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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13363

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (19:36): Firstly, for a number of reasons, I would like to commend the member for Solomon for putting this motion before the House. It recognises the really valuable work of the National Critical Care and Trauma Centre. It is located in a hospital in Darwin, in the Northern Territory. It is quite remarkable and a real tribute to Dr Len Notaras and the other doctors there. I agree with everything in the motion. I hope you will indulge me. I want to talk about one particular part of the motion, (5)(c), regarding the East Timor presidential assassination attempt, and how well Dr Ramos-Horta was treated at the clinic. I have not really talked about this in a public forum.

In my first week as a member of parliament—I was elected in 2007-08—on 11 February, I walked down the hall to my room, RG18. I was quite a newbie here. It was just after 8 am when my phone rang. It was a terrible phone call. It was Major Mick Stone. He said, 'Janelle, Jose has been shot.' My knees buckled and I said, 'Where is he? How much blood has he lost? Get him to Aspen clinic immediately.' Aspen clinic treated our soldiers in Timor Leste. Then Luke Gosling rang me. We had the same conversation and I said, 'Quick, get him there.' Then I rang Arsenio Ramos-Horta, Jose's brother, who lived in the compound with Jose, in the green house, which had also been my house. I lived in that compound for four years and worked for Dr Ramos-Horta for years, but I am also a close family friend. Even now, it is hard for me to talk about how I felt on that day. I was just willing him to stay alive, but I knew he needed the best possible care. I snapped to, took over and told people on the telephone what to do, to make sure, even though they were doing that.

Jose Ramos-Horta came back from his morning walk along the beach when he got shot. He would walk along the beach and I would walk up the hill behind the house, so I knew exactly everything that would have happened. Needless to say, I spent the first week in parliament on the phone. I had little sleep, but there was lots of help, support and advice. I rang my girlfriend Kirsty Sword Gusmao, the wife of the Prime Minister. She had been involved in an incident with the Prime Minister. I talked with her and dealt with that issue as well in a number of ways. I was called upon to assist and liaise, and I did, in lot of ways I'll never speak about here—or anywhere. But Jose stayed conscious in the ambulance on the journey to Aspen clinic. It is quite a few kays from his place in Meti-hau Areia Branca to Aspen clinic—a bumpy road and even a bumpier ambulance, and of course he has told me about that whole trip and we have talked about it in great detail. I kept saying, 'Get him there quickly, and get him transfused; get him blood'—and some of that blood was coming out of people and going straight into him. I got an opportunity to thank the doctors and medical staff at Aspen clinic for saving his life there, where they stabilised him. It is a life very precious to me, of a dear friend.

But I am leading up to the value of Darwin's National Critical Care and Trauma Centre. It was a matter of debate—and I kept getting calls, and people were talking about where Jose would go once he had been stabilised, because they were going to move him to Australia for more intensive specialist care—about whether he would go to Brisbane, or to Sydney or somewhere else. I was thinking, 'That's a long way to travel; that's a lot of hours flying, when he is critically injured.' I said 'No, he goes to Darwin; he goes to the National Critical Care and Trauma Centre', because I knew that Dr Len Notaris and everyone would be able to do everything that was needed for him, it was a shorter trip and I thought, 'Why would you send him further, when we have that facility there', and I insisted that that was the place he needed to go to. I kept doing that, and that was where he went. I visited him at the end of that week. He was unconscious, but I sat and talked with him and I talked with the doctors, and I knew that he was getting the best possible care. They certainly did a good deal to save his life after he had been stabilised by the guys at Aspen—so, thank you for the motion. (Time expired)