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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5198

Senator CROSSIN (7:47 PM) —The bombings in Bali at the weekend have sadly claimed so many lives and caused so many injuries. The incident reminds us that all of us face the possibility of being tragically touched by the acts of terrorists. I rise this evening to convey to the Senate some of the activities that have been occurring in the Northern Territory since the weekend and to advise the Senate and citizens of this country of some of the outstanding efforts that people in the Territory have been making since this tragic news broke on Sunday morning.

At this time we know there are 13 confirmed Australian deaths, with the possibility of seven more. A further 220 Australians are unaccounted for at this stage. We know that well over 100 Australians have been injured. It appears that all the casualties were victims of a car bomb or bombs outside a nightclub in the heart of an area frequented by Australians, the Kuta beach area. We now know that two other bombings appear to have occurred at around the same time, at the US Consulate General in Bali and at the Philippines Consulate in Northern Sulawesi. We do not know of any casualties from these further bombings.

Both in the newspapers and on the television, we have seen shocking pictures of the aftermath of these explosions—the horrific injuries and deaths. Standing in this chamber this evening, I personally want to offer my profound and sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who are missing, injured or dead as a result of this international tragedy. It is a particularly difficult time for Territorians because we are very close to Bali and Indonesia—only two hours by air, in fact. Many of us up there know the Kuta area very well, and we can well imagine the hurt and trauma caused by such a surprising and vicious terrorist attack on peaceful holiday-makers. All people of goodwill will condemn the bombings in the strongest possible terms.

This morning in the Legislative Assembly, the Northern Territory's Chief Minister pledged the Territory's resources to do anything at all possible to help identify the bombers and bring them to justice. The words of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and a number of leaders of parties in this chamber yesterday have, I feel, adequately encapsulated our thoughts about this tragedy.

This evening I want to briefly outline the Territory's response to the attacks and pay tribute to the inspiring efforts of the hospital, police, transport and other workers, who have worked around the clock to care for the injured, coordinate an effective response and help in any way they can. On Sunday morning, when the Northern Territory government first heard of this news, they convened a meeting with their heads of emergency services and other agencies. A coordinated response was planned under the regional counter disaster committee. Contact was made with the federal government, and medical and crime scene assistance was offered. The federal government took up the offer of assistance and the Royal Darwin Hospital—in a magnificent response which has won praise from all quarters, and rightly so—swung into action.

Staff at the hospital dealt with 61 Bali bombing victims, who came in on four RAAF Hercules aircraft, beginning yesterday morning. The first flight arrived at 1.50 a.m., bringing five injured people. Two were on life support and one was unconscious. Five people were on stretchers and one of the victims had tragically died in transit. Only six people could actually get themselves on and off the plane, albeit with assistance, in spite of their injuries. The second plane arrived at 6.40 a.m. and discharged 22 people: two on oxygen, 19 on stretchers and only one able to walk. The third plane carried 13 people, 12 of whom were on stretchers, with one in a critical condition. The final plane arrived at 12.35 p.m. and contained 11 people, with nine on stretchers and two able to walk. Many of these patients were suffering from extremely severe injuries and associated trauma. One died in transit and, sadly, another victim died in hospital despite the staff's best efforts.

Of the patients treated at Royal Darwin Hospital, by far the most were Australians— 39, in fact. Royal Darwin Hospital also treated two patients from the UK, five from Germany and one from each of Canada, Sweden, South Africa and New Zealand. The nationalities of 11 patients remain unknown. After treatment at the hands of well-trained staff, a total of 41 patients have now been evacuated to other states—26 of them overnight. They are on their way to other hospitals and burns units closer to home. A total of 13 remain in the Royal Darwin Hospital. Six of them are still in intensive care. One more stretcher patient arrived overnight on a Qantas flight that got in at 4.40 a.m. And, at 6.15 this morning, an RAAF flight returned medical staff from Bali to Darwin. Several of those patients have now been discharged.

So you can see that this has been an intense effort in less than 48 hours. It has been an effort that has occurred mainly through the still of the night and in the early hours of the morning. The staff at the hospital have worked around the clock to give these victims the best of care, and everybody in the Territory—and no doubt this country—is very proud of their efforts. I understand that this is a very traumatic time for the staff at the hospital, but no doubt their good training and experience kicked in. They have done a very fine job. On behalf of the people I represent, and emulating the sentiments today of Clare Martin in the Territory assembly, I particularly want to thank the hospital's Medical Superintendent, Len Notaras; Acting General Manager, Gary Lum; Director of Intensive Care, Dianne Stephens; and the Director of the Emergency Unit, Didier Palmer. We also need to thank the hundreds of others associated with the hospital, who have done so much to assist at this difficult time. Burns victims are among the most difficult cases for medical care and nursing. The pain is extremely intense and moving the patients can cause great stress. It is a great tribute to the staff at the Royal Darwin Hospital that they were able to swing into action very quickly and were able to meet the very difficult demands of this event.

The Northern Territory's police and emergency services at the emergency operations centre are currently operating 24 hours a day. The centre has been the coordinator of many aspects of our response to the crisis. The centre has been operational since Sunday and has been looking after security arrangements at the hospital, the Darwin airport and other sites around the city. The Territory's Counter Disaster Council and its committee have worked smoothly to cover all aspects of the response. Police have provided traffic control and transport assistance and assisted with many other aspects of the Territory's coordinated response, including of course media liaison. People in the Territory have been very quick to respond to this crisis. They have offered accommodation to victims' families, blood donations and even money to help victims and their families.

We do not know as yet what has motivated this murderous and barbaric act of terrorism against Australians and other nationals in Kuta. It is time for us to gather all the information we can and to pledge all the assistance we can to the efforts in Bali to identify these victims and to determine what has happened. We all knew deep in our hearts after September 11 that we were living in a more dangerous world and that many places that appeared immune to attack were vulnerable. Of course, we have now learnt that in a very brutal fashion. But it is important that our steps are measured and that our reactions are based on fact and not supposition. It is important that we do not lose all the things that we value about ourselves as Australians and as Territorians—our openness, our tolerance and our ability to live with people of different backgrounds. As Clare Martin said in a press release today:

... 1,250 hospital staff have been directly or indirectly involved in this tragedy—including approximately 180 doctors and 550 nurses ... They did a tremendous job in incredibly difficult circumstances.

Territorians showed what they were made of in the crisis in 1999 involving East Timor when the tent city at Marrara went up in record time to look after hundreds of evacuees from the violence that occurred in that country during that time. The same spirit has been on display over the past 48 hours. I would like to join with Clare Martin and her colleagues in the Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to those people in the Territory and to say how very proud I am of their efforts over the past two days. While I understand that this has been a personally difficult time for many of the medical professions in the Northern Territory, they can rest in the knowledge that they have responded with great courage and provided excellent care.