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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 784

Mr FORREST (7:40 PM) —I too join with colleagues in supporting the motion of the member for Fremantle. Might I offer my condolences, because I am well aware that she has suffered grief for friends, acquaintances and former work colleagues in the United Nations. The death toll of United Nations workers has reached a staggering 93, as I am informed as recently as today. Then you add to that the sheer size of the toll amongst Haitians themselves.

Having attended commemorative functions for Black Saturday in the town of Horsham in my electorate over the weekend, which had a very bad fire, I was reminded that people are well aware of the impact of tragedy. Australians are not strangers to that, but the sheer size of the death toll in Haiti is staggering. I also recall the deep shock of Cyclone Tracey; I was a young engineer at the time. I commend the effort that came out of that disaster, which basically destroyed a whole city. The Australian building industry was overturned, with proper standards being set for cyclone design for buildings.

In a period of grief we need to talk realistically about offering to help Haiti and nations like Haiti—who lack the GDP—to pay for proper building design. It is a tragedy that UN staffers were killed at work in a multistorey building clearly not designed to cope with earthquakes. Earthquake design is no mystery today. It happens right across California and Japan and other earthquake-prone regions of the world. People say that it must cost an enormous amount. No, it does not. The added cost of earthquake design is as small as 1.5 per cent. It is about understanding what an earthquake does. It is not an up-and-down motion but a horizontal motion. It is about building flexibility into a building so that it can move with the horrendous horizontal shift that occurs during earthquakes. You can do that with steel but you cannot necessarily do it with concrete. I understand the building that housed the United Nations staff in Haiti was concrete. We need to do as other members have said—send some engineers over there who know about earthquake design—and help them recover. For a small island state in the middle of the Caribbean, in an area where the Californian and Caribbean plates join, I would recommend that they stay away from multistorey building. That would be my advice.

Similarly, Black Saturday is going to spur us on to be much more conscious about how we manage our forests in the future. Motions like that which the member for Fremantle moved here today spur us on to put on the public record our determination to provide assistance.

There are not a large number of Haitians in Australia but I have discovered one family in a town in Robinvale. They are still waiting on news of loved ones; they have brothers and sisters who have still not been recovered and they do not know where they are. That is a terrible position for families to be put in when the situation was perfectly avoidable.

The death toll is up to 220,000, with 300,000 injured. Imagine the strain that has put on the health system. There have been more than 4,000 amputations. Mr Deputy Speaker Washer, in your professional role you would understand the nature of the crush injury that causes the ultimate amputation of a limb. Haiti desperately needs our help and assistance. It is a great tragedy that just as Haiti was starting to rise above the challenges and political difficulties that it has had over the years this disaster happened. The death and injury toll in Haiti, with a population of less than 10 million, is going to set them back horrendously.

We as a nation need to join with the United States and other countries to help these people recover, and I would like to be part of that. I commend the member for Wills for his comments, which I strenuously support. Australians need to understand that we are the lucky country and that there are other countries around the world that do not enjoy our level of prosperity. I think it is perfectly appropriate that we share the benefit we have with those around the world who are less fortunate than us.