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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3476

Mr VARVARIS (Barton) (11:59): I rise to add my condolences to those of my colleagues and join with the world in registering my sorrow and sadness for those on board Malaysia Airlines flight 370, following these tragic circumstances. My condolences go out to the families and loved ones of all 239 souls aboard MH370. I am thinking of them and praying for them through what must be nothing short of a personal nightmare.

Those aboard the flight hailed from 15 different nations. Indeed, this has been a global tragedy with significant relevance to our nation as it sits on Asia's doorstep. The majority of those aboard were from the People's Republic of China, a country that Australia has a strong relationship with. Considering the number of Chinese residents in my electorate, this element of the tragedy has touched those in Barton all the more.

Most particularly, my heart goes out to the families of those six Australians who left Kuala Lumpur on that ill-fated day. The cruelty of this tragedy has surely been the helplessness it has engendered in these loved ones left without answers. Among them were Queensland couple Rod and Mary Burrows. Rod and Mary were loving parents and were due to become grandparents next month. Mary was a hardworking civilian worker in the police force, embarking on a much-deserved long service leave with her husband and two Australian friends, Rob and Cathy Lawton. The families of these four much-loved Australians have inspired us all by rallying together in this difficult time. Sydney couple, Yuan Li and Naijun Gu, in the prime of their lives—in their early thirties—were heading to Beijing to spend time with their children. This surely inspired grief in us all when they were found to be among the passengers lost.

These Australians were remarkable for the extent to which we can identify with them. They had working lives, much loved children and loved to travel when they could. The gap that the loss of these Australians leaves in the lives of those close to them will never be filled. Exceptional circumstances have claimed the lives of everyday Australians, just like us, and that is what has touched our community so deeply.

This tragedy has touched our community, but it has also impressed upon the international community the essential nature of cooperation and multilateral operations in the face of global tragedy. Examples of this spirit of cooperation include our own Prime Minister's contribution of four P3C Orion aircraft as the world was waiting for all those in the region with the resources, the time and the compassion to step up in aid of the gruelling search.

Also encouraging was the Prime Minister's assurance to those international visitors who had dropped everything to fly to Perth after debris was found off the coast, in the Southern Indian Ocean, that they were in the arms of a decent country. That statement was most profound in expressing the sorrow and compassion of Australians following this tragedy. This accompanied an announcement that visa fees would be waived for all the relatives of the MH370 passengers who had rushed to Australia.

If there is one thing that we can garner from the extraordinary outpouring of attention and media reporting dedicated to the loss of MH370 right across the world, it is that there is an unlimited amount of heartfelt interest in the case. This was not because people are looking for intrigue or mystery but because we all understand the painful reality when grief is denied answers. As human beings, we have to know; and we especially cannot bear to be left in the dark concerning that which lies most heavily on the hearts of all people: the wellbeing of our loved ones. Hope after hope has been dashed but countless fine nations have put themselves and their resources on the line to demonstrate their care and commitment. We are committed to ensure that those who are lost are found, and that those who are grieving and questioning receive the answers they need.

I commend those fine Australian men and women who have led the international search effort in the waters off our western coast. We may be assured that Australians answered the call and led the way both in the desperate search to find MH370 and in the compassion extended to those who have suffered an unimaginable loss. On behalf of the electorate of Barton, I extend to the relatives of those on board countless thoughts, prayers and offers of goodwill.