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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5125


Senator FERRIS (2:53 PM) —My question is to Senator Hill, the Minister for Defence. Will the government pay the cost of repatriating those who have lost their lives?


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Yes, the Australian government have decided to pay the cost of repatriation of victims to their families in Australia. We will also pay for any family members who wish to travel to Bali to assist in identification or for other reasons relating to a family member having become, unfortunately, a victim. The identification of remains has to take place in Bali. The government have engaged Kenyon, a firm of international disaster morticians, to prepare remains for repatriation and Qantas will fly them back. The Senate may also be interested to know that our consul general has held a briefing session for families who have assembled in Bali. That took place, I understand, at midday today. It also involved the embassy doctor, a DFAT counsellor and other officials. DFAT staff continue to seek to reconcile all cases reported by families in order to reduce as quickly as possible the number of Australians who are unaccounted for. This is a complex and difficult task and I am advised they are over halfway through the process of recontacting families in Australia who have family members currently unaccounted for. They therefore expect to be able to provide further advice on that matter in the not-too-distant future. The consul general has also conducted a search of hospitals and is satisfied that no Australians remain in hospitals in Bali.

As I understand it, no remains have yet been released from the morgue for repatriation, but I have been advised that as they are identified they can be released. Arrangements are being put in place, and I think the first body may well be repatriated later today. We understand that the issue of identification and completing the formalities for the release of bodies is deeply frustrating to families. We sympathise with them and are doing everything humanly possible to assist the Indonesian authorities in this task.