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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7545

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (10:01): I am pleased to rise in the House to support this piece of legislation that is a direct result of the private member's bill put forward by the Leader of the Opposition some time ago. I understand that there will be some amendments being raised at a later juncture concerning the bill.

The intent of the bill is designed to support Australia victims of overseas terrorist acts. These are people who suffer because they have been deliberately targeted by terrorist groups by virtue of being Australians or indeed for simply being Westerners. Over 300 Australians have lost their lives in the past decades to a range of acts of violence, which includes terrorism in New York and Washington; Bali; London; Jakarta; and Mumbai.

Whilst there is no universally agreed definition of terrorism, most definitions ascribe a terrorist act as an attack that causes harm when the attack is made with the intent of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause. By way of background, the word terror comes from the Latin word 'terror' meaning to frighten. This was exactly what happened when the perpetrators of the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings had in mind when they killed 202 in the first Bali bombing, including 88 Australians. It was the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia. A further 240 people were injured in subsequent attacks.

It is a tragic reality that Australians are sometimes specifically targeted in overseas terrorist attacks. With news that substantial kinetic activity has occurred against the likes of the No. 2 in al-Qaeda and the No. 1, Osama bin Laden. While that can bring some small comfort—and indeed upon the death of Osama bin Laden, Paul Anicich, who is a survivor of the 2005 Bali attacks said, ' I don't feel joyous about it but I am pleased it has eventuated'. There is hope that news of this does bring a sense of justice to families of the victims of the atrocities carried out by terrorist organisations across the world.

A decade on from the terrible tragedy of 9/11 with the end of bin Laden and some of the terrorist ilk like him, we need to seize unique opportunities not just to continue to destroy terrorism where we find it but to wipe out its hateful ideology and all that causes that ideology to grow. We also need to address the fact that many people live with the consequences of the actions of terrorist strikes.

This bill is a direct result of the important work done by the Leader of Opposition, Hon Tony Abbott and his private member's bill assisting the victims of overseas terrorism. The Opposition Leader's private member's bill was aimed to provide additional financial support of up to $75,000 to Australians affected by terrorism while they were overseas.

The government's bill adopts the same approach and will institute a mechanism through the social security system called the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment. The payment will provide up to $75,000 for individuals who are injured or to a close family member of a person killed as a result of a terrorist act committed overseas. The payments are similar to those available under the state victim of crime compensation legislation. As noted in the explanatory memorandum, in particular the bill will enable Australians who are victims of declared overseas terrorist instances to claim financial support of up to $75,000. It will enable the Prime Minister to declare that a relevant overseas terrorist incident is one to which the scheme applies. It will establish eligibility criteria. It will ensure that victims are not required to repay or deduct Medicare or other benefits and payments and enable the enactment of legislative instruments to provide further guidance on the amount of assistance to subsequent victims or close family members.

While these measures will never ease the pain of losing a loved one or erase the memory of terror for victims, they will go some way to providing real and tangible support. We can agree that this bill is one that is based on great human compassion for those victims and those families who have suffered the most hateful of crimes—a crime that is directed to seek to kill them simply because of their nationality or the colour of their skin. This is about providing support to fellow Australians who, through no fault of their own, have suffered at the hand of merciless individuals and organisations who are so filled with either religious ideology, hate, anti-imperialism or anti-Western sentiments that they simply desire to seek out and destroy.

Terrorism is a crime that is devastating, not only to victims directly attacked but also to families. It is devastating to nations that have to bear the brunt of those assaults. The coalition supports the right of Australians to travel abroad freely, free of the risk of violence and attack. We as a parliament are determined that terrorism will not affect how we go about our lives. Terrorists seek to change policy through violence. We will never give in to terrorist attacks, terrorist assaults or terrorist threats.

I again acknowledge and thank the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Tony Abbott, for his foresight, his compassion and his work in relation to this important matter and his work with the government to achieve the realisation of the bill. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.

Proceedings suspended from 10:08 to 10:16