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Monday, 14 October 2002
Page: 5086


Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (2:33 PM) —This is the second day of sadness stemming from the attack in Bali, and there will be many more in the weeks and months to come. Our thoughts today must be with those who are personally touched by this tragedy and, on behalf of the Australian Democrats, I offer our sincere condolences to the many Australians who have been directly affected—those who have lost loved ones and those who are grappling at the moment with the terrible uncertainty of having family members and friends unaccounted for. The Democrats also acknowledge the outstanding work currently being done by Australian service personnel, both regular and reserve, and particularly by the medical personnel. We thank the Indonesian medical personnel and other Indonesian authorities for their care for, and assistance to, Australian people in the aftermath of this disaster, as well as the many Australian volunteers in the area who have come forward to help out. We note the rapid response of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including setting up a hotline for those seeking information.

For now, the first priority must be getting additional medical aid to all of the victims and bringing Australian civilians home, but we will soon need to turn our attention to the security measures we need to take in our region. Rather than largely focusing on the other side of the world, we need to care more about what is happening in our neighbourhood. People of many nationalities were killed and injured in these attacks, but the blow to Australia has been significantly broad and brutal. The bombings occurred on our doorstep at a destination well known to be frequented by many Australian tourists. It is probable that the death toll will be larger than the number of Australians killed in the World Trade Centre attacks. I remind all Australians, though, that this attack on innocent holidaying civilians was not the action of a particular religious or ethnic group. It is almost certain that many Muslims were also killed in this attack. I make the plea that all Australians recognise that this is the act of violent, hate filled extremists who deserve no nationality and represent nobody but themselves. No religion should be held to blame for this attack. The attack is against the principles of Islam, of Christianity and of any religion. The people who perpetrated this attack are the ones who deserve to be, and must be, punished.

The Democrats remind the government of its responsibility to focus its diplomatic, security and peacekeeping efforts on the Asia-Pacific region. Whilst political debate in recent months has been around Australia's possible involvement in a war on Iraq, the Democrats wish to emphasise that Australia's primary responsibility is to our immediate region. We hope that Australia's responsibility to the Asia-Pacific region will be highlighted in forthcoming responses from the defence strategic review and the security review that are now being undertaken. Our military, strategic and intelligence resources are limited and, in determining how and where they are committed, we must be sensitive to our own important and unique position in this region. Indeed, the Minister for Defence recently acknowledged the substantial extent to which Australia's finite military resources are currently committed when he noted that:

... our troops are more heavily engaged (than) at any time since at least Vietnam in a multitude of tasks around the world.

This makes it all the more ridiculous that some of our military and financial resources are committed to the so-called Pacific solution—targeting those fleeing persecution rather than targeting terrorists who are threatening Australia's safety and security. Whilst the safety of individuals must always be a primary concern, this is not the time for Australia to be withdrawing military and intelligence personnel and resources from our immediate region—for example, withdrawing peacekeeping troops from East Timor or Indonesia.

We must work together with our neighbours, including Indonesia, to develop a coherent, coordinated strategy to address the threat of terrorism and social instability in the Asia-Pacific region. We must address the causes of terrorism, not just its devastating effects. We must honestly look at the implications of the foreign and economic policy of our nation and of other nations around the world, and whether appropriate, honest and just changes to those policies can assist in reducing some of the causes of terrorism. Australia signed a memorandum of understanding with Indonesia several months ago in which our two nations agreed to work together to combat terrorism. We do hope that this will assist the coordination of investigations into this recent attack. We acknowledge the rapid response of President Megawati of Indonesia, who visited the area yesterday, and the Democrats thank her for her commitment to act swiftly in investigating this incident.

We welcome the fact that the Australian Federal Police and ASIO are assisting Indonesian authorities. As with most attacks of terrorism, there will be difficulties and challenges associated with bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice; by their very nature, terrorist organisations are diffuse and stateless, and it is often very difficult for terrorist attacks to be attributed to particular individuals or even groups of individuals. We acknowledge that there will be political difficulties for President Sukarnoputri in acting decisively with respect to Indonesian organisations that harbour terrorists. Political courage is what is required at this time, and support for those who need to take these actions is important. Australia must show leadership and support in this situation, and work together with the Indonesian government and other states in our region to address the threats to the safety and security of our region. It is not just Australians who are at threat here, of course, but civilians of all the nations of our region, most of whom have far fewer resources to work with towards tackling this threat.

The Democrats take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the United Nations and its vital role in promoting and protecting international peace and security through collective action. However, we recognise that, in this instance, the role of identifying the perpetrators and bringing them to justice will probably be primarily in the hands of the Indonesian and Australian governments. It is important that, following this latest tragedy, Australia once again demonstrates and reaffirms its commitment to principles of democracy, freedom, compassion and tolerance—the very principles and way of life which terrorism seeks to undermine. The Australian Democrats do not support a war against terrorism if it includes unjust actions, the undermining of international law and of basic civil liberties, or responding to violence with blind vengeance or more violence. We expect that in the coming months the debate on Australian security will—indeed, must—focus more on South-East Asia and the Pacific region and on our nation's responsibilities in that area. There will be discussion on how best we can use our limited defence and intelligence resources, and I have no doubt there will be discussion on the lack of prudence in the earlier use of inflammatory language around the war on terrorism. This is a time for measured and considered language.

It is probably a coincidence that this attack has occurred one year, one month and one day after the September 11 attacks. The most obvious similarity is that the attack was targeted at civilians. Over many years, thousands if not millions of Australians have enjoyed the hospitality of the Balinese. Bali was first established as a popular tourist destination by Australian surfers, and today it is very common for sporting clubs to travel there at the end of the season. I believe that this weekend alone there were around 20,000 Australian tourists there. Because of its geography, a large number of Western Australians in particular were in Bali, and the Democrats Western Australian senators, Senator Murray and Senator Greig, have asked me to make special mention of the community impact this will have on a smaller capital city like Perth. Having said that, we recognise that in those Bali clubs there were people from all over this country and from many other countries around the globe. As well, of course, Indonesians in the region have been hurt by this, and many more will be hurt by the no doubt devastating effect it will have on the local economy there.

We will remember those people. We will remember them not only as victims of a vicious, indiscriminate attack that occurred without warning, but as they were: loved members of families, sons and daughters, partners and parents; many with their team mates celebrating sporting successes—all of them having fun. Many were young and all were innocents. Our thoughts and hearts go out to them and their loved ones. Our resolve is firm on assisting to bring those responsible to justice, and on doing whatever is just and right that will help prevent such terrible crimes from occurring in the future.