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Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Page: 9311

Mr JOHNSON (12:23 PM) —On indulgence, I am speaking on this subject on behalf of the electorate I represent, Ryan in the western suburbs of Brisbane. I regret very much that I have to speak in the parliament on such a topic, but the reality is that the Bali bombings took place and all of us in this country and in the parliament must acknowledge that. Indeed, we must remember and, especially, must honour the lives of those 88 Australians who died so innocently. But we must also remember that there were some 200 others who were injured and many citizens from other countries who also lost their lives. On behalf of the people of Ryan I take this opportunity in the parliament of our country to put on the record their condolences, as well as their affection for the families that have been touched by the tragedy of the evening of 12 October 2002.

On 12 October 2002 three bombs went off on the Indonesian island of Bali. It was 11.05 pm on 12 October 2002 when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at the nightclub in Kuta, killing and injuring many innocent people. Two of the three bombs that evening went off in or outside the popular tourist destinations of Paddy’s bar and the Sari nightclub. The bombs killed a total of 202 people, including 88 Australians. The bombings of that evening shocked and horrified those on the tranquil island of Bali—thought by many to be almost a paradise. It was a place known globally for its harmony, its pristine beaches and its very peaceful way of life. It sent shockwaves the length and breadth of our country because we have not known so close to our shores such a significant act of brutality and terrorism. We see ourselves as a place sheltered from these sorts of atrocities and brutal attacks on innocent lives that are made for reasons that we simply cannot comprehend. I think it is fair to say that the bombings jarred Australians out of any sense of complacency by proving that terrorism strikes with no regard for gender, race, religion or political belief.

The people killed on that occasion were simply holiday makers. They had done no wrong to anyone. They would have thought of themselves as visiting a place that was amongst the safest on our earth. Who of them would have thought, as they woke up on that day of 12 October 2002, that they would face tragedy? Their families would never have even contemplated such a thing. I think what happened was aptly summed up by a former senior police detective in Bali, Mr Pastika, who said the bombings turned ‘paradise into hell’. I think that visually sums up for so many of us the transition that took place that night. Australians no longer felt safe in the tourist destination of Bali, and we all know that in the months afterwards—perhaps in the many months afterwards—Bali as a place for Australians to visit was affected very negatively. It was seen to be a place tainted by terrorism. Against the backdrop of 12 October 2002 it was seen as a place where people’s lives would be very much at risk.

For us at home, this was seen against the terror of 9-11 in the United States. I think we might have wondered what was coming into the world we lived in. Were we going to be living through an era of terror and a phase in the world’s history that was incomprehensible to a peace-loving country such as ours? But it did prove that we in this country, a place of democracy and a place of stability and prosperity, were not immune from indiscriminate attack and that perhaps those who committed this barbaric act were also attacking us for what we believed in, for what we stood for, for the values that we subscribed to very strongly and very proudly. Our sense of security was shattered as we struggled to understand the new climate of terror that we were apparently entering.

The bombings linked this country with Asia in a way that has not been seen before. I believe we came to see that the lack of security in other parts of the region so close to our shores also affected our security. One of the good things to come out of that, if a good thing can come out of such a tragedy, is that it affected the relationship between Australia and Indonesia in a positive fashion because we mourned together as nations, as communities, as families and as individuals and there was a new-found, steely determination to bring the perpetrators of this atrocity to justice.

Of course it is now known that the militant Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah was officially linked to the bombings and 33 people involved have been sentenced—including the three main bombers, who have been sentenced to death. We now know that Jemaah Islamiah’s operational capacity has been seriously damaged by law enforcement efforts, but the organisation still exists and who knows what they might do to innocent lives in the future. We pray that nothing as terrible as what happened on 12 October 2002 will be repeated, but we must be vigilant and resolute to ensure that the security of communities, individuals and towns is protected.

On this anniversary, six years after that terrible occasion, I want to say very strongly that we must continue to remember the suffering of those individuals and communities—the innocent people killed, their families and friends who suffer and mourn, and the survivors, who will of course not only remember that occasion, which will be a scar on their minds forever, but also have an additional burden in that they will be remembering the loss of life of loved ones and of friends.

I had the opportunity to be in Bali last December. During my few days in Bali to attend an energy and environment conference, I took the opportunity to visit the memorial that has been placed outside the Sari Club, where many of the victims were killed. I also took two of my staff members, Julian Simmonds and Talena Elson, with me to that place of tragedy, and it was interesting to observe these young Australians’ emotions and sense of the tragedy. Although the three of us knew none of the victims personally or their families who were to suffer so terribly, in a remarkable way we felt they were Australians with whom we had a connection. I know that many of our fellow Australians have been to Bali since, and I suspect that all of them would have visited the memorial that has been built outside the Sari Club. For those who might go to Bali in the future, I strongly encourage them to do their bit to honour the lives that were lost.

