Standing up for Canberra

Victims of Terrorism 2012

In speaking on this motion tonight I want to pay tribute to some of the brave Australians who have been honoured for their outstanding service following the tragic Bali terrorist attacks on 12 October 2002. But first I want to acknowledge those Australians who lost a family member or friend in the attacks on America in September 2001. Even today the images of that day are frightening and horrific. They are images of terrorism and a barbaric disregard for the lives of innocent people, and they will haunt us forever. Australia has historically close ties to the United States. We have stood together to face global threats through many years and through many wars. Just as the footage and stories from the conflict in the Pacific are ingrained in our psyche, so too are the events of 9/11.

Our then Prime Minister, John Howard, was in Washington when the Pentagon was attacked. Journalist Denis Atkins's account of the situation that confronted Mr Howard, his family, Australian diplomats and the travelling media is compelling. He writes about being 'shocked' and 'amazed' as people in Washington wondered what was going on. He describes the impact on the travelling media and the Australian diplomatic corps as events unfolded.

Mr Howard was actually the first leader to call the 9/11 attacks an act of war, and in many ways he was right to say this. There can never be any justification and there can never be any excuse or reason for the mass murder of civilians. The attack on America, like the attacks on London and Madrid, represent the most frightening element of extremism and the use of terror purely to kill.

As someone who has lived and worked in India as part of Australia's diplomatic mission, I know that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai were felt closely here in Australia. Australians were caught up in that evil act of terror, but many Australians have family and friends in Mumbai and they too have been affected by this act of terrorism. To see these attacks in India was deeply affecting. I love India and the Indian people and, having travelled as well to Pakistan and Afghanistan, I know the everyday people of this region want peace and stability.

Terrorism is designed to cause fear and chaos. Extremists use terror. Extremists use terror to bring instability and anarchy, and that is why we always stand firm in the way we deal with terrorist organisations. Ten years ago the unimaginable nightmare of terrorism was experienced by hundreds of Australians. On that fateful night in October, 202 people were killed, 88 of whom were Australian; 240 people were injured, many of them seriously. I had the privilege and the honour to represent the Speaker at the recent Bali memorial service here in Canberra, in the Great Hall. Senator Stephen Parry was there representing the President of the Senate, and the Governor-General was there. It was an incredibly moving and deeply mournful experience. There wasn't a dry eye in the house by the end of the session. But what I really enjoyed about it was the fact that it was incredibly respectful and also acknowledged the lives lost in this tragedy. It was also, in a way, uplifting in that the families and friends were there to honour those who died on that dreadful night in those dreadful circumstances. Photos were shown of a number of individuals, and that is what really brought the house undone. It was mournful, as I said, but also respectful and in many ways uplifting.

Particularly moving was the fact that the GovernorGeneral wore a beautiful brooch—a dove—on her lapel. I think that sent many messages, but essentially one of peace—hopefully world peace in our lifetimes. It was also wonderful to speak to the families and friends after the ceremony and to hear of their experiences and their tragic loss, as well as how they were rebuilding their lives and at the same time respecting and honouring those they had lost.

In the aftermath of this horrific terror attack, brave and wonderful Australians stepped up to help the many survivors and the families and friends of those who lost loved ones. Many of them were public servants, and I also spoke to a number of them at that Bali memorial service here in Canberra just recently. A total of 199 people were recognised for their efforts. These were people who rescued and helped family members, friends and people they had never met before. Some helped survivors from the burning nightclubs. Others spent hours, days, weeks and months helping survivors. These people are heroes in the true sense of the word. Heroes are people we admire because they have performed a brave act. Heroes are people who have acted above and beyond what is normally expected.

They have done something bold or altruistic or they have performed heroic deeds.

After the Bali bombing, almost 200 Australians were honoured for being heroes, many of them silent heroes. These special honours were bestowed for acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances; for acts of bravery considered worthy of recognition; for the provision of assistance to victims and to their families; for service in co-ordinating the crisis response for immediate evacuation of Australians from Bali; for assisting in victim identification procedures following the bombings; to members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Bali crisis task force; to members of the Australian Federal Police and Operation Alliance; to those involved in DNA identification procedures for the victims of the Bali bombings; for providing counselling services for victims, their families, and members of the DFAT Bali crisis task force; and for the provision of medical assistance to victims of the Bali bombings.

Many of these people are from Canberra. They were recognised on the Bali honours list, and tonight I would like to pay tribute to them again. Many of them I know from my time in DFAT. I pay tribute to Ross Tysoe; David Chaplin; Ian Kemish; John McAnulty; Timothy Morris; Colin Rigby, who was the DFAT psychologist and who went out on his own after some time in DFAT, providing a wonderful service in Bali and for all the DFAT employees throughout the world over many years; Alex Bartlem; Julie Brownrigg; Robert Cameron; Stephen Candotti; Craig Chittick, who I know well, a wonderful man living in Sydney; Susan Cobley; Kirk Coningham, a very good friend of mine; Susan Cox; Christopher De Cure, another friend of mine; Donald Evans; Francis Evatt; Mark Fraser; John Godwin; Brent Hall; Rebecca Hamon; John Janssen; Kim Lamb; Janette Lynagh; Elizabeth Morris, who I also worked with in DFAT; Charles Muller; Mark Pearson; Tracy Reid; Jeffrey Roach; David Royds; Thomas Sinkovits; Donald Smith; Ruth Stone; Lorenzo Strano, who I was on a short-term mission with in Indonesia; Timothy Toomey; Edwin White; Linzi Wilson-Wilde; Kenneth Hood; William Jackson; Lisa Paul; Richard Smith; Colonel Neil Thompson; Warrant Officer Julie-Anne Willes; and, finally, my beloved and dear friend Liz O'Neill, who is no longer with us; she was, unfortunately, killed in the Garuda fire many years ago, and I have spoken about that in the House many times. So, to all those fabulous public servants, who are quite often silent heroes, I pay tribute. I also pay tribute to those families and friends who lost loved ones in the Bali bombings, and anyone who has lost a loved one through an act of terrorism.

Download a copy of this speech.