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22 February 2005
Indian Ocean Tsunami
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About this Item
Disasters; Charities; Foreign Aid
Carr Mr Bob
Brogden Mr John
Nori Ms Sandra
Stoner Mr Andrew
Stewart Mr Tony
O'Farrell Mr Barry
Judge Ms Virginia
Page Mr Donald
Burney Ms Linda
Turner Mr Russell
Bartlett Mr John
Hodgkinson Ms Katrina
Ashton Mr Alan
Hopwood Mrs Judy
Price Mr John
Skinner Mrs Jillian
Hunter Mr Jeff
Maguire Mr Daryl
Whan The Hon Steve
Constance Mr Andrew
Mills Mr John
George Mr Thomas
Lynch Mr Paul
Seaton Ms Peta
Gaudry Mr Bryce
Richardson Mr Michael
Perry Mrs Barbara
Humpherson Mr Andrew
Draper Mr Peter
Berejiklian Ms Gladys
Torbay Mr Richard
Pringle Mr Steven
West Mr Graham
Aplin Mr Greg
Kerr Mr Malcolm
Merton Mr Wayne
Tink Mr Andrew
INDIAN OCEAN TSUNAMI
Mr BOB CARR
(Maroubra—Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Citizenship) [3.20 p.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) extends to all Australians and Australia's neighbours who suffered personal losses during the tragic 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster its profound sympathy in their bereavement and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured; and
(2) expresses its gratitude to those who so generously contributed time, effort and money to relieve the suffering of those affected.
In the course of a day this disaster took more lives than the bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, the London blitz and Guernica combined. More people died more quickly than in any known event in human history. More people were displaced, impoverished, economically shattered and dispossessed more quickly, in a couple of hours, than perhaps at any time known in human history. Very quickly, very practically, comfortingly and helpfully, Australia was on the scene. Australians arrived as neighbours, as allies, and as friends. When the need was greatest, Australia was a friend at the time of need. Today, we honour Australia's resilient good companionship and pay a particular tribute to the men and women of the New South Wales emergency services, our police, our fire brigades, our health professionals, and our ambulance services who served in so many fields: emergency medical treatment, trauma surgery, the identification of victims, logistical support, pathology services, and repatriating victims and survivors.
I believe that our response was so prompt and so professional because we have been there, because we know what it is like to suffer bushfire, flood, drought and cyclone, to fight unheeding nature with courage and versatility, and to rally around a community and provide comfort when things are at their worst. Australians acquitted themselves well after that Boxing Day disaster. Australians were there when needed and selflessly at work in the heart of our holiday season. And so I salute the men and women who gave up so much—and put at risk so much—and achieved so much in those terrible days at the year's turning. I ask the House to share and echo my thanks, and to remember the tens and the thousands who will never again see home and the millions who will never forget.
Mr JOHN BROGDEN
(Pittwater—Leader of the Opposition) [3.23 p.m.]: The Coalition joins with the Government in acknowledging the immense loss felt by some Australians but predominantly by our neighbours in the Indian Ocean area. For most of us, the size of the tsunami is something we simply cannot come to terms with. The number of deaths, and the magnitude of the destruction and tragedy it has left behind, will see the Australian and world communities bind together to deal with the resultant issues for many years. We cannot ignore the extent of the tsunami's destruction and the number it has left dead in each of the affected countries. The official death toll has now risen to an incredible 296,000—and it is likely to rise even further, with 243,000 confirmed dead or missing in Indonesia, Sri Lanka's loss of 31,000 people, India's death toll standing at 16,389, and Thailand's toll at 5,390.
As we all know, there have been a number of tragic Australian deaths. The number of Australians confirmed dead stands at 19, including a three-year-old New South Wales girl, although grave concerns are held for another eight. This enormous tsunami wreaked terrible damage on the Aceh province of Indonesia. It is in this area that I think Australia and Australians have focused their main relief effort, not through assistance provided by professionals and volunteers, but particularly through fund-raising efforts. It should not be forgotten that the per capita dollar contribution by Australians is the largest single contribution to any charitable cause in the history of this nation—and this is not for Australians but for our neighbours.
In my lifetime I have experienced two Christmas disasters: cyclone Tracey in Darwin and last year's Boxing Day tsunami. Early reports about the tsunami belied its massive devastation. Like most of us, I hoped it would be a comparatively small occurrence, albeit unfortunately with a number of dead. But as reports came in and the devastation became measured, it started to become clear to everyone that this was not a one-off gift of charity and support that Australia could provide. What is now clear is that we must continue our support for many years to come.
Australia and Australians can be immensely proud of the fact that, in an international sense, Australia was the first nation to put together a comprehensive, long-term package that could deliver ongoing aid to our friends in the Indian Ocean area. We can be very proud of that, and we can be immensely proud of the role played by our Prime Minister in that regard. New South Wales also can be very proud that, as was required at the time, our emergency staff were the first to respond to a call that went out to the nation from a roster that was developed, and that many individuals, in addition to the professionals who were called to the region, gave of their own time and went to help. I would like to take this opportunity, in a very bipartisan spirit, to note in particular the efforts of the honourable member for Bankstown, Mr Tony Stewart. He put his Christmas holidays aside and, in support of Father Chris Riley, went to the affected region to provide his personal support. I congratulate the honourable member on that.
