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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3466

Mr IRONS (Swan) (11:01): I rise to support the Prime Minister's motion that the House records its deep regret at the tragic loss of life that resulted from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and expresses its sincere condolences, together with those of all Australians, to the families and loved ones of the six Australians and other passengers and crew who are presumed to have died. There is a significant search and recovery operation being run from Pearce air base in Perth. It has been taking place since the beginning of last week. There have also been flights leaving from Perth Airport within my electorate. The search is being coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 11:02 to 11:14

Mr IRONS: On 17 March the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, requested that Australia take responsibility for the search for the missing aircraft in what has become known as the southern vector, one of the two possible flight path arcs which satellite data suggests the plane might have flown. The Prime Minister agreed to this request and offered the Malaysian Prime Minister additional maritime surveillance resources, which he gratefully accepted.

Since then, multiple unidentified objects have been spotted by sources in the Indian Ocean somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 kilometres from Perth, and satellite data analysis has suggested a high likelihood that this passenger jet went down in the southern Indian Ocean. This has led to an announcement by the Malaysian government that flight MH370 was lost in the southern Indian Ocean and that all on board have perished. It is, however, important that there is, if possible, identification of the objects spotted by the satellites, to ensure closure for the families. There is also the task of locating the black box and working out what led to this plane ending up so far off course.

There are no comparable incidents of this nature in aviation history. Given the remoteness of the site and the time elapsed since the calculated time of impact, we can only assume that this is going to be a long investigation and recovery effort. Perth, as the nearest city, will host the investigation. As mentioned in The West Australian yesterday, the only other similar situation to this was the search for Air France flight 447, and that took two years to locate, in calmer mid-Atlantic waters. I am sure that lessons learnt from that search will assist in the search for MH370.

I note the Prime Minister's comments yesterday that many of the grieving relatives are expected to come to Perth to be closer to the search and recovery effort. While Perth is a long way from this remote search area, it is indeed the closest place, and it is understandable that relatives will seek to come to Western Australia. I welcome the Prime Minister's comments that visa fees for grieving relatives will be waived and note Premier Colin Barnett's comments yesterday that the people of Perth and WA will be very welcoming and understanding.

I commend the Australian Air Force and their search-and-rescue pilots for the important work they are doing in tough conditions. I note that conditions were classified 'sea state 7' this week, which, on a scale of one to nine, is extremely tough searching conditions. I also recognise the international help at Pearce air base, including two Japanese P3s, one New Zealand P3, a P8 from the United States, two Ilyushin 76s from China and a P3 coming from Korea, with a C130H. When I left Perth earlier this week to come to Canberra, I saw the crew of the US P8 taking a rest stop before heading back out to conduct the search.

I also make special note in this condolence motion of Paul Weeks, who was a resident of Perth. His young family will obviously be grieving at this time. My sympathies, along with those of my fellow Western Australians, are with you and we are sorry for your loss. To the 239 people on that plane—some who were going home, some who were going to work, some who were just going on holidays or visiting loved ones—our thoughts are with you and with those who are left behind to grieve. Any time we see a loss of life through misfortune or accident in this world, we as a nation unite to assist where we can, but in this instance we have seen the uniting of nations to assist and aid wherever or in any way possible.

We hold on with hope that some of these people, who many of us have never known, could be rescued or saved. That is the humanity of our lives coming through, the goodness that rises in us when we see tragedies that have occurred and the dramatic effects of those tragedies on loved ones left behind.

We will hear many stories in the coming years of why, how, what and when—similar to the stories we have heard about tragedies like the Titanic. I will leave the technical side of what may have happened to those who are better placed to tell those stories.

In closing, I offer my condolences once again to the people who were on MH370 and their families. God bless you all.