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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13776

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (11:23): Before I begin my remarks on the motion, I would first like to pay special tribute to the former Speaker, the member for Scullin. I thank him for his humour and patience with all of the new members of this House.

I am delighted that the Prime Minister, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and the Labor Party have finally come on board to support this motion on the bombing of Darwin moved by the coalition earlier this year. My motion was never about politics; it is all about my community. My local community is passionate about the commemoration of the bombing of Darwin and about ensuring that all Australians understand our contribution to the defence of Australia in the darkest days of World War II.

The bombing of Darwin was the first time Australia was attacked by enemy forces. Bombing raids by Japanese forces over Darwin continued for many months and extended to other northern Australian cities, including Broome, Cairns and Townsville. More than 250 people were killed in the attack on Darwin and many more were injured. A United States Navy destroyer, the USS Peary, was also sunk in Darwin Harbour, one of eight vessels sunk that day. More bombs were dropped by the Japanese on Darwin than on Pearl Harbour 10 weeks earlier. The significance of this event was further highlighted only last week by US President Obama, who visited my electorate to lay a wreath on the USS Peary memorial site, and he noted that the bombing of Darwin in 1942 was Australia's Pearl Harbour.

Since my first days in this parliament I have been a vocal advocate of Australians better understanding the bombing of Darwin and the role Territorians played in the defence of Australia during World War II. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for working closely with me on this initiative, which is something I worked on prior to and after my election to parliament some 15 months ago. Today's outcome is also a significant event for Dr Tom Lewis of the Darwin Military Museum. He has worked tirelessly for a number of years to raise awareness of this event and he was one of the key members of the public who lobbied me to make sure that I brought it to the attention of the House.

I also acknowledge Darwin Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer and his aldermen, who have also been instrumental in ensuring that I raise awareness of this very, very important date in our history. I am delighted that this motion is going to be supported and that it has come in time for the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. I acknowledge the efforts of all the people who have raised awareness of this event. I thank my colleagues Senator Scullion and Senator Ronaldson, who were able to have the same motion passed in the Senate. From now on, 19 February each year will be recognised by all Australians as a day of significance.

I thank the House and in particular my coalition colleagues for their support. I commend the motion to the House.

Question agreed to.