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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21586

Mr SCIACCA (11:45 AM) —I want to just say a few words and be identified with this motion. I specifically did not prepare anything. I do not think I need to talk about the numbers of people and the personal tragedies. I do not personally know anybody who was involved in the horrific events of 12 October last year. I only know what I have read. I guess sometimes personal experiences are the best, and of course a number of people in this House have talked about people they know. I only want to say that, in October last year—I happened to be in Canada at the time, attending a conference of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption—I could not believe it when the news arrived that some 200-odd people, including 88 Australians, had been killed as a result of a terrorist bombing in Bali. I thought to myself, `Hasn't the world changed.'

We had first of all, of course, the September 11 tragedy, where we lost other Australians, as well as many Americans. I thought to myself that that was something that did not really involve Australia as a country, although we did lose some people over there. But last year I thought to myself, `It is now happening right on our doorstep.' It occurred to me just how important the whole question of our national security has become—the question of terrorism and the fact that it does exist. No longer can we say here in Australia that it only happens in the Middle East or in countries like Russia or Chechnya. The reality is that, for whatever reason, there are fanatics in certain religions who have no respect for life, who do not see what we—and most of those in organised religions—see as the sanctity of life and the fact that everything starts and ends with life. These people do not care about life. They have a fanatical religion which says that they will go to heaven with a stack of vestals up there with them as well. It is absolutely ridiculous that one could even think that there is such a thing as a god that can be worshipped that allows people to blow themselves and innocent people up and thereby get themselves to a so-called heaven. That is something which I think any rational person cannot possibly come to terms with.

I feel for all those people that are in some way related or close to those 88 Australians who died. If you go through this sort of tragedy—particularly if you lose someone close to you, and particularly a child—people come up to you and they say: `I'm sorry. I know how you feel.' The reality is that no-one really can know how anyone feels when they lose someone who is their issue. That is what made me speak about it today, because I have some experience of it. It is a club that no-one wants to belong to. It is an awful club to be in when you have lost your issue—your son, your daughter—and it is a very special club. Those that are members of it sometimes can, if you like, give some comfort to others that are in that position. Today I wanted to get up, simply as someone who has been in that position, to say to all those families out there who lost loved ones that they will learn to live with it. You never get over it. You cannot get over losing your child—it is just not possible. But you can learn to live with it and, in your own mind, if you are religious—and hopefully most of us are—you can rationalise it by saying, `He or she is in a better place and maybe one day I'll see them again.' They are the only sorts of words of comfort that one can give to people in this position.

I intend to attend the memorial tomorrow because, one year on, it is a good thing to let those people have another outpouring of grief and to see whether somewhere along the line they can get some closure—not forever, because you do not get closure forever—after one year. It is good for them to know that there are people all around the country who are thinking of them and who understand, at least to some degree, what they are going through. After tomorrow, we should stop the commemorations and stop bringing it up again. It is the sort of thing that we know is part of our dark history. We can then allow the families—those who are bereaved; those who lost loved ones—to try to get on with their lives as best they can. One thing that comes back to you, even many years after you lose someone very special, is that continually talking about it is good when you want to talk about it, but it is not good when it suddenly gets back into the media spotlight and it brings it all back. It is good for it to happen after one year but after this let us stop having these memorials. Let them remember privately in their own way and deal with their grief in their own private way.

I want to say a few words about terrorism. Whether we like it or not, the world is at war against terrorism. I disagree with a lot of people who seem to think that it is not going to affect us and that, really, we in a country like this can sometimes overreact. You cannot overreact to that sort of barbarism. The reality is that it has happened to us: we lost people on September 11 and we lost people in Bali—88 of them. In the main, they were young Australians who were simply enjoying their lives—just going on holiday. I have never been to Bali but those who go there say that it is a fantastic place and that it really is a place to go. I feel for the Balinese people who now, in an economic sense, are doing it tough, simply because people are scared to go there.

I do not think that lightning strikes twice in the one place and I very much doubt whether such an event will ever happen there again. People say to me, `Gee, you don't want to fly with that airline because they had an accident a couple of years ago,' but I would rather fly with them than, say, an airline that has not had an accident, because it might be due to have one. As I have said, I do not think that lightning ever strikes twice in the same place and I have not heard of areas where it has. I had better be careful—but I am under parliamentary privilege—when I say that I do not want to fly with airlines that have never had an accident.

I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on this issue. Forgetting the politics, I am aware that the Leader of the Opposition is certainly genuine but I am aware also that the Prime Minister is absolutely genuine on matters of this nature. I have had personal experience of it. He is a very caring man. I can say without anyone contradicting me that everything that has come from him and from both parties on a bipartisan basis has been very genuine. We are very genuine in saying to the families of those who are affected by this great tragedy that we feel for them, we are with them, some of us actually do know how some of them feel, and we can only hope and pray that, with time, they will learn to live with their tragedy. God knows what would have happened to some of those young people if they had had the opportunity to flourish and to become mothers, fathers and grandparents and were able to follow their professions.

I am 100 per cent with the motion. I will attend the ceremony tomorrow. I hope that it will be the final time that we bring up this issue in such a manner. Let us just hope that we are diligent and make sure that no-one ever does this to us again. If it means that we have to be a bit tougher in our defence spending and everything else, we will just have to be. I will tell you something: what happened just over 12 months ago should never be allowed to happen again.