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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 33


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:06): I thank the Prime Minister for his words just then.

Friday, 20 January was in so many respects a typical Melbourne day. It began with an unexpected rain shower that quickly gave way to sunshine. The Australian Open was on. My home town was packed with tourists, shoppers, workers. And then that day was shattered.

I have lived in Melbourne nearly all of my 49 years. The Bourke Street Mall is a place that every Melburnian, every Victorian and probably every Australian knows. We have caught the 86 and the 96 tram along the mall. Many of us can picture the mall with our eyes closed. I visited the Myer Christmas windows as a child, and I have taken my own children to see them. I think perhaps that is why this tragedy has affected us so strongly, because, unlike some of the tragedies and disasters which confront the human condition, this one was not somewhere else; it was one which could have affected any of us, as we have all been there.

On the Sunday, like the Prime Minister, the Premier, the Mayor—like thousands of Victorians—I visited the GPO and laid some flowers out the front. It was later in the afternoon when I was in a supermarket in Essendon in my electorate when a strong, burly bloke came up to me, and he summed up the feelings written on so many faces and written on so many cards. He simply said about Bourke Street: 'What is the world coming to?'

What is the world coming to when this can happen? This was not an act of political or religious terrorism. It was a crime of senseless violence. The victims were chosen by cruel circumstance—they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: Matthew Si, a son, a husband to Melinda and a father; Jess Mudie, a daughter and twin sister to Emily; Bhavita Patel, a daughter and a sister; a 25-year-old visitor from Japan whose family have asked for privacy in their grief; and two children: Thalia Hakin, aged 10, a week away from starting grade 5, and Zachary Bryant, who was just three months old.

It has been said before: in the English language, a wife who loses her husband is a widow; a husband who loses his wife is a widower; children who lose their parents are orphans; but there is no word for a parent who loses a child. The unfillable hole of pain—that whole body shock of: 'Why my family?'—is too much for a single word. Those of us who do not know cannot imagine; those who do can never explain. Yet in their tributes the families have not spoken of how they died but of how they lived: the brilliant student; the much-admired colleague; the caring father; the 'badass' sister; the beautiful baby. And these families, with all their losses and pain, have thanked their fellow Australians for their kindness and compassion. Such grace in grief is truly remarkable.

Like the Prime Minister, many people who were on the scene that day have spoken movingly of the kindness amidst the chaos. At the vigil at Federation Square that I attended, a young man named Henry Dow told the story of Lou, a taxi driver, who, in shirt and tie, took calm command of all around him. In a world where we have seen too much iPhone footage of violence on the street, too many helicopter angles of attacks on the innocent, it would have been entirely understandable of Melburnians to flee the scene in that moment of fear. But the footage only shows our people, our fellow Australians, running towards the danger, administering CPR, comforting the wounded—even as there were still shots ringing out. They did what I think we hope we all would when confronted by the same set of circumstances; but perhaps we wonder in our hearts if we would be as brave as these fellow Australians. They saw strangers in trouble and did not see them and did not think of them as strangers. Ordinary people who were extraordinary. This goes for the police, too; the emergency services personnel; the trauma hospital teams desperately trying to keep people alive.

The most important job of every government is the safety of our people. I know that bail laws are different in every state. But what Australians in every state cannot understand is that, when offenders have done horrific things, when the red light should be flashing, they are out—they are on bail.

Bourke Street has gone deep into the consciousness of Australians. It stirs the same emotions as the murder of Teresa Bradford in Queensland, and all the others—in particular, women—killed by violent partners at large in the community. At every level of government, we need to get better at identifying the warning signs and using every measure to keep people safe.

Today the parliament salutes the courage of our citizens. We honour the care that our people show for one another, even in the hardest times—especially in the hardest of times. We embrace those in mourning and those in pain. And we pay our respects to those stolen from us. May they rest in eternal peace.

The SPEAKER: I thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, I invite all present to rise in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

The SPEAKER: I thank the House.