Not so long ago, most in this Parliament would have seen television footage of the Hon. Dr Brian Pezzutti, a very, very talented anaesthetist. On his return, I spoke to Dr Pezzutti, who told me that never in his life had every operation in which he was involved required him to save lives, and that never in all his years in medicine had every procedure he administered actually saved a life. He spoke graphically about the devastation he saw. Dr Pezzutti had previously travelled with the military to many theatres of war, but never had he seen such devastation as he witnessed following the tsunami, and nor had he provided such critical care at a time of great need.
I would like to take a moment to reflect upon the fact that some Australian families, but countless thousands of families throughout the world, will never have returned to them the remains of their loved ones. It is one thing to cope with the death of a loved one, to grieve over the body and, in religious and civil ways, to gather to commemorate the death. But it is another thing to deal with the death of a family member without having the body identified.
This Friday the Northern Beaches community will take part in a memorial service for Kathy Glinsky, one of those who is still missing, most likely dead. Her family, as difficult as it is for them, have finally come to terms with the fact that they are unlikely to see her body returned. She went missing after being on a beach with her three-year-old niece. The body of the niece was found, but Kathy's body was not. Coincidentally, Kathy Glinsky went to school with my wife, Lucie. That year's class will get together to commemorate their lost friend. Kathy also lived in the same suburb as I do. Her family have experienced all of the emotions one could imagine following the loss of a loved one and the distress of not being able to find her body. They are coming to terms with that. That one example is magnified around the world for the tens of thousands of families for whom, understandably, receiving and dealing with the body in their own way is a critical part of their mourning, but who, unfortunately, will never have that opportunity.
The House acknowledges today the sadness experienced by those affected by the devastation caused by the tsunami. It is something the world has never seen. Usually, human emotion is such that we want to blame someone because it is always easier if someone can be blamed. In war we blame our enemies, and in terrorism we blame those who use evil to try to destroy our way of life. But absolutely no-one is to blame for the tsunami except Mother nature, over which we have no control, and therefore it would be fruitless to attempt to blame her. The sadness we feel is especially hollow because of our inability to in any way prevent what happened.
Governments around the world are talking about implementing tsunami early warning systems in the Indian Ocean. Such a system may save lives, but I doubt that it would have saved many of the thousands of lives lost when the wave hit with such devastating force. Although it is two months since the tsunami, the hearts of ordinary Australians continue to ache with compassion for those who were affected by it. Australians will proudly and fiercely do whatever we can to support each other in our time of need, and we have shown that we will do as much as we possibly can to help others around the world in their time of need. We can only hope that as time moves on, Australians will continue to do business with, and contribute to tourism in, the tsunami-affected areas.
It was difficult for us to consider returning to Bali after the Bali bombing, but our depriving Bali of our tourism dollar did it more harm than good. I hope that Australians who have travelled to, and holidayed in, Phuket and other areas affected by the tsunami will return, as they returned to Bali. Recently I was informed that the number of Australians visiting Bali now is higher than it was before the bombing. For decades, Australians have provided important economic support to affected areas through their tourist dollar, and I hope we continue to do that. Two months ago, when our neighbours found themselves in need, Australia extended a hand of compassion, and it continues to do so. The people of Australia generally, and of New South Wales in particular, can be very proud that they passed that test.
Ms SANDRA NORI
(Port Jackson—Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Women) [3.32 p.m.]: All Australians have a right to feel proud of the way our Federal and State governments, our fellow Australians, and those involved in the many fundraising events responded to the plight of those affected by the tsunami. We live in hope that that extensive loss of life and property will never be repeated. The rebuilding of local economies once the humanitarian effort is near complete will be essential in getting tsunami-affected countries back on their feet. Tourism was a major contributor to the economies of the countries hit by the tsunami. The most severely affected countries included Sri Lanka, where two-thirds of the coastline was damaged; Thailand, where up to one-third of the tourism work force was killed in the most severely affected areas of the Andaman coast; and the Maldives, where the repair of tourism infrastructure in most areas has not prevented mass cancellations by concerned tourists. Tourists to Indonesia have made significant numbers of cancellations despite its tourist centres being largely unaffected by the tsunami.
In recognising that total recovery must take into account economic recovery, immediately after the tsunami I discussed with Tourism New South Wales how we could assist our neighbouring countries. Tourism New South Wales contacted the World Tourism Organisation [WTO]—the global tourism organisation that operates under the auspices of the United Nations—the Pacific Asia Travel Association [PATA], which is the region's industry association, and the Federal Government to propose setting up a tsunami response task force for the tourism industry. We have offered expertise in areas such as master planning, consumer research, technical support, public relations, business planning, and government and non-government relations. Following this initiative the WTO recommended that Australia and a representative from Tourism New South Wales be invited to an emergency session of the World Tourism Organisation Executive Council in Phuket, Thailand, in early February.
