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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26368

Senator KIRK (4:12 PM) —I rise also this afternoon to speak to the Bali report of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee. Like Senator Stott Despoja, I found this inquiry really quite moving. She mentioned the hearings we had in my home town of Adelaide, the numbers of victims and relatives of victims who attended that hearing, and the stories they told us of the heartbreak and grief that they have suffered as a consequence of the Bali tragedy, which of course was one of Australia's most, if not the most, significant tragedies in recent times. I also wish to pay tribute to those persons who gave us evidence in Adelaide. It would have been most difficult for them to do so. I also would like to acknowledge the presence of Brian Deegan in the gallery, who lost his son Joshua in the tragedy.

In the very short time that I have available to me today I just wish to speak briefly to committee recommendations 3 and 4. During our hearings we were presented with evidence from a number of senior officials from ASIO, from ONA, from DIO and from other agencies—DFAT in particular—who of course conveyed to us that in their view the information that was available at the time in relation to Bali did not reflect any specific intelligence that could have been passed on to the travelling public. I think all of us in the committee accept that and understand that that was in fact the case. From my point of view it was always a matter of how the intelligence that was available to officials was translated into travel advisories. In my view and in the view of the majority of the committee, the travel advisories that were in operation at the time of the Bali bombing did not adequately reflect the content of the threat assessment which was valid at the time—namely, the high threat assessment that ASIO had issued in relation to Indonesia.

It is for this and other reasons—and time does not permit me to expand upon these—that the committee has made a recommendation that DFAT subject a representative selection of its travel advisories `to examination by an independent assessor with qualifications and experience in linguistics, literacy and communication'. We state:

The assessor shall report to the minister on the intelligibility and accessibility of the language in which information is conveyed in travel advisories.

During the course of the Adelaide hearing, it was really brought home to me that those people who were travelling to Bali at the time simply were not aware of the existence of travel advisories and that, even if they had read the current travel advisory, they would not have been made aware of the fact that Bali, like the rest of Indonesia, was the subject of terrorist action and could well be the place where a tragedy might take place. Finally, in relation to the victims, recommendation 4 of our report recommends:

... the Commonwealth government prepare a green paper on the establishment of a national compensation scheme for victims of terrorism related crimes that fall within the Commonwealth jurisdiction;

I think this is an important recommendation for not only the victims of the Bali tragedy but also—heaven forbid—should there be a further tragedy which comes about as a result of terrorism, other victims who need to be compensated. (Time expired)