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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1666


Mr BALDWIN (8:56 PM) —I rise to support the Assisting the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Bill 2010. This bill is about human compassion. This bill is about providing support to our fellow Australians, who, through no fault of their own—only through circumstances of the location they were in at the time—have suffered at the hands of merciless terrorists, who hate us for who we are and what we are. I have never heard a speech like the one just given by the member for Blair—lacking any ounce of human compassion for his fellow Australians.

On 24 November 2009, the Prime Minister gave a commitment in this House that he would push to have this incorporated as part of a national disability scheme. In fact, on that day in the parliament Prime Minister Rudd berated me for questioning the integrity of that scheme and how it would apply to people that have been affected by terrorism—acts of terrorism such as the twin towers of September 11; the 12 October 2002 Bali bombings in which 88 Australians were killed; the London bombings in 2005, where one of my constituents, Louise Barry, hid in the underground in London and then on the No. 30 bus; and the October 2005 Bali bombings at Jimbaran Beach, where four Australians were killed, including three from the Hunter—Jennifer Williamson and Colin and Fiona Zwolinski.

This bill is about having a heart. We are asking for our fellow Australians nothing more than what they would get if indeed they were the victims of crime in any of the states here in Australia. Crime in Australia is a risk which is managed. But people travelling overseas do not go over there with the understanding that they are going to be attacked by terrorists. I say to this government that you need to be compassionate and you need to be supportive. In fact, the cost of this measure would be less than the government debt generated during the time of the debate on this bill. The amount of money that the government is borrowing while this debate ensues is more than the measures would require annually. These victims do not ask for much. It is true that we have provided support through Centrelink and we have provided emergency evacuations, but they need to get on with their lives. They need to know that the government is behind them and providing a level of financial support.

One of the victims of the Bali bombing is Paul Anicich. I first met Paul Anicich 16 years ago when he was one of the leading lights of the legal fraternity in Australia. He went on a reunion with some family friends and school friends to Bali. They went out to watch the sunset and then disaster struck. If it were not for people like Adam Frost, who is from the Hunter, who decided not to go down to watch the sunset that night—and, I have to say, the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, who played a key and instrumental role in providing support services and making sure evacuations and medical treatments were delivered to these people—who knows what the situation of those who survived the bombing blasts would be. This money can make a difference. It will allow people to get on with their lives. An email from Paul sent to me today reads:

I never thought … my life would include involvement in such an act or that I would, for myself, my wife and others be addressing matters such as this. My working and income producing life has been ended by the stroke I suffered during the bombings. While I apply myself in a manner of which I never thought myself capable to physical strength, the brain has its own ‘timetable’ I’m told. I’ve had quite a few admissions to John Hunter with continuing symptoms from what happened. I appreciate the support given by both Governments in respect of the cost of medical treatments and further appreciate the prospect of compensation in a Country which has always demonstrated its willingness to look after its people.

This financial support is not just to help those who have been affected. In a time when we have increasing acts of terrorism across the globe it is to provide for those who are yet to be affected. Whether it is providing support to those who were orphaned, Isaac and Ben Zwolinski, when their mother and father, Fiona and Colin, were killed or whether it is providing support to Bruce Williamson, who was affected, or indeed his children, Adam, Duncan and Megan—they need our support. Another person who I knew quite well is Tony Purkiss. His wife, Mary-Anne, was also severely affected. Tony is now blind and cannot work. He is without an income. He was a man who was doing a tremendous job down in Lake Macquarie at the yacht club.

What I say to this government is: have compassion. It was 15 months ago that you determined you would actually do something. In 15 months we have seen no action. All we have heard is rhetoric. We have had some meaningful discussions with the Attorney-General. I have had private meetings with the Attorney-General and I just ask of him to do what he can in this relatively small cost to the government bottom line to help fellow Australians. They are indeed fellow Australians.

I know this bill is going to be supported by the next speaker, Sharon Grierson, because in an email to Paul and Peni on 9 November 2009 she said:

It is good that Tony Abbott is raising this private members bill in the next session. It has my complete support and I will continue to lobby my colleagues on this matter.

She goes on to say:

Only Tony speaks on the Bill, unless it comes back a second time. If that does happen then I will speak in support.

There is the opportunity for the member for Newcastle tonight. She also says:

I agree with you that innocent victims of crimes of terrorism committed against the country and its government should be extended special compensation and consideration.

The local experiences demonstrate this need very clearly. Perhaps a special fund could be set up and be self-generating over time. I will look at Tony’s proposal.

Today is the day of action. You see there is not much point in putting the rhetoric out there; the rubber actually needs to hit the road. The money needs to flow. The support needs to be provided. If we do not do that, what does it say? Are we going to go another 15 months or another 15 years before we see any action?

People go overseas mostly on holidays with the intention of having a good time, not being involved in a disastrous situation. Through no fault of their own they are affected. The Leader of the Opposition has said tonight that one of the concerns that has been raised is the number of people who are Australian citizens who are resident overseas. This bill could be limited to those who are domiciled in Australia. So you must be domiciled in Australia and if you are affected by an act of terrorism then you are able to access this support.

For those that have been killed you could say that it is relatively easy. They do not need the financial support, but their families do. I have met these people. I know them, I have spoken to them and I understand the considerable pain and anguish that they go through. I have seen successful careers ended. I have seen families torn apart and I think that this money should be no different to what would be provided if indeed this bomb had gone off in Australia. If this bomb had gone off in Australia there would not be an issue. Straightaway they would have access to the victims of crime compensation in Australia. Because it happens to Australian citizens in an offshore land, as I said, through no fault of their own, they are denied any level of support.

Right from the beginning the speech by the member for Blair talked about the politics of this. There are no politics; this is about compassion. This is about supporting Australians. There was a scheme that was set up after the initial Bali bombing to provide support services, but more needs to be done. This, if you averaged it out at around 30 victims per year, which is what we have seen over the past decade, would cost the government about $2.25 million—let us say $3 million—per annum.

As I said, the government at the moment is borrowing about $100 million a day. In the length of time taken for this debate the government will have raised more than was required just to fund its debt. I implore all members—whether it is the Independents or members opposite—to think about those fellow Australians, many of whom are known to people in this place—not just to the Leader of the Opposition and me but to many. I acknowledge that the member for Newcastle was there and very supportive of those in Newcastle who were affected at the time. Now it is time for the rubber to hit the road, to end the rhetoric and to start to see action. I commend this bill to the House.