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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3479

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for the Environment) (12:11): I want to join with others in this parliament in offering my deep and sincere condolences to the families of all those souls who have been lost with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370—239 souls, and of course in each case a circle of friends and family of a far and dramatically greater proportion. We acknowledge, grieve for and recognise those who have been lost, and then we realise that for each life lost there are hundreds of people who are potentially affected through the extended network of friends and family; it is a profound ripple effect through numerous countries.

Australia, of course, has lost six nationals and one resident. The loss of each of them is mourned. And the survivors—the friends and family—will number in the hundreds in almost every case. These impacts flow throughout communities—in Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and particularly China, which has suffered such a terrible loss.

I think it is important to recognise that in the midst of these tragedies we often find the missing best part of ourselves as communities and societies. At the same time that this has occurred we have had a tragic mudslide in the town of Oso in the north-western United States. It may well be that the loss there is similar to the numbers lost in the Bali bombings and the Victoria Black Saturday bushfires. The hallmark of each of these events has been that the best of the human spirit has responded.

We see that in the search and rescue that is currently underway, under Australia's guidance—because the likely debris zone off the coast of Western Australia, somewhere in the vicinity of 2½ thousand kilometres or so, is within our search-and-rescue zone. So, the Australian government—in particular, AMSA and the military—and civilian volunteers who are assisting as additional pairs of eyes on the search-and-rescue planes are providing extraordinary support. They are being backed up by international satellite cooperation which is arguably unprecedented. The international satellite cooperation, to the best of my knowledge, has no parallel example, but it is an outstanding exemplar for the future of cooperation. Of course, it is not just Australia but other countries are involved. The United States, China, Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea and other countries are also involved, and so all of these states coming together represents a critical task. I want to acknowledge the work of everybody who has been involved, particularly the leadership of AMSA. It is something in which the Prime Minister himself has taken a deep weight of personal responsibility.

The last thing I want to do is to talk about why we seek answers to this great mystery. Time will tell what the cause was, I hope, but we seek answers for two reasons: to provide closure for the families but also to provide reassurance and greater safety for future travellers. All of us in this place travel on aircraft. All of us have friends and family who travel on aircraft. If there is a new form of threat then we need to know, we need to prepare and we need to be vigilant. We cannot stop all the tragedies but there may be lessons to be learned. That is why we seek the answers, and we will not rest until we give the families closure.