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Wednesday, 28 September 2022
Page: 67

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaLeader of the Nationals in the Senate) (15:53): On behalf of the Nationals I join with my parliamentary colleagues in placing on the record our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims on the 20th anniversary of the Bali bombings. I also welcome His Excellency to the chamber and share our heartfelt condolences, which I'm sure he will reiterate back to Indonesia and the Balinese community more broadly on our behalf.

Bali is indeed a beautiful island paradise that has for decades offered a spiritual retreat and escape, especially for Australians. Many Australians take their first overseas holiday to Bali, and it is a mecca for families, surfers, and is accessible to so many across Australia.

It's Saturday night, 12 October, a warm 24 degrees, and the city centre is bustling. Some are heading home after dinner and others are heading out to start their night partying. Then at 11.05 pm a suicide bomber detonated inside Paddy's pub, in Kuta. Minutes later, another bomb detonated across the street at the Sari Club. Those explosions that night killed 202 people from 20 countries. Australia suffered the largest loss, with 88 fatalities and hundreds more left wounded. We can only imagine the utter distress of losing a loved one under such horrific circumstances, and we can only imagine the ongoing distress experienced by those injured and those who witnessed the carnage and human suffering. This cowardly and despicable bombing has tragically affected families not only in Australia but also in Bali. This was an attack on both Australians and Balinese, an attack on the Australian way of life and the Balinese way of life.

In the wake of the attacks the Australian Defence Force immediately mobilised, launching Operation Bali Assist just 17 hours after the blast. The first RAAF plane arrived to evacuate injured Australians in the largest aeromedical evacuation since the Vietnam War. At least 66 badly injured people were flown to Darwin for treatment. The military then assisted in secondary transfers of people from Darwin to medical centres around the country. Hours after the attacks the Australian Federal Police organised a team to go to Bali. It included disaster victim identification staff, forensic investigators, intelligence officers, administrators, security staff and IT and comms staff to assist the Indonesian National Police investigation. Over 10 days, AFP members interviewed 7,000 Australians about their experiences as they returned to Australia after the attack. The AFP was instrumental in identifying and returning victims to their families, and provided extensive investigative support that led to the capture of the perpetrators.

Out of the destruction of the bombings came many stories of ordinary people making extraordinary efforts to help those affected. People who were injured in the blasts stayed to assist others, and locals and foreigners went to the site to help. Tourists with medical skills worked with overwhelmed Indonesian medical staff at the bomb sites and local hospitals. Nearly 200 Australians received formal recognition for their bravery and for the assistance they provided both immediately and in following months.

On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the then Labor minister and leader of the government in this place at the time, Senator Chris Evans, echoed the sentiment of many:

They took many lives but they failed in their mission. October 12 2002 was also a day of great heroism. Of selfless acts of courage. Of remarkable emergency response. What was a terrible day of shared grief for Indonesia and Australia became a day of great shared resolve.

Joe Frost spoke at Newcastle Sacred Heart Cathedral in a special service to acknowledge the victims of the Bali bombings, and encapsulated what many Australians were feeling:

That bomb hit us that night and it has hit all of our community.

Those words ring true because, irrespective of where we live in Australia, whether we visit Bali, whether we know anybody directly associated with the bombings—victims or relatives—we can empathise with the ongoing hardship and distress they still experience.

In these continuing uncertain times we must be vigilant in being even more aware of our surroundings and ensure we take every necessary measure to fight against such acts of terrorism that aim to bring down our very way of life. It is regrettable, yet a reality, that we are in the midst of a war that has no boundaries, whose victims are random and the perpetrators of which are devoid of the basic decency found in most human beings.

Sadly, the word 'Bali' became synonymous with this bloodshed. This tiny idyllic paradise was drawn into the maelstrom of intolerance, ignorance and hate. The irony is Bali is a beautiful place that, sadly, was associated with this terror. I recall watching television footage of people at the airport. One man interviewed said: 'Of course I'm going to Bali. If I don't go they will have won.' This is what we must all do, and we have done. Our love for the Balinese people, the country's landscape, the surf and the bintang has not waned, and Bali today is one of our favoured holiday destinations. It is also a strong partnership between the federal government of Australia and the Indonesian government, of strategic, economic and people-to-people relationships being so important.

I reiterate our condolences to the victims, their families and those who still live with what they experienced on that fateful October night. Our thoughts and prayers in the National Party are with them during these most difficult times, and we support the motion.