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Wednesday, 16 October 2002
Page: 5287

Senator EGGLESTON (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Senator Coonan. Will the minister inform the Senate about what else Australians can do to assist the victims of the Bali bombing disaster?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Eggleston for the question and for his interest and care about the issue. All Australians have been horrified by the devastation in Bali and feel very deeply, I am sure, for those loved ones who have been killed or injured. While we have seen an absolutely marvellous response from the Australian armed forces and medical personnel, many everyday Australians clearly want to know what they can do to assist and how they can help the victims of this terrible tragedy. My office has received many calls from business organisations and individual Australians who have been watching this unimaginable tragedy unfold on their televisions and are wanting to know what they can do to help.

I am pleased to be able to inform the Senate that the Australian Red Cross is today launching an Australia-wide appeal to help the victims of the Bali bombing disaster and to assist their families in coping with the tremendous loss and human suffering caused by this devastating incident. As a humanitarian relief organisation, the Australian Red Cross is already providing services to the victims of the Bali bombings, including blood and blood products, reception and registration of evacuees, coordination of accommodation needs and personal support. Through the Bali appeal the Red Cross will help to alleviate the loss suffered by the victims who have been injured in the blast or who have lost family members.

Money from the fund will also be used to help those who will suffer sustained physical and emotional trauma and economic loss as a consequence of the disaster. I do hope that all of my colleagues in the Senate would agree that it is important that funds raised through the tremendous generosity of the Australian public are directed to the areas of greatest need and where other sources of funds and support are lacking. The Red Cross will liaise with relevant government agencies and community organisations to determine the area of greatest need. I am also able to confirm that the Commonwealth government will be making a contribution of $1 million to start this appeal.

The desire of the Australian community to assist has really been palpable, but I think it is unsurprising. As a nation we have shown time and again our ability to pull together as a community against adversity. It is, after all, what we have come to recognise as the Australian way. The current disaster is no exception. Donations made to the Red Cross appeal will be used both to assist Australian victims and their families and to assist the Red Cross with its work providing relief, dressings and medical supplies in the affected area in Bali and to cover future needs, including recovery and reconstruction.

The Australian Red Cross will develop criteria for assistance and distribution based on a needs assessment of the medical, psychological and financial circumstances of victims. The level of assistance will depend, of course, on the size of the donations received as well as the assessment of needs. Tax deductible donations can be made online at the Australian Red Cross web site, by mail, by telephone or at any branch of the National Australia Bank. I have been urging Australian insurers to take a compassionate approach when dealing with claims on travel insurance and I can inform the Senate that the response from insurers has been very promising indeed.

There is no need I think to call on Australians to help, because Australians will do so. Just today I have been informed about medical suppliers in Perth, working through the Salvation Army, donating more than 12 tonnes of medical supplies which were kindly flown to Bali by Garuda. The Salvation Army have been involved, as they always are, in counselling loved ones returning from these kinds of tragedies. (Time expired)

Senator EGGLESTON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Are any other Australian welfare organisations assisting in providing services to the people of Bali?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —I had just a couple more points that I can inform the Senate about. The Australian—

Senator Carr —How thoughtful!

Senator Calvert —Order! Senator Carr.

Senator COONAN —Thank you, Mr President. I thank Senator Eggleston for the supplementary question. I was saying that the Australian Army has been involved in providing counselling for loved ones returning to Australia and accepting tax deductible donations for the Balinese victims. These and many other examples demonstrate the generous spirit being shown by all Australians during this dark time. I commend this generosity and also the generosity of each and every Australian and Australian organisation who generously steps forward to help at this time of need.

Senator Hill —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.