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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3480

Mr McCORMACK (RiverinaParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance) (12:16): The circumstances and tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is almost incomprehensible. For the families, the friends, the co-workers and communities who have lost loved ones, MH370 is an event which cannot be properly explained. On 8 March 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 departed the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing in China with 239 people on board. There were parents, grandparents, artists, school students, holiday-makers, people on business trips and, of course, staff of the airline.

About an hour into the flight the aircraft disappeared from civilian radar screens and so began the heartache and the horror for the families and loved ones at home. Even as we stand here today, nearly three weeks later, there are still no definite answers. Nations around the world have worked together to try to find some answers and to bring some sort of closure to the families and the communities touched by this awful tragedy. While the search efforts have found pieces of debris which could well be part of the missing jet, the closure which those families and communities so desperately need and the answers they so desperately seek are yet forthcoming.

While we are doing our very best to find those answers and to bring closure, Australia is certainly playing its part in the search process. I have to say: search and rescue is something that we do very, very well. Our Navy and Air Force personnel are exceptional at it. As the Prime Minister has said, if there is something out there, we will find it. We are certainly hoping to bring closure to those families. We have seen again how Australia's defence and service personnel will do their very best and give of themselves in times of need. A potential 122 pieces of wreckage have been found off the coast of Western Australia and our defence personnel have been working around the clock to try to solve this mystery. But, as we have heard many others say, we are searching an area of 400 square kilometres. That is bigger than all metropolitan electorates. It is a huge search area and it is so inaccessible. There is nothing out there in the southern Indian Ocean but waves—big waves and the storms that often brew over those waves has made rescue and search efforts almost impossible. P3 Orions go into the area and they have a window of opportunity of only about an hour or two to see if there is anything down there before they have to go back to base. Even if they see something at some particular time, when they go back there or when Navy vessels go out there not long after the pieces may have been taken by waves and floated many miles elsewhere.

We are looking for the black box flight data recorder. We are talking about an implement which is not very big. We know that HMAS Sydney sunk in battle in 1941 and the wreck was discovered in 2008. That wreck was 160 metres long. The RMS Titanic was lost when it struck an iceberg in 1912 and it was not found until 1985. It was 269 metres long. We are looking for a black box flight data recorder that is not that big, eventually, at the bottom of a very deep sea and it is going to be very difficult to find.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, who was Acting Prime Minister at the time of the event, visited the RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia last weekend. He had the opportunity to meet with many of the service men and women who are doing their best in this tragedy.

Sitting suspended from 12 : 20 to 12 : 22

Mr McCORMACK: As I was saying, Deputy Prime Minister Truss had the opportunity to speak to the RAAF and the Royal Australian Navy service men and women, our best and brightest, who are part of the search crew. I pay tribute to those service men and women who have helped the Australian efforts in finding the missing plane. We know that there were six Australian souls on board that missing plane. We also know that we are doing our very best to locate anything that can identify the plane and to draw the correlation that the wreckage that has been spotted by satellite is in fact part of MH370. Then of course the search will be on to find that black box flight data recorder.

The box flight recorder was an invention of David Warren, who lived from 1925 to 2010. His father died when the Miss Hobart crashed in Bass Strait whilst he was on board as an Anglican missionary, flying from Victoria to Tasmania in 1934. One of the last presents that his dad gave him was a crystal radio set which inspired him, and obviously the awful family tragedy, to invent the black box flight data recorder. I am proud to say that he was one of the inductees in the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame in Wagga Wagga late last year. Of course we do need that black box flight recorder to be found to find out what went wrong with this flight.

In coming together today as a parliament to express the nation's condolences to the families of those on MH370, few words can explain the tragedy. Few words can console the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons of those on board, but we can offer them our thoughts and prayers as Australian and international service people continue the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane.