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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 1284


Senator ABETZ (3:41 PM) —With more than 8,000 people confirmed dead, 2,700 injured and 12,200 still missing, our neighbour and friend Japan has been subjected to one of the biggest natural disasters in living memory. Never before, through the marvel of modern communications, has the world witnessed horror of such an unfathomable scale. As though a magnitude 9 quake was not enough, we witnessed the consequent tsunami, a 10-metre wall of water with its irresistible force. But even in this disaster, devastation and desperation, hope remained and was rewarded with a miraculous discovery and saving of an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson nine days after the disaster. I am sure this discovery will provide a much needed fillip, much needed support and a renewed sense of purpose to their emergency workers.

A characteristic which has served the Japanese well is their sense of stoicism. Their tradition of rebirth as a nation is well documented. That tradition runs deep, as Rowan Callick, the Australian’s Asia-Pacific editor, noted on the weekend. As our Japanese friends tap into that rich vein of tradition, they can be assured of our help as a people individually and as represented by our government, our defence and emergency personnel and departmental officials. We have provided air support, we have provided search and rescue support, we have provided nuclear scientific support—our people are doing us proud. Apart from this practical display, we provide what the Japanese describe as kanashimi, or sorrow, a word I learnt only this morning—one that I trust I have not mangled too much—courtesy of His Excellency the Japanese Ambassador as I signed the condolence book at the Japanese Embassy. If there was any doubt of the world community support for Japan, the line-up of ambassadors from around the world to sign the condolence book this morning would erase any such doubt.

My office received a poignant first-hand eyewitness account from an Australian in Japan. Her email read in part:

Despite the devastation, what we have seen is the undeniable strength and calm of the Japanese people. We were in a hotel lobby at the time of the original ‘9’ quake and its subsequent aftershocks. The staff remained professional, all continuing to do their work and even offering tea, coffee and biscuits in between the tremors. The supermarkets may be fast depleting in their supplies but there is a general understanding that there should always be something left for the next person, with no-one taking more than they need. The Japanese people are taking every day as it comes. They are doing so with calm and resilience. They do not look to the future and feel sad for what they may not have. Instead, they are banding together, helping and housing their neighbours and maintaining calm. There is no sense of panic, even with a constant and looming nuclear threat. This is not something that they are thinking about or, if they are, they do not show it nor speak of it.

What a wonderful testament that is to the resilience, sense of purpose and sense of community of the Japanese people.

Japan as a nation has a pivotal role, both strategically and economically, in global terms but especially so in our region. It is therefore within our—that is, Australia’s—interests but also our region’s and the world’s interests that we combine to assist to rebuild Japan, apart from the obvious and overwhelming humanitarian obligation to do so. Our wish is for another tsunami, but this time a tsunami of gigantic global goodwill to overwhelm the Japanese people with comfort, support and assistance. I congratulate the Australian government on its contribution of $10 million announced today. It is for these reasons that the coalition joins with the government in supporting the motion moved by the Leader of the Government and to express our ‘kanashimi’ to the people of Japan.