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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4466

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) (4:09 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its deep regret at the deaths in Jakarta on 17 July 2009, of Mr Nathan Verity of Western Australia, Mr Garth McEvoy of Victoria and Mr Craig Senger of the Australian Capital Territory, and tenders its profound sympathy to their families and friends in their bereavement.

On 17 July at around 7.45am, Jakarta time, explosions ripped through the lower floors of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta. It has become clear that the cause was two bombs exploded by terrorist suicide bombers. Nine people lost their lives as a result of the explosions. Three of them were Australians who were active in the Jakarta business community: Mr Nathan Verity, 38, who ran his own human resources business in Jakarta; Mr Garth McEvoy, 55, who was a Thiess executive based in Jakarta; and Mr Craig Senger, 36, who was an official with the Australian Trade Commission. Another Australian, Mr Scott Merrillees, was injured in the bombings. All were going about their normal business attending a regular business breakfast meeting at the JW Marriott Hotel. I am sure there are a number of people in the Senate who have addressed such meetings in Jakarta. I have certainly spoken to the business community there and I am sure members of the Howard government did as well. It is part of the normal life of Jakarta and of doing business in Jakarta. We mourn the loss of each of these three Australians.

I note that Craig Senger is the first Australian civilian official to be killed in a terrorist attack in the line of duty. Craig was a highly regarded trade commissioner at Austrade. Colleagues have spoken movingly of Craig as a man with an extraordinary spirit. In the words of Tim Harcourt at Austrade, Craig was a man who was a ‘joy to the world’. He worked tirelessly as an official to build links between Australian businesses and overseas markets. He was an Australian who made exceptional contributions to his local community, whether that was in Canberra, Sydney, Jakarta, New Delhi, Moscow or Milan. It brings home to us the full human impact of the events of 17 July and obliges us to recommit to the task of stemming the scourge of terrorism in our region.

I also acknowledge that the loss of a colleague—and a well respected one at that—was another tremendous blow to the staff of the Australian embassy in Jakarta. In recent years the Jakarta embassy has had to deal with and endure the bombing of the embassy, the Bali bombings and the terrible plane crash that occurred in Indonesia leaving so many badly injured and killed. They have had a really rough few years while serving this country. Their strength and professionalism has been remarkable. Their commitment to the needs of Australians in Indonesia has been exemplary and among the finest traditions of the Australian Public Service. The officials in our embassy remain determined to carry out their functions and refuse to be cowered by terrorism. We are grateful and we acknowledge the strain that this places on them and on members of their families. On behalf of all senators I would like to pass on to Ambassador Farmer our support for their work and our regard for the work they have been doing. We congratulate them on the tremendous way in which they have dealt with the enormous amount of tragedy that has confronted that embassy and its staff.

The daughter of one of my senior staff members in my own department had to flee the building and suffered slight injuries when she had to leave. It really brought home to me the danger to my staff and the impact on them and their families. His daughter was just visiting at the time. It is part of what we now ask our senior Australian Public Service staff to do when serving us overseas. I think it is important that we acknowledge the impact on them and their families and give our support to them. In doing so we acknowledge the enormous loss and hurt that Craig Senger’s family are feeling.

As we grieve for our own citizens we also remember the devastating impact of the terrorist attack on our friends in Indonesia and those from other nations who were caught up in this violence. The Australian government extends its sympathy and condolences to the people and government of Indonesia and to the people and governments of New Zealand and the Netherlands, who also lost citizens in the bombings.

These terrorist attacks are attacks on us all. We are united in our efforts to counter them. Australia stands shoulder to shoulder with the Indonesian government in its struggle against those who perpetrate these outrages. In the days after the bombings the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, spoke to President Yudhoyono to extend his personal condolences to the people of Indonesia and to offer all practical assistance in finding and bringing to justice the perpetrators of the bombings. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, accompanied by the National Security Adviser and Australia’s Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, travelled to Jakarta on 18 July and extended this offer in person to Indonesia.

Indonesia has had success in recent years in bringing terrorists to justice and we have great confidence that they can do so again. The government applauds the work of Indonesian authorities over the past weekend, which has resulted in the arrest of a number of alleged terrorists and the disruption of planned terrorist attacks.

The Prime Minister spoke to the Indonesian President over the past weekend to assure him of Australia’s continued support and to discuss the Indonesian government’s operations of recent days. The Indonesian President briefed the Prime Minister on the operations and informed him that the government of Indonesia is unable to confirm at this stage whether Noordin Top—who is believed to be behind the July 17 attacks in Jakarta as well as a range of other terrorist attacks—was the person killed in the operation in Central Java. That certainly is not clear.

The Indonesian police operations are ongoing and it is important that Indonesian authorities are given the opportunity to announce their conclusions in their own time. It is best to await the outcomes of these processes. These operations underline the valuable work being undertaken by Indonesia in countering the threat of terrorism. The Australian government will continue to support the Indonesian government’s investigations into the July 17 bombings and we will further deepen our cooperation with Indonesia on counterterrorism to prevent similar attacks from occurring.

As the Senate today reflects on the pain and destruction wrought on 17 July in Jakarta against innocent civilians, we think of the families of the three Australians who perished on that day. As a nation, we stand with them today and our thoughts and prayers go out to them in this time of great sadness and loss.