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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 597

Mr FITZGIBBON (12:09 PM) —One feels compelled, notwithstanding the distance between me and the events that have been spoken about here over the course of the last few sitting days, to make a contribution and to support those who have expressed sympathy for all of those who have been affected by floods, not only in Queensland but also in Victoria and Tasmania. Of course, we keep in mind those who, over the same period of time, were affected by bushfires in Western Australia.

We are having this condolence debate to do three things. The first is to express our sympathies to those who lost loved ones and those who were injured or somehow physically affected by what we all saw on our television screens and what many members saw firsthand as local members representing those particular constituencies. It must have been a heartrending thing for them and those close to them. The effect on them has been clear for all of us to see throughout the course of this debate and through their contributions.

The second thing we hope to do by debating this motion is to transmit to all of those who helped others throughout the course of the floods our very great vote of thanks. We are genuinely grateful to them for all that they did throughout the course of those many days, including up to the recent events in North Queensland with Cyclone Yasi. The list of those making a contribution, and therefore the list of those we thank today, is very lengthy and I am reluctant to name them because there are so many. But in the first instance we think of those who are part of the many voluntary organisations, including those in emergency services—the SES, the Bush Fire Brigade—and those who are paid to go beyond the course of duty like those who serve in the police force. One that is very close to my heart is those who serve in the Australian Defence Force.

I was Minister for Defence during the bushfires in Victoria and had the honour of visiting those reservists from the Australian Army who were working in the most difficult circumstances, trawling through burnt houses with the unenviable task of looking for the bodies of those who had not survived. No doubt, in the course of the recent events, members of our Defence Force have faced similar challenges. We are grateful to them all and we thank them all.

The third thing we do by having this condolence debate is to acknowledge and recognise the Australian character and the way in which Australians in times of need always come together, band together to help those most in need. I think it is a trait that is well recognised around the globe and it is one we can be very proud of. On those three points, my sympathies to all those who have been affected, my thanks to all those who helped others in need and my congratulations to the broader Australian community for the way they responded to those people in their hour of need.

Debate (on motion by Me Albanese) adjourned.