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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5116

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (2:07 PM) —My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Minister for Defence, Senator Hill. Minister, I preface my question by saying that I feel extremely privileged to be an Australian in the way that the Australian Defence Force, the community generally and Qantas have responded to the Bali murders. Can you now update the Senate on Australia's continuing efforts to assist the victims of the Bali bombings?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Yes, and I will concentrate particularly on the ADF, but I endorse what Senator Sandy Macdonald has said: it has been a tremendous effort by a whole range of people. From the early hours of Sunday morning, officials from the departments of Foreign Affairs, Attorney-General's, Defence and Prime Minister and Cabinet have been working around the clock to ensure that every assistance possible is provided to those injured in the bomb blasts. A key element of our response has been provided by the men and women of the Australian Defence Force. I again pay tribute to their efforts and express our nation's thanks to them. The Royal Australian Air Force have deployed five C130 Hercules aircraft and associated aeromedical evacuation teams to assist with the evacuation. These aircraft have transported urgently needed medical stores to Darwin, and have been flying an aeromedical shuttle between Darwin and Bali. The ADF have also provided two ambulances in Bali, which were used to ferry casualties from Bali hospitals to the airport.

The RAAF also transported Australian Federal Police and DFAT consular staff from Canberra to Bali to assist Australian tourists and their families and to begin the work of tracking down those responsible for this attack. Five ADF medical teams, including reserve members, have assisted in patient care and prioritisation and coordinated the transfer of casualties to Darwin. These personnel have also been involved in the aeromedical evacuation teams flying in the shuttle flights between Bali and Darwin. There have now been six medical evacuation flights, transporting a total of 66 casualties to Darwin. As well as Australian citizens, these flights have evacuated 14 foreign nationals from South Africa, Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada and the United Kingdom. The ADF effort has now been joined by a C130 from the Royal New Zealand Air Force with a seven-person medical team. We again thank the New Zealand government for this valuable assistance.

It would now appear that the immediate task of evacuating the most seriously injured is all but complete, but the work goes on. Four RAAF aircraft have today been tasked to transfer the injured to specialist care facilities in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane to help take the strain off the facilities in Darwin. Attention is now being turned to those who have lost their lives. The ADF has accepted the sombre task of flying in refrigerated containers to local authorities in Bali for the storage of human remains. These units will be vital in helping to ensure that victims of the blasts can be identified. This morning the RAAF also flew a 22-man AFP disaster victim identification team into Bali to conduct identification of bodies prior to recovery to Australia. These are difficult tasks which bring home the awful reality of what has happened to so many innocent Australians.

Mr President, the men and women of the Australian Defence Force have performed magnificently in this time of need, and they stand ready to provide whatever future assistance is required. Their efforts have earned our nation's admiration and gratitude.