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Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Page: 75

Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (10:01 AM) —It is a privilege and an honour for me to be able to participate in this very important debate in our program here this morning. We tragically heard on 17 July of this year that Mr Nathan Verity of Western Australia, Mr Garth McEvoy of Victoria and, closer to home for me, Mr Craig Senger of the ACT all perished as a result of the murderous act of what has emerged to be two suicide bombers when they attacked the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels early that morning in Jakarta. I think it is also appropriate to note that nine people in all lost their lives, including the three Australians I have mentioned, and also that Mr Scott Mirilles, an Australian, was injured. While making mention of this terrible act, we pass on our very sincere condolences to everybody—to the local Indonesians, to people of other nationalities and to the families of all of these Australians who were so tragically cut down by this terrible action.

Specifically this morning I speak directly on behalf of my community of Canberra about Mr Craig Senger. Mr Craig Senger, as has been noted, was tragically the first Australian diplomat killed in a terrorist attack. He was born and educated here in Canberra. He met his wife, Kate, and married here in Canberra. I had the privilege and honour of attending last week a memorial service held here in the Great Hall of the national parliament to mourn the passing of Craig Senger. The words that were used by particularly the Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, along with senior Austrade officials and others, really gave us all a description of a young man who contributed so much both professionally and personally in his tragically short life.

I would like to refer to some of the comments that were made at that time with the indulgence of the chamber. Tim Harcourt from Austrade called Craig Senger a man who was a ‘joy to the world’—an official who worked tirelessly to build links between Australian businesses and overseas markets. He was an Australian who made exceptional contributions to his local community, whether he was in Canberra, Sydney, Jakarta, New Delhi, Moscow or Milan—all places where he had been. It was also said by the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Foreign Affairs that, while this was Craig’s first full-time overseas posting, they were not at all expecting it to be his last and that he had a stellar career in front of him.

He was greatly admired by his colleagues and friends. He had a sense of humour and a joie de vivre that many of us could learn a lot from. He had worked to the point of being highly regarded and he was, at the time of his death, leading the mining and resources team for Austrade for South-East Asia in Jakarta. It is interesting to also note that Craig’s career was following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Albert Senger. Albert was also a trade commissioner in the fifties. As Minister Crean said:

Albert, like all of us, is part of Craig’s wider family—it’s the trade family …

It was interesting for me to hear that Craig Senger had a grandfather who was so active and so regarded in his own life as a senior trade commissioner during the 1950s, in the really difficult times of establishing a new nation following the Second World War, where trade and interaction internationally was so important. From what I have heard, I know that Craig Senger really had a great deal of pride in carrying on that family tradition.

The other comment I wish to make is that while we mourn the loss of the life of Craig Senger and his colleagues, when we think of his family, and I will refer to them in a moment, we must also think of his work colleagues in the embassy in Jakarta in particular. The people we have working in our embassy in Jakarta have not had an easy ride over the last few years. They have really had more than their share of tragedy in one form or another in recent years. I will not go into those details; we are all very familiar with them. But here again was another time when they were really pushed to the edge of their ability to cope with not only the loss of colleagues but also the practicalities that such an occurrence presents.

I know that we would all endorse very much the continuing incredibly high professionalism that is displayed by people serving our nation overseas, through Foreign Affairs, Austrade and other agencies at any time, let alone at times like this. I want to make a point of mentioning that this morning and passing on to them, on behalf of my community, and I am sure on behalf of the parliament, our regard for the role that they take and for the challenges that they face. When they head off on an overseas posting they do not expect an easy ride, but by no means do they expect to be facing this sort of thing. It is very tragic and they really need to have our regard very high in their minds.

As I said, Craig Senger married Kate here in Canberra. His mother, Joan, his sister, Cate, and his niece, Holly, I believe were in the chamber yesterday when the Prime Minister began this condolence motion. The family lives here in Canberra. To Joan and the family, and particularly to his wife, Kate, we can but send our sincere condolences, our warmest of wishes and ask them to believe that if all of the sympathy of the chamber were of any help to anyone, we would like to think it is going to help them in the knowledge that we share their grief, we pay due regard to the work that Craig and his colleagues were doing and we deplore the loss of such wonderful young professional people in such a terribly tragic way. This is just bloodthirsty murder. There is no other way of describing it. It is senseless. When you look at the families of these people, of Craig and others who have died, you just wonder about the senselessness of this type of behaviour. I know that, as a parliament, we are all joined as one in our belief and our efforts to do all in our power to ensure that this sort of behaviour internationally does not continue.

I want to finish by recalling some of the comments that were made, particularly by two or three of Craig Senger’s close friends, during the memorial service last week. While I do not have their words in front of me, I certainly have in my memory the absolute joy of their friendship with Craig and their pride in him as a friend, their regard for him as someone who had a sense of humour, generosity of spirit, boundless energy, enthusiasm and dedication to his job. He sounds to me like he would have been a delight to know, and I am sorry I did not know him personally. It sounds to me like he was someone we would all have enjoyed the company of. It appears to me that no matter where you were, if you ran into Craig Senger, you ended up going to barbecues, playing cricket, playing football, working hard, dedicating yourself to the duty you have, but ensuring that you join everybody together in that. He was a bit of a pied piper in that sense. Everybody wanted to get behind Craig Senger and join him in whatever he was doing at the time. On behalf of my community and on behalf of the parliament, our deepest condolences to the Senger family and all of his friends and colleagues, and to everybody connected with Nathan Verity and Garth McEvoy as well. Please may they get strength out of the knowledge that we pay them the regard that we do.