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Friday, 22 June 2012
Page: 4212

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (09:32): The Social Security Amendment (Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas) Bill 2011, introduced by Senator Collins, is almost identical to a private senator's bill which I introduced last year dealing with the same topic and which had been initiated by the Leader of the Opposition Mr Tony Abbott. I do not propose to delay the Senate for very long, because what I have to say about the government's bill, which of course the opposition supports, I said when I addressed some remarks to the private senator's bill, which I will call the Abbott bill.

The opposition welcomes the fact that the government has decided to embrace Mr Abbott's idea to establish a scheme for payments to compensate Australian citizens who fall victim to overseas terrorism on similar lines to schemes that are operated by the various states and territories to compensate victims of crime. We should never forget that, far from being a country sequestered away from the trouble spots of the world in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia has been very close to the front line when it comes to the war against terrorism.

Australia has in fact lost more of its citizens to terrorist attack, as a result of the two Bali bombings, than almost any other nation. Only the United States, Spain and India have in the last decade lost more of their citizens to terrorist violence. More Australians, as you know, Mr Acting Deputy President—some 98—were killed in the first Bali bombing than were killed in the terrorist attacks on the London underground.

So we in Australia should not be insouciant when it comes to the immediate threat posed to our citizens by terrorism, although, mercifully as a result of the skill, dedication and determination of our national security agencies, in particular ASIO, there has not been since the events of September 11, 2001 a terrorist strike on Australian soil. As I said, in Bali there was a horrific terror strike against Australian citizens in which almost 100 young lives were lost.

The purpose of this bill, which now attracts bipartisanship support, in consequence of the government embracing Mr Tony Abbott's very constructive, humane and positive idea, is to seek to compensate people or the families of people who fall victim to overseas terrorism, as I said earlier, along similar lines to the way victims of crime are compensated by various criminal compensation schemes.

There is nothing more I need to add. I congratulate the government on being sensible enough, after some initial hesitancy, to embrace Mr Tony Abbott's idea and I indicate that it will of course have the support of the opposition.