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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5402

Senator BARNETT (2:50 PM) —My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator the Hon. Robert Hill. Will the minister provide the Senate with an update of actions being taken by the Australian government to assist victims of the Bali bombings and to track down those responsible for these senseless attacks?

Senator HILL (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —There have been some significant developments over the past 24 hours. The Prime Minister has announced that he is travelling to Bali today accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. One of their first tasks will be to join with other Australians, many of them friends and families of the victims, in a memorial service this evening. That service, I understand, will take place around sunset in Bali. The Prime Minister will also be using this trip to listen to the concerns and frustrations of the families and friends of victims. We are all aware that this is a most tragic and difficult time for these people, and the emotions they feel will often be expressed through frustration and anger. We hope that the presence of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will be a symbol to these people that the Australian people as a whole are with them in this time of need. We hope that this will provide some comfort to them.

I want to again put on record our admiration for the efforts of our public servants, medical teams, police investigators and military personnel. During this tragic and difficult time they have worked tirelessly and shown great compassion. The Prime Minister will also use his trip to assess what further resources may be directed towards the outstanding work that needs to be done in Bali. The Prime Minister has also asked the Australian ambassador to Jakarta, Mr Ric Smith, to go to Bali as the overall coordinator of the Australian effort.

Again the Australian Defence Force has responded to the call. Defence diplomatic staff working from the consulate in Bali requested that additional ADF personnel be provided. A party of some 12 additional ADF staff, including three linguists and two chaplains, arrived in Bali last night. Again I record my thanks to the men and women of the ADF who perform magnificently in this task. As was said by Senator Ellison, we understand that the delays caused by the process of identifying bodies will cause some additional grief to families. Our officials will do all they can in these circumstances to minimise such delays.

In addition to the teams we have working on the identification and repatriation process, as Senator Ellison also said, our investigators are also progressing in their tasks. The Attorney-General, as has been said, announced a $2 million reward for information which we hope will lead to and contribute to the early arrest and conviction of those responsible for this callous mass murder. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to track down the killers and bring them to justice.

Finally, the government has offered further support to the families of those Australians who suffered injury in the attacks. The government has announced that it will pay airfares and accommodation costs to enable Australians injured in Bali and recovering in hospitals in Australia to be reunited with family members. This arrangement is available for families who live a long way from hospitals where their injured relatives are being treated and who would have difficulty in paying for air travel and accommodation required for hospital visits.