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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21581

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (11:14 AM) —Along with other members I would like to extend my condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the Bali bombing. It is right that we do so today, only three days on from the anniversary of the horrific bombing in Bali which killed 202 innocent victims and injured, both physically and mentally, so many others. It is important that as a nation we take stock, reflect and commiserate with those closest to the victims.

I had the privilege on Monday to speak to a private member's motion moved by the member for Cook, who looked to commend the Indonesian forces, the Australian Federal Police and other agencies for helping to track down many of the culprits of this heinous crime. I believe it was correct to commend both the Australian and the Indonesian forces that had to undertake such courageous activities in pursuit of murderers in a difficult environment. I think that, along with condolences, a year on there should be full acknowledgement of those brave men and women of the police and intelligence forces.

I was fortunate not to have a constituent in my electorate who was directly affected by the bombing. However, there were of course people known to constituents of mine, and many people across the nation were in some way touched by this devastation. I think we have a nation which is grieving, given the magnitude of this horrendous event. I said on Monday when speaking to the private member's motion and commending the forces that it is a time to sympathise and to reflect. It is also of course a time to look at other ways to mitigate the likelihood of these things occurring. There is no magic wand and it is impossible to guarantee that such events will not occur again, either within our sovereign nation or across the seas, but we do have to look at ways to mitigate the likelihood of such a horrific event occurring. When I rose to commend those police and agency forces, the debate was cut off and I was not able to finish my comments on the motion. I wanted to add that, beyond ensuring that we have the wherewithal with respect to police and intelligence forces securing our citizens, we need also to look at broader and longer term strategies to ensure that our nation and our region are more secure.

There is no room, when we talk about matters such as this, for partisan politics or political point scoring. I believe it is incumbent upon the government and opposition together to look at ways beyond the obvious to create an environment where terrorists cannot thrive. That is a broader strategy and it is a much longer term one. Indeed, it is a much more complex one. But certainly—and I think everyone would agree—one of the ways we can fulfil that aim is to ensure that our relations with our neighbours are good and to ensure that the citizens of those nations consider us a friend and consider that we see ourselves as a part of the region, a part of Asia, as well as a neighbour in every sense. I think it is true to say that the overwhelming majority of citizens of Christian or Islamic countries would condemn what occurred. However, we do not want ordinary citizens of neighbouring nations to think that we consider ourselves apart from them as a country, as a civilisation.

I know that I speak for everybody when I say that we must endeavour to forever strengthen our bonds between our neighbouring nations and continue to involve ourselves in dialogue on every level—economic, social and cultural—so that any doubters in those countries who might think that Australians do not see themselves as neighbours and genuine friends can be put right. Therefore there should be no scepticism towards us or our citizens when travelling in neighbouring countries. Further to that, if that were to occur, it would make it a great deal harder for extremists in those societies to find root, to find a place of refuge or indeed to find support among the ordinary men and women of those nations. I just wanted to put that on the record.

I extend my condolences, as I have said, to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims. Three days from the anniversary, it is now time to remember those victims and also to look beyond the policing and intelligence resources that we have to apply to track down the murderers. Indeed, we have to ensure that we have broader and longer term strategies in place and use every available means to prevent such terrorist acts from occurring again.