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- Start of Business
- OPENING OF PARLIAMENT
- AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER OATH OR AFFIRMATION OF ALLEGIANCE
- RETURNS TO WRITS
- MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND
- MEMBERS SWORN
- PRESENTATION TO GOVERNOR-GENERAL
- AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER OATH OR AFFIRMATION
- MESSAGE FROM THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
- AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: LEADERSHIP
- NATIONAL PARTY OF AUSTRALIA: LEADERSHIP
- PARLIAMENTARY PROCEEDINGS BROADCASTING AMENDMENT BILL 1996
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- DEPUTY SPEAKER
- TASMANIA: TRAGEDY AT PORT ARTHUR
- Opperman, Hon. Sir Hubert Ferdinand, OBE
- Young, Hon. Michael Jerome, AO
Tuesday, 30 April 1996
Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister)(5.43 p.m.) —by leave—I move:
That this House:
(a) expresses its shock at the tragic and violent shooting that took place at Port Arthur, Tasmania, on Sunday, 28 April 1996;
(b) extends its deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those killed and injured;
(c) urges all governments to work cooperatively in response to issues raised by this tragedy; and
(d) requests the Speaker to convey the terms of this resolution and the sincere wishes of this House to those families affected by this enormous tragedy, to the community of Port Arthur, and to the people of Tasmania.
It would not be right for this parliament to proceed any further without some reference, in a completely bipartisan way, to these enormous events. I say on behalf of the government that few occurrences in Australian life have shaken the nation quite as much as this. I think Australia has been shaken to the core. I think these events removed any vestigial sense of innocence that this country may have had that in some way it was untouched by some of the individual insanities and crimes that beset other societies and beset other nations.
It is an occasion for all of us to reflect upon the humiliation that it brings to us as a nation and as a people and for us to try in a constructive way to learn lessons from it and to address those issues that such a tragedy produces. And not least of course is the vexed issue of gun control laws. Whilst this is not an occasion for me to initiate a debate on that, I would not be doing the right thing by this parliament if I did not repeat to it what I said in the press conference I held yesterday: I will do all that I humanly can as leader of the government to bring about a significant improvement and to address some of the great deficiencies that exist.
When something as enormous as this occurs it does cause all of us to reflect upon some characteristics of our society. In doing that, we address matters relating not only to gun control law but also perhaps to the repetitive, mindless, numbing depiction of violence in some elements of our mass media. I am no psychological expert, I am a mere layman and an individual in these matters, but I find it very hard to believe that some of the excesses of that depiction do not have deleterious consequences.
It is a tragedy which will force all of us to address some issues—I hope constructively and not in a knee-jerk fashion. It is impossi-
ble not to feel a sense of great emotion about something such as this. There can be few things in life more innocent than a pleasant Sunday afternoon in a remote, isolated area of this country. To think that violence of this magnitude could be visited upon such innocent behaviour and, in so many instances, people who were living in the older and twilight periods of their lives is something quite shocking in its dimension.
I want to place on record the appreciation of the government and I am sure all members of the House for the tremendous work done by the Tasmanian police. Police services around the country have had some difficulties and have been seen in a very negative light by some. An event such as this—the awful task of collecting bodies and arranging identification by grieving next of kin—places an enormous emotional strain on people involved. To those people, I express the gratitude of the government. To the doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are doing such a magnificent job at the Royal Hobart Hospital and other hospitals, I also express the gratitude of the government.
Most of all I extend the deep sympathy of the government and of all Australians to those countless people, both here and around the world, who have been left bereaved by this event. It is something that has shaken this country to its core. The very least that I think all of us can do, and particularly we who have responsibilities in this parliament, is to try in a constructive and, if possible, bipartisan fashion—and I do not say that lightly; I mean it—to address some of the difficulties that arise and some of the issues that have been thrown up by these dreadful events.
Particularly to the people of the small community of Port Arthur and to the state of Tasmania, I extend on behalf of the government our profound sense of sympathy and solidarity with them at a time of such immense trauma and distress.
Honourable members —Hear, hear!