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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12310


Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (20:21): I rise this evening to support the Leader of the Opposition's private member's motion. With our nation pausing recently to reflect on the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Bali bombings it is appropriate that the House consider this important motion.

The Leader of the Opposition is to be commended for his tireless advocacy on behalf of the victims of overseas terrorism. Time after time, he has come into this House to draw attention to the challenges these Australians continue to face in their daily lives. Time after time, his request for assistance for the Australian victims of overseas terrorism, dating back to 2001, has been rejected by this government. As long as this issue remains unaddressed, the claim that this parliament stands in complete support with victims of terrorism will ring hollow.

As the motion notes, over 100 Australians have lost their lives to acts of terrorism since 11 September 2001, when people throughout the world recoiled in horror but with an overwhelming sense of sadness at the news of the attacks in the United States.

For every Australian lost to terrorism even more have been injured. In New York, Bali, London, Jakarta and Mumbai terrorists, driven by hatred and intolerance, have struck out at men, women and children because of the values and freedoms that they cherished. These people committed no crime. They were targets because they were Australians and committed to our way of life. On each occasion the resolve of our country was tested and each time it has been shown to be true.

Few events have been etched more deeply in our nation's mind or shaped our view of the world as much as the 2002 terrorist attack in the tourist district of Kuta in Bali. On that night this island paradise was shown not to be as immune from the horrors of this world as we had hoped. The attack killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, and 240 people were injured. For many this attack brought to an end Australia's age of innocence in the way the fall of Singapore and the battle for Darwin did for the previous generations of Australians. That such an act could occur so close to our shores in a place that we loved, amongst a people who had shown us nothing but kindness and hospitality, was a shock on a great scale. In the days and weeks that followed we stood together in tribute to the men and women who risked their lives not just for their loved ones but for complete strangers. We applauded the doctors and nurses who fought off exhaustion to remain at the sides of their patients and our diplomats and police officers who worked with their Indonesian counterparts to bring the perpetrators to justice. In times of greatest need the best in human nature rises to the top.

While 10 years has passed since that terrible time many of the Australians that were there continue to bear physical, mental and emotional scars. They relive the terrorist attack every day of their lives. In this cruel twist of fate their hopes and dreams have been replaced by something that once would have seemed unimaginable. Most of us will never be able to completely comprehend the fullness of their suffering. What we can do, however, is help ease the burden that they have been forced to bear.

In supporting this motion members of parliament will send an important message to the victims of overseas terrorism since 10 September 2001 that they are not forgotten, that our nation stands with them in their time of need and, in a modest but important way, will act to ease their pain. For the many Australians that have suffered a lasting injury this assistance will offer relief from the ongoing pressure of medical bills and other costs. While nothing this parliament does will ever be enough to compensate for the loss of a loved one, this assistance offers hope of a brighter, more secure future.

During the time that the coalition has pushed the government to adopt this initiative other countries have acted. For example, earlier this year the United Kingdom government established a scheme to assist victims of terrorist incidents outside of that country on or after 1 January 2002. Its list of designated incidents includes both the terrorist attacks in Bali in 2002 and Mumbai. The United Kingdom justice minister stated that Britain:

… should support and compensate those people who sadly have been injured in overseas terrorist atrocities.

While we will never be able to put right the harm victims of terrorism suffer, we hope this scheme will go some way towards helping them rebuild their lives.

That the British government is able to find the resources needed to pay victims up to 500,000 pounds despite the financial difficulties Great Britain faces, while the Gillard government rejects the modest payment of $75,000, says a lot about this government's values and its priorities.

For the Leader of the Opposition, obtaining government support for the victims of overseas terrorism has been a personal campaign dating back to the 2005 Bali bombing. Holidaying in Bali at the time of the attack, the Leader of the Opposition spent time at the Sengla Hospital working with others to ensure that all Australians had been evacuated. His deep commitment to this cause has grown from a promise that he would seek to see that the victims of overseas terrorism received the same support as the victims of crime in Australia, to legislation that he introduced in 2009 that would enable victims of terrorism to receive similar payments to those received by domestic victims of crime through state based schemes. While the government adopted part of the bill to compensate future victims of terrorism, no provisions were made for past victims. In fact the Labor government voted down an amendment that would have extended this assistance to the Australian victims of terrorism incidents dating back to the September 11 attacks on the United States. How they could do that is beyond comprehension. While we cannot guarantee the safety of Australians overseas, we can make sure that our citizens and their families are looked after in the case of a terrorist attack.

In my electorate in Perth in Kings Park tree lined avenues pay respect to the men and women of our armed forces who have fought and died defending Australia. Kings Park is home to the state war memorial. It is a sacred place, offering comfort to those impacted by the horrors of war. Such was the grief felt by the people of Western Australia following the attack on Bali in 2002 that a memorial was established in Kings Park for the 16 Western Australian victims. As I stated in my address at the recent Bali memorial service at Parliament House, so keenly did we share the pain of those who were injured, so aware were we of the loss suffered by their families and friends, such was the outpouring of grief, that a monument was erected in their memory within the same revered patch of earth reserved to honour our fallen soldiers.

I join with the Leader of the Opposition in calling on the House to support the coalition's request that the minister make the appropriate retrospective declarations so that all of the Australian victims of overseas terrorism acts since 10 September 2001 or their next of kin can receive this much needed assistance. There can be no more pathetic excuses from this government. This government must act. The Australian people and this parliament demand it of this government.