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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1673

Mr LAMING (9:25 PM) —I rise to strongly support the establishment of a process to assist those who are injured overseas due to terrorist acts. I also point out that the Leader of the Opposition has opened this debate tonight in an effort to gain bipartisan support for what I think is a very important addition to the support that is currently available. I want to acknowledge at the start of this debate the families of those who have been injured, have been wounded and have been disabled due to calamitous, unforeseen, unpredictable and terrible events such as the bombings in London, New York and South-East Asia. There is not a single person in this chamber who would not wish for them to have the finest medical care available.

That is not what the debate is about tonight, but nor is it an opportunity to criticise the health system that we have and say that it is insufficient. What this debate focuses on explicitly is the unique nature of these events. The fact is that Australia is involved in an asymmetric war and one that will take long-term dedication to win. For those who are caught up in it overseas, in a range of destinations far from home, they know that they have our full support. It is not enough to simply say the wheels are in motion and the services are available. To the speakers from the government side, I only need to look into the eyes of people who have experienced such horror to know that I never want to see them walking around soccer clubs selling meat trays and I do not want them to see them begging to be placed on a waiting list. I do not want to see them struggling to get health services, recovery services and rehabilitation services that no-one in this room could disagree are well deserved.

Let us remember the context here. We are a nation standing shoulder to shoulder with other Western economies determined to win this fight. The best way that we can do that is by saying that no matter where you fall, no matter where you are struck down in this unique war against terrorism, we will be behind you. It has already been said on this side of the chamber that if these wheels are in motion, if the plans are in place and if the bureaucrats are busy scribing away with plans to help people like this then please just bring them forward and show them.

This debate was not an opportunity to criticise or to undermine; it was simply a chance to say, ‘Let’s move right now. Let’s not go to the past and say, “Why didn’t it happen last year or the year before?”‘ It is not a chance for the member for Blair, over here, to read out an almost legalistic defence, which, it seems, he does every time he is presented with words from the Prime Minister’s office to read out. He is objecting to what I think is a completely meritorious proposition. He presents an almost legalistic opposition to a bill that is grounded in all the right reasons and grounded in the belief that we should do something for families like this if we possibly can.

It has been pointed out by the previous opposition speaker that this is not a large sum of money. It is not about the money. No-one could possibly say that. Nor should it be about a pernickety nickel and diming of this effort to look after Australians who are injured overseas. The line has to be drawn somewhere. That is how public life is. The case we have made on this side is that it is not about where one falls or where one is injured. It is about the unique nature of a terrorist act—that, no matter where it occurs, whether it occurs on our shores or overseas, this government will support those affected and their next of kin.

The Assisting the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Bill 2010 is intentionally broad enough to allow for those provisions to be further negotiated through regulation. It is a shame that this is being misread as being vague or non-specific. When I listened to the member for Newcastle’s speech, I was certain that, although you put that punchline in that you are not going to support the bill, deep in your heart you can see that this bill is a genuinely important advance for families who are affected by such unforeseen events as these. The government, late at night, has a chance to stand with us, both sides of the chamber together, and make an important, small but truly valuable advance for people who are affected in situations like this. It appears that chance is being passed over. To me that is a great shame.

I think we are a nation that could say we will do everything we can for people caught in the situation of a vile and detested terrorist act. We stand shoulder to shoulder in our abhorrence of such acts and yet it seems we cannot get bipartisan agreement to support what I think is such a meritorious, simple proposition: that there is financial assistance there to pay for rehabilitation, to ensure that services can be accessed and to make sure there is a range of financial options for people to be able to help their own family members in the case of an act of overseas terrorism.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.