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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 782

Mr SIMPKINS (7:30 PM) —It is with some sadness that I offer my comments today on the tragedy that has befallen Haiti. There is no doubt that it is very hard for us in this country to appreciate the depth of suffering that can result in these places when they are subject to natural disasters of the magnitude that occurred on 12 January this year. Nevertheless, I would like to talk a little about what has occurred in Haiti. I begin by saying that the nation and the people of Haiti have my deepest condolences for the tragedy that they have suffered.

Of course, in the history of Haiti, this is not the first time by any means that an earthquake has afflicted that nation. I understand that in 1751 all but one masonry-built house fell in an earthquake in Port-au-Prince. In 1770, 1842 and 1946 there were major quakes—the one in 1946 had a magnitude of eight on the Richter scale; it brought Haiti down and did great damage to Port-au-Prince. That part of the world also suffers from the major storms that can occur seasonally there. So Haiti has been no stranger to sadness and adversity over that time.

On 12 January at 4.53 pm the latest earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale, resulted in great destruction, particularly in Port-au-Prince but also in other parts around the city area. Somewhere between 170,000 and 200,000 people are reported to have been killed in that tragedy, with 300,000 injured and over a million homeless. Again, it is very hard for us here, in such a stable country in all regards, to appreciate what has befallen the people of Haiti. Furthermore, 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings have been destroyed. The place has been decimated. The capital is a wreck.

I think it is important to examine this. Some of this might have been avoided. I am not saying that an earthquake measuring seven on the Richter scale will leave everything standing even if construction codes are excellent, but the reality is that there apparently are no construction codes in Haiti and the standards of construction are extremely low. Houses were built on slopes with insufficient steel within the foundations. This was a tragedy and a disaster exacerbated by a history of maladministration. I think that that is also a tragedy. As part of the reconstruction effort—I know a lot of countries have committed a lot of money to this and obviously we applaud what the federal government has put in, the $10 million up front and $5 million for further reconstruction later—there should certainly be a very strong look at putting in place the good governance and standards that are required to try and mitigate the damage that will be caused in future tragedies so that this does not need to happen again on this scale. I think those are things that we need to take away from this.

In the short time I have remaining I would like to talk about what the people of Haiti are facing now. The women and children are extremely vulnerable. Of course, women and children have never had a fair go in Haiti. Apparently, rape was made a crime on the statute books only in 2005—more evidence of what needs to be done. They need to put in place a proper administration and restore a working democracy to make sure that children and women are protected in that country. I thank the Lord that America has responded quickly, as have a number of countries, to make sure that there are soldiers on the ground trying to protect the weak and the vulnerable. It is a tragedy. The country has my condolence, but I look for a much brighter future.