater act of bravery than that. There has been bravery in the response, and Australia has been a part of that bravery. Our soldiers have sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan to ensure that the war on terror has been successful. We have played our part. For all those soldiers and their families, relatives and friends, it is also worth us remembering what they have done in response to what happened on September 11 to ensure all members of our community are safe.

On the morning of the attacks I was the acting ambassador at our embassy in Mexico City. I will never forget watching what had happened and trying to deal with it. Our ambassador at the time was in the United States. I could not make contact with him. He could not return to the embassy for four days because, of course, all flights were grounded as a result of what happened. We had locally engaged staff working at the embassy who had relatives in New York. They did not know what might or might not have happened to those relatives. There was a sense of fear. There was a deep sense of concern and worry. We had Australians who were travelling in Mexico at the time coming into the embassy to inquire what was happening—whether they were safe, whether their planned trips further north would be going ahead or not. There was a sense of bewilderment and disbelief at what had happened.

I also remember being fortunate enough to visit New York not long after the attacks. I went up there as a tourist and I will never forget the way that New Yorkers welcomed me on that trip. They were so pleased to see that people were prepared once again to travel to New York, because the city is heavily reliant on its tourism industry. I remember going down and seeing the cordoned off Twin Towers, which were only rubble, and, as other speakers have mentioned, the huge gap that had appeared in the skyline. Everywhere you went, all the New Yorkers you ran into and discussed it with wanted to point to where the gap in the skyline was. It was like a piece of them had been removed and they did not quite know how to deal with it or what to do about it. It is interesting that it has taken so long for them to agree on what the memorial should be where the Twin Towers stood. I think it is very good that New York has agreed on how that day should be remembered. It gives the sense that they have come together to realise that part of them was taken away, but they now know how to replace it.

I also think it is worth mentioning that the Australian response was swift and decisive. Our Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, deserves to be commended for immediately invoking article IV of the ANZUS Treaty and showing the solidarity of the alliance between the US and Australia. The response and the way we have stood with the United States in that response in fighting the war on terrorism is to be commended.

I will also touch on the topic of bravery one more time, and that is the bravery that was shown in the capturing or trying to capture and in the end killing Osama bin Laden, the perpetrator of these attacks. It took Osama bin Laden three years to admit that it was al-Qaeda with him as the head of that organisation who had orchestrated and masterminded these attacks. The bravery which the US soldiers showed in bringing him to justice is to be commended, just as the bravery of all those who have given their lives in fighting the war on terror is to be commended.

It is a great privilege to be here in this House to speak on the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. We as a country and the rest of the world have shown great bravery in the way that we have dealt with it. We have not succumbed in the way I think that al-Qaeda would have liked us to and resorted to the same sort of hatred that they showed. Instead, the globe has responded in a very positive manner and that is also to be commended.

I will leave it there and I once again commend all those who have spoken previously on this matter. It is a privilege to stand here on behalf of my electorate of Wannon and remember all those who perished in those atrocious attacks.