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Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Page: 9304


Mr HALE (11:52 AM) —On indulgence, I also rise to acknowledge the sixth anniversary of the bombing in Bali. As the member for Solomon, in the Northern Territory, I represent an area with an affiliation to these events, not only because of the close proximity of Bali to Darwin but because of the role that the Royal Darwin Hospital and emergency services and defence personnel played in assisting the victims of this horrible event. As the Prime Minister said on Monday in this place, ‘On 12 October 2002 tragedy shocked Australia. For those who lost loved ones, life will never be the same.’

The 2002 Bali bombing occurred on 12 October in the tourist district of Kuta, on the Indonesian island of Bali. It was the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia, killing 202 people: 88 Australians who were among the 164 foreign nationals who died that day and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured. The innocence of Australia was shattered on that fateful night. No longer do Australians feel that terrorism is someone else’s problem; no longer do we feel that these events happen somewhere else in the world. For me the Bali bombing brought it home: these people with their evil ideology can strike at any time and none of us is immune from it. Like many Australians I sat and watched the events unfold. Television report after report brought the horror of Bali into our living rooms. As the death toll rose I remember thinking, ‘Surely someone I know has not fallen victim to this terrible act.’ I heard, however, some days later that a guy whom I had played football against when I coached Temora in the Riverina Football League had lost his life. Shane Till, a schoolteacher who had been in Bali for a bit of a break after a teachers conference, was killed in the attacks. He was 32.

The attacks involved the detonation of three bombs: a backpack-mounted device carried by a suicide bomber and a large car bomb, both of which were detonated in or near popular nightclubs in Kuta; and a third much smaller device detonated outside the United States consulate in Denpasar, causing only minor damage. Various members of Jemaah Islamiah, a violent Islamic group, were convicted in relation to the bombings, including three individuals who were sentenced to death. A suicide bomber inside the nightclub, Paddy’s Bar, detonated a bomb in his backpack, causing many patrons, with or without injuries, to immediately flee into the street. Fifteen seconds later, a second and much more powerful car bomb hidden inside a van was detonated by another suicide bomber outside the Sari Club, located opposite Paddy’s Bar. This was a premeditated, extremely well-organised and malicious attack designed to cause maximum casualties. To highlight this fact, it was later discovered that the van was rigged for detonation by remote control in case the second bomber had a sudden change of heart. Damage to the densely populated residential and commercial district was immense, destroying neighbouring buildings and shattering windows several blocks away. The car bomb explosion left a one-metre deep crater in the ground.

The local Sanglah Hospital was ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the disaster and was overwhelmed with the number of injured, particularly burns victims. There were so many people injured by the explosion that some of the injured had to be placed in hotel pools near the explosion site to ease the pain of their burns. At very short notice, Darwin became the receiving centre for critically injured Australians and Indonesians. The first patients arrived at the Royal Darwin Hospital 26 hours after the blasts. The Royal Darwin Hospital assessed and resuscitated 61 patients, including 20 intensive care patients. RDH evacuated 48 patients to burns centres around Australia within 36 hours of the first patient arrivals at the hospital and 62 hours after the bomb blasts. Royal Darwin Hospital’s medical and nursing staff, whether trauma specialists or the many other professionals lending assistance, were stretched to the very limit. Everyone performed magnificently. In the midst of the Bali tragedy, the nation was justly proud of the efforts made in Darwin in that terrible week. Lives were saved that otherwise would have been lost. The post-Bali establishment of the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre at the RDH supports not only the Northern Territory but the rest of Australia. It also has a positive impact on the whole of South-East Asia. It puts Royal Darwin Hospital on the map as far as trauma and critical care are concerned.

As a former footballer and football coach, I related instantly with the story of Jason McCartney after the Bali bombings. The Bali bombings had coincided with end-of-season trips for many Australian football clubs, across codes and at all levels, and so had a disproportionate impact on the lives and families of footballers. As the member for Cowan mentioned in his contribution, the Kingsley Australian Rules Football Club in Western Australia lost seven members of their 2002 team, while the Forbes Rugby Union Club in rural New South Wales lost three team members. The accounts of courage and desperation of their surviving players in the period after the bombings became an enduring image of the human suffering exacted by the tragedy.

Former North Melbourne footballer Jason McCartney was holidaying in Bali at the time and, along with his team mate Mick Martin, he was in Paddy’s Bar when the first bomb went off. Jason was critically injured, with serious burns to a large percentage of his body. He was evacuated to Darwin and then on to Melbourne, and it was touch and go for a while. Jason became the face of Bali, due to his profile as an AFL footballer and also due to the fact he would not get on a plane until people he believed were needing attention before him had been evacuated. Little did he know that his body was going into shock, and by the time he left Bali he was in a fight for his life.

