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Transcript of press conference: Parliament House, Canberra: 9 May 2006: Beaconsfield miners.

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9 May 2006


Subjects: Beaconsfield miners



Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I know that I speak for all Australians in expressing relief and joy and gratitude that Brant Webb and Todd Russell have been brought to the surface. They appear to be in remarkable health and we ought to give thanks to everybody responsible for this great achievement. It has been a triumph of Australian mateship, the way in which the whole community worked together. The rescuers, of course, deserve our particular praise and thanks because they were the men who risked their lives to bring their fellow Australians to the surface.

Mining is dangerous work. It’s very dirty work. It requires a high degree of skill and the engineering techniques used in bringing these men out have set a new benchmark for mining operations around the world.

I want to pay tribute to all the elements of the community, the mayor, the churches, the Australian Workers’ Union and all the other people in the community who worked so hard. It was a great cooperative effort. I do want to pay a special tribute to the man who, in a sense, carried the responsibility of the rescue operation through the whole period and that was Mr Matthew Gill. He in the end was the bloke who was responsible for the operation with his team. So I pay a particular tribute to Matthew Gill and his team. But that is not in any way to diminish the wonderful leadership given in so many other ways. The churches of the community gave tremendous comfort and spiritual leadership and a lot of material sustenance.

But amidst this, of course, we feel particularly sorry for the family of Larry Knight who will be laid to rest today. Their special act of mateship was to try and delay his funeral so that his friends could attend. Whether they can of course is a matter for them and their medical advisers, but we think particularly of him and we send our special thoughts to the family of

Larry Knight. So in sharing the joy and happiness of this community, let us again pay tribute to that sense of mateship and community which binds the Australian nation together.

And on occasions like this, we can break through barriers, we can work together as a community and as a nation and I think this community, in all its manifestations, has provided a wonderful example to the rest of the country. I have been in touch with the mayor. I spoke to him this morning and I had spoken to him on an earlier occasion. I’ve indicated that if in the aftermath, for example, if there are dislocations to the community because of the closure of the mine, the Federal Government will stand ready to do what it should do to assist the community. I’ve already appointed a Federal Government representative to serve on a local committee that’s been got together by the mayor and we’ll work as we have in the past with the local community and with the Tasmanian Government.

But can I just say again how relieved we all are. We congratulate Brant and Todd on this remarkable feat of endurance. I can’t imagine what it would have been like. I don’t think any of us can, and I think my final word must be a sense of admiration to them, that they survived to be, what, Category Three medically assessed, which is about as fit as most of us, perhaps even fitter than some. And after working in those cramped conditions it was a pretty remarkable effort. But it was a wonderful thing and I’m so delighted and I’m sure that they’ll want to spend some quiet time with their families and who could begrudge that?


What did you think when they walked out and clocked off? What went through your mind?


That was stylish.


How did you learn the news Mr Howard?


I learnt the news by phone call.


When you do expect to speak with Brant and Todd?


Well I’d like to try and talk to them today but I think their first priority is to be with their family, but I would like to talk to them. But I think they want to spend a bit of time with their family and their friends. This day, belongs above all else, to the community of Beaconsfield.

This is their triumph, this is their vindication of what a wonderful community they represent. And I think all Australians should in a sense, stand back and salute that entire community and all the elements of it. They’ve all done a wonderful job and that’s what’s so good about the outcome. Thank you.