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Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Page: 3284

Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (16:00): Recently I was approached by leaders of our local Cambodian community, who let me know that they were planning a special event to mark 100 days since the death of the Hon. Bob Hawke, in keeping with Cambodian and Buddhist traditions. They invited me to the event, and of course I was honoured to accept. It was an incredibly moving thing for the Cambodian community to have the thoughtfulness to organise. I took the liberty of letting Bob's widow, Blanche d'Alpuget, know that this event was occurring and I invited her to it. I was absolutely delighted that she could accept the invitation and accompany me to the commemoration of 100 days since the death of Bob Hawke. We were both accompanied by Bob's close friend and former adviser the Hon. Craig Emerson.

Blanche was very moved by the event. To arrive at the Khemarangsaram temple in Bonnyrigg to be welcomed by big pictures of Bob Hawke, to see around 100 members of the Cambodian community wearing Bob Hawke badges and to see the monks chanting in memory of Bob Hawke was incredibly moving for everyone. It says a lot about the genuineness of our Cambodian community.

The Cambodian community remembers Bob fondly for several reasons. Firstly, of course, the Paris peace accords would not have been achieved without the Hawke Labor government and the leadership of both Bill Hayden and Gareth Evans as successive foreign ministers. But they knew they had the backing of their Prime Minister for Australia to take a leading role in international diplomacy to bring democracy back to Cambodia. Also, of course, the Cambodian community remembered Bob's generous attitude towards Cambodian refugees and his activist approach. As I said in my remarks at the commemoration, we should also remember that Bob's approach to Cambodian refugees was a continuation of the approach of Malcolm Fraser. That should be recognised in a bipartisan fashion.

I was struck that one of the leaders of the Cambodian community actually—I'm sure he won't mind me telling the House—broke down in tears as he was delivering his eulogy of Bob Hawke. The Cambodian community also noted Medicare and what it meant to them to come to a country with universal health care. They remembered Bob Hawke as the father of Medicare. It was an incredibly moving event, and I was absolutely delighted that Blanche and Craig could join me at that event at the Bonnyrigg temple.

I want to place on record in the Parliament of Australia my thanks to the Cambodian community and the temple for organising the event from scratch, at their own instigation, of their own volition, and for taking the time on their Sunday morning to remember Bob Hawke. Again as I said at the temple, it's a reminder to all of us in this House that Australia played a key role in democracy going to Cambodia and must continue to play a key role to see democracy restored to Cambodia.