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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 553

Senator KILGARIFF(12.46) —Mr Acting Deputy President, in this period of quiet debate on each Thursday, honourable senators are given time to speak on various matters that relate to Australia or, for that matter, any other matter that may arise that is of interest to them. Today I would like to speak on the recent Philippines typhoon.

Honourable senators would be aware of the devastation caused in the Philippines last weekend in the wake of Typhoon Ike. Widespread destruction has been caused to areas of the central and northern Philippines, and President Marcos has declared a state of calamity in 21 provinces where electricity supplies and communication lines have been cut and roads and bridges have been washed away. Of course, the greatest tragedy is the tremendous loss of life, injury and homelessness which has been caused by this typhoon. I refer briefly to an up to date report in the Australian of 5 September, yesterday, which says that the typhoon's toll may reach 1,000 people. The report states:

The strongest typhoon in a decade, which last weekend rampaged through the southern and central Philippines, killed more than 330 people, 200 of them in a devastated lakeside town, and drowned possibly hundreds more, local government officials said yesterday.

The report went on to say:

Giant waves churned up by 220 kilometre-per-hour winds swamped 27 coastal towns washing away hundreds of houses and an unknown number of people out to sea . . . Governor . . . of Surigo del Norte province in north-eastern Mindanao told newsmen: 'I fear they are all dead', adding that the final death toll could exceed 1,000.

Perhaps we shall find that this figure of 1,000 will increase, too. The report went on to say that Typhoon Ike flattened huge areas of Surigao City, leaving half of its 135,000 residents homeless.

Also, the toll of crop and property damage has been initially estimated at more than $6m. One can only say that that would have to be an initial report, and one would expect that to increase considerably. The typhoon will have a disastrous effect on the rice harvest next month, most of the country's rice bowl having been destroyed. Relief goods and foods and medical supplies are urgently required.

This morning I was advised by the Philippines Embassy, when I inquired, that it was aware of two national organisations which have started relief funds to aid the victims of the typhoon. In view of the strong ties between Australia and the Philippines, already reflected in areas such as cultural exchanges, trade links and the level of aid already made available for projects in the Philippines-not to mention the very large number of Philippine people who have come to Australia , many of whom have been naturalised-I would urge that the Government establish a fund to aid the victims of the recent disaster. The Philippines is a very close neighbour of Australia, and, by the year, we are getting more and more contact with this nation of very lovely and happy people. Without such aid, the people of the Philippines, with their already troubled economy, who are now left even more desperately short of food and medical supplies, may be unable to prevent the toll of life from escalating.

I can well remember, as a person from the Northern Territory, the aid that was given to Darwin in 1974 after Cyclone Tracy hit that city on Christmas eve. Very many people were made homeless and some people, I think it was 68, were killed in that very violent storm. Today the people of Darwin are still very grateful to Australia and to the people, some from overseas, who gave aid to that city. I note today that an appeal has been launched in the Northern Territory by the Lord Mayor of Darwin and the Chief Minister to aid the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. In fact, what has happened over the years is that whenever there has been a calamity, such as that of Typhoon Ike in the Philippines, the Territory, to show its gratitude for the assistance that was given some 10 years ago, has always come forward and contributed. I am not giving the Territory a pat on the back. Territorians feel that as part of the Australian nation, this is something that they should do, bearing in mind also, as I have said before, the very many Filipino people who are living in Australia, have joined Australia and are contributing to the nation but who, at the same time, have very many ties with their homeland, the Philippines.

I would hope-perhaps the action has already been taken-that the Federal Government and the people of Australia will see fit, in this period of stress in the Philippines, where there are many hundreds of thousands who are homeless and where so many crops and all those other necessities of life have been destroyed, to come forward with ample funds and assistance to bring some alleviation to the distress of these people.