It is interesting that in this country the pain of that occasion is still felt. It is the way that we Australians are—we remember such occasions. And we must always do so, because I think a mark of our character as a nation is how we get together to support each other directly where we perhaps know the families and the communities, and how we can indirectly feel for them where we do not know them personally. We should never undervalue or underestimate the power of that feeling where we know others across the country feel for us. For those of us who have experienced personal tragedy in our life or in our families, I can say that we somehow know when others in our communities—in our suburbs, in our cities—have compassion and care for us.

At the national level, Australia and Indonesia, as I alluded to earlier, became partners in a new-found determination to bring justice, to ensure that the terrorists who changed the lives of so many people were held to account for their barbaric, indiscriminate and senseless act which destroyed lives. These people seek to destroy more than just lives; they seek to destroy a way of life. They seek to destroy our freedom—in our movements, in our thinking and in what we stand for. As Australians we must never shirk from the grave responsibility of standing up to those who would seek to destroy that characteristic in this country.

I want to give the people of Ryan a sense of what two Australians affected by that occasion think and how they have expressed their emotions. Ross McKeon, whose wife and daughter died in the blast and who was injured, made these observations on Sunday, on the sixth anniversary of the Bali bombings:

Six years on and I still feel the horror, I still see the visions, the images … It’s something that is so ingrained in me … now so deep I hope that I can put it all away.

Hannah Singer lost her brother Tom as a result of injuries he sustained in the bomb blast. Hannah said:

I couldn’t understand and still don’t know now how human beings could kill each other for a thing that they call faith in God.

That is a very profound statement. For Australians it is something we just cannot comprehend. Never mind killing someone, taking another human life, but to do so in the name of God, for faith, is something Australians cannot appreciate. The response at the time by the Australian government, the government of John Howard, deserves commendation. More so, those who acted in the name of Australia—the Commonwealth agencies, the Australian Defence Force and the Australian police force, many state and territory agencies and private and non-governmental organisations such as St John’s and the Australian Red Cross—all played critical roles in the evacuation and in the investigation.

I want to again thank Qantas and recognise the role that it played in being the spirit of Australia. I would hope very much that this airline never loses that spirit, because it is something that makes it successful and something that must always be a feature of that company.

For the record and for the electorate of Ryan that I represent in the federal parliament I want to pay tribute to all the medical people who played a role in treating the victims of the bombings and those suffering at the Royal Darwin Hospital in particular. Having a brother who is a doctor, one of Australia’s finest young neurosurgeons, and a sister who is a doctor and hearing sometimes of their experiences in their professional working day treating suffering, I can only stand in awe of the talent and the skill of those Australians across the allied health professions at the Royal Darwin Hospital for what they did. We must thank them very sincerely for the way that they did their jobs professionally but beyond professionalism. It is really a mark of them and of the very best of our country.

In the months and years that have followed, we know that the government’s efforts to strengthen counterterrorism in Indonesia and the whole region have been reasonably effective and successful. Australia is currently implementing a $10 million four-year initiative to help Indonesia build its counterterrorism capacity and a $3 million fund has been established to foster capacity-building links between Australian and Indonesian government departments relating to travel security. Indonesia is a very significant country in the world. It is the world’s largest Muslim democracy and its proximity to our country must put it front and centre in our foreign policy as well. We have taken a leading role in increasing regional cooperation against terrorism, including organising meetings of key experts, regional conferences to talk about the critical issues that face Indonesia and therefore face us in confronting terrorism, issues such as the financing of terrorism and money laundering. Those are not insignificant gestures; they are very substantial mechanisms to deal with this issue.

I end my remarks by saying, on my own behalf as a citizen of this country and on behalf of the Ryan electorate that I represent, to those who suffered terribly on that evening of 12 October 2002, that we will not forget you, that we must honour you and we must do all we can to ensure that greater security is reached for individual Australians, for individual Indonesians and for all those in our part of the world. We must do all we can to ensure that our way of life and the values that we believe in remain protected and that they endure for the generations to come, and that all those who would wish us ill and would wish to condemn our way of life by taking innocent lives do not succeed. They must not succeed. I take this opportunity in the Australian parliament as the member for Ryan to put that on the record for the people I represent, who I know, speaking to them in the days and weeks and indeed even in the years afterwards, still remain absolutely shocked by what happened that night. In one sense six years might be a little while ago but in another sense it is as if it were yesterday.