Jason McCartney’s comeback match against Richmond in the 2003 AFL season was the culmination of eight months of rehabilitation, a process which was inspired by his determination to again take to the field for the Kangaroos in elite competition. When Jason McCartney took to the field in a fully protective body suit under his football jumper, his determination to play again became symbolic of the suffering and recovery of all of those who were affected by the bombings. It also held a special and immediate significance for the Australian Rules football fraternity. The match was attended by many of the survivors of the bombings, and the Kangaroos wore jumpers commemorating the 202 victims of the bombings and the 88 Australians who lost their lives.

Jason McCartney’s actions during the immediate aftermath of the bombings and his triumphant return from horrific injury epitomise the human spirit and are a fitting and lasting counter to those who would seek to diminish and demean it. Like many others on that night, Jason is a hero and so is his mate Mick. He survived Bali and made a triumphant return to play one game of AFL football. After the game, Jason retired. While Jason has moved on with his life with the help of his wife Nerissa and young son Lucas, along with the rest of his family, friends and the AFL, many victims of the Bali bombings continue to struggle with the terrible events of that day. Jason and I have become great mates and he assisted me with my teams when I was coaching in the Northern Territory in the past few years.

The family and friends of the Bali victims live their personal torment every day. The pain etched on their faces at the time of the anniversary each year is there for all to see. For many of us, 12 October comes and we reflect on the 202 people who lost their lives that day; however, we move on. But for the families who lost people in Bali it is, and will continue to be, very hard to move on. It is for them that we must never forget those people who died the day our nation’s innocence was lost.

There are also less public victims of the Bali bombing and they are the people of Bali themselves. They rely on the tourism industry in Bali and after the bombings their economy collapsed as for a long time people chose not to return to that beautiful island. They paid a heavy price for the actions of extreme Muslim fundamentalists on that day.

A further tragedy is that, whenever these extreme elements of Islam strike, all Muslims around the world feel the pain. I have a wonderful Muslim community in Solomon, and they feel the pain of the terrorists’ actions. They have just completed the holy month of Ramadan, and it was at this time that the terrorists attacked six years ago. The terrorists do not represent Islam. They do not represent Muslims around the world. They certainly do not represent the prophet Mohammed.

As we remember the victims of Bali, it is an appropriate time to remember our Defence Force men and women who continue to put their lives on the line in various deployments in our region and in other parts of the world, and the efforts of like-minded nations that are engaged in a war on terror to protect the freedoms that we often take for granted.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute report says groups such as JI of Indonesia, responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200 people, are still capable of launching major attacks. The report, which also examines Muslim radical movements in the Philippines and southern Thailand, warned policymakers against complacency after a successful police crackdown on JI in Indonesia in 2002. The group has now split between a fanatical hardcore, which still believes in violence, and a less extreme wing, but it could muster around 900 militants, including at least 15 ‘first generation leaders’.

Despite these changes, however, JI continues to represent a significant threat to both Australian and regional security interests—

the report said. It went on to say:

It is essential, therefore, that Australian and Southeast Asian governments remain vigilant in the face of evolving political developments in these areas and work conscientiously to make these ungoverned spaces less hospitable to terrorist exploitation.

Its release came two weeks after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledged to boost security ties with Indonesia during his first state visit to Jakarta since taking office.

In fact, Australia’s largest ever multijurisdictional counterterrorism exercise, Mercury 08, has commenced this week. Mercury 08 is designed to enhance Australia’s capacity to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from multiple threats or acts of terrorism. Mercury 08 takes into account the current global and domestic security environment, and will robustly test whole-of-government decision making, information sharing, intelligence management, critical infrastructure protection and airport security. The new national counterterrorism alert level system announced earlier this month will also be tested during the course of the exercise. As Attorney-General Robert McClelland said on Tuesday this week:

Australia’s security arrangements are strong, but they can always be enhanced by comprehensive counterterrorism exercises such as Mercury 08. I want to thank everyone involved in the exercise. Their work will help make Australia safer.

It is the actions of government, actions such as Mercury 08, that will ensure that we are at the forefront when it comes to preventing these types of attacks occurring in Australia or in countries in our region. In conclusion, to the victims of the Bali bombings—202 lives, 88 of which were Australian—we mourn your loss. Six years on, we remember those who are still suffering due to the events of 12 October 2002. As a nation, Australia—with our allies—will continue to fight against evil elements of the global community so that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms that our democracy brings.