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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3474

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (11:48): I also wish to add my voice to this condolence motion debate. When we are in this place, just about all of us use aircraft to travel here regularly; and we travel frequently for other aspects of our positions. We certainly have an affinity with the families and with those who lost their lives on MH370.

It is a reality that air travel is extremely safe but there are occasions when things go wrong, and clearly this is one of those occasions. The only hope I really hold is that resolution will come quickly, after this, for the families—an idea of what actually happened to make some sense of the tragedy and the loss they have had to endure. The trouble with what has happened here—the way the whole bizarre circumstances have transpired with a plane leaving from Kuala Lumpur heading for Beijing, disappearing—is the expectation that it has crashed somewhere on that route.

There was some information at the start of this tragedy that it might have crashed south of Vietnam or around the south of Vietnam in the sea, but more and more as we went on the circumstances changed and now it seems absolutely certain that the plane has ended up south-west of Perth, 2,500 kilometres out to sea, under bizarre circumstances. What makes it truly personal for so many of us is the nightly TV news reports where you see the faces of family members in Beijing or in Kuala Lumpur devastated by the tragedy that has occurred.

Of course information is going to be very hard to come by, something like the fog of war. When you do not have witnesses and you do not have a whole lot of electronic information, it is very hard to know exactly what happened. Some of the speculation has not been helpful, but it is human nature that there will be speculation along the way. I am confident that in the fullness of time, similar to the Air France flight that crashed in the South Atlantic Ocean, the black boxes will be found, and resolution, closure, will be available to the families of those on board.

As we know, six Australians have lost their lives. Six families in this country have been closely and personally affected. I heard the former member for Pearce speak and he reflected on the fact that New Zealander, but Australian resident, Paul Weeks was a resident of Pearce. We have also heard from the member for Banks that there was a couple from the south of Sydney also on the plane. That brings it home even more to all of us and to those people who live in those areas and to a wider group of people that actually knew someone on MH 370.

I really did not expect that I would have any real relationship or any personal contact with someone affected by this tragedy, but last weekend I was in my backyard playing with my dog and I heard some movement across the fence. My neighbour Dion said to me, 'Luke, I have to inform you that Jessica's brother'—his wife's brother—'was on the plane.' I have known these guys for some period of time and, whilst he was not an Australian citizen, his sister Jessica, Dion and their son are Australian citizens and they are personally affected. So, whilst we look at this list of Australians and at Paul Weeks from New Zealand and we think, 'This is as close as it gets,' sometimes it is just across your back fence, in the suburbs of Cowan. Maybe that is something similar to what has happened where, at the start, we think of this plane crashing off Vietnam, being lost somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and then suddenly it is across your back fence, across the park or across the water; it is close to home.

I thank the members of the Australian Defence Force, particularly the Air Force crews, who, in very difficult circumstances, are doing their best to bring resolution to the families of those who have lost their lives on this flight. I pay tribute as well to all those countries that have sent assets and will be sending assets to Perth, to Pearce air force base, and helping with the search to close one aspect of this story. I suspect many of those relatives who will be heading to Perth hoping to receive the remains of their relatives will be greatly disappointed, but my thoughts and prayers go to all those people as well.

This is a time of great sadness for many families—not just in Australia but in Malaysia and China and all the way around the world. This tragedy has affected them seriously, and I am pleased that so many Australians are now stepping up to help and to bring closure to this sad and tragic event. Again, our condolences, thoughts and prayers go to all the families.