The Australian delegation was led by the Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ms Patricia Kelly, and other Australians represented industry and APEC's tourism interests. I understand that more than 40 countries were represented at the meeting. The Executive Director of Tourism New South Wales, Mr John O'Neill, attended the meeting as part of the Australian delegation. The outcome of the WTO meeting was the Phuket Action Plan, which was endorsed by those present. The action plan focuses on five key areas, including marketing and communications because information is the key to recovering consumer confidence; community relief, which will encompass technical and financial assistance for the many tourism small businesses; skills and training for new employees needed to replace those who lost their lives; sustainable redevelopment, which will include repair and redevelopment of the tourism industry in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way now that they have a chance to start again; and public safety and risk management, which will provide support for the development of an early warning system for the Indian Ocean.
National governments have been asked to earmark a proportion of generic cash aid to support tourism recovery projects. The next step is to scope specific projects. We expect to work with PATA and other government tourism organisations under plans now being developed in conjunction with the World Tourism Organisation. Tourism New South Wales will continue to work with our tourism industry through our Tourism Industry Forum and other State Government agencies to draw on the expertise and goodwill of our partners and feed that into the system.
As Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation I have responsibility for a number of venues, including the Sydney Cricket Ground [SCG]. I am pleased to report that the WaveAid fundraising concert held at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 29 January with the support of the SCG Trust raised $2.4 million. WaveAid featured one of the biggest line-ups of local musicians ever put together and was a major success. It attracted 48,000 people. The featured musicians included Midnight Oil, whose lead singer is my parliamentary colleague, PowderFinger, silverchair, the John Butler Trio, the Wrights, the Finn Brothers, Pete Murray, Kasey Chambers, Missy Higgins, the Waifs, and Nick Cave. The $2.4 million raised through the concert was split equally among four nominated charities: Care Australia, the Australian Red Cross, Oxfam/Community Aid Abroad, and UNICEF.
The music industry estimated that normally an event of the size of WaveAid—the number of bands, the logistics, and setting up the stage—would probably cost in the order of $3 million or $4 million. But because of the goodwill of every single person in the supply chain it cost only $600,000, and the amount of money that went to charity was maximised. The 500 full-time staff and casual staff of the Sydney Cricket Ground worked voluntarily in the lead-up to the concert and on the day.
The Sydney Cricket Ground set a target of raising $100,000 during a recent cricket test, but succeeded in raising $200,000. I thank the Cricket Ground Trust for waiving the hire fee for WaveAid and for kicking off fundraising at the concert by donating $25,000. I especially want to thank the number of people involved in WaveAid. I have mentioned the performers, but I must also mention Mark Pope, Joe Segreto, John Watson and, most especially, Michael Chugg, a music industry hero and stalwart who goes back a long way. Michael Chugg is a rock-and-roller from way back. He has been responsible for many concerts that Australians have enjoyed over the years. But there is a side to Michael that many people do not know about: he is also a board member of the Prince of Wales Children's Foundation. I thank Michael and all his colleagues in the music industry for their great efforts in organising the concert so quickly. It was quite a complex exercise to organise television advertisements, ticketing and so on in only a couple of days.
In conclusion, I congratulate Tourism New South Wales and its executive director for coming up with the idea of forming the task force which has been adopted by the Federal Government, the World Tourism Organization and the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust. I thank also all those who paid good money to attend the concert and who, by doing so, made a financial contribution to the recovery of the tsunami-affected nations.
Mr ANDREW STONER
(Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [3.40 p.m.]: The devastation wrought by the earthquake off the west coast of northern Sumatra on December 26 last year and the subsequent tsunamis that swept across the Indian Ocean will leave an indelible mark on generations of human beings. It was an unthinkable and unprecedented tragedy. It was weeks before the extent of the number of lives lost and families devastated began to fully emerge. The death toll has now reached more than 285,000, including 19 Australians, and grave concerns are held for a further 8 Australians. Our thoughts and prayers are with the relatives and friends of those who died.
Together with the New South Wales Governor and the Prime Minister, I had the privilege of attending a special service at St Andrew's Cathedral on January 16, the National Day of Mourning and Reflection. It was an extremely moving service, with prayers led by members of the Indonesian and Sri Lankan communities. The United Nations estimates that the tsunamis displaced one million people and deprived five million of basic services. Areas near the epicentre in Indonesia, especially Aceh, were devastated by the earthquake and tsunamis. The tsunamis also affected Phuket and surrounding areas in Thailand, Penang in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India, and as far afield as Somalia in Africa. I pay tribute to the many Australians who travelled to the region to help the devastated communities: medical staff, teachers, engineers, defence personnel, aid workers. They are doing Australia proud.
As Leader of The Nationals I would also like to reflect upon the enormous outpouring of support from rural and regional New South Wales following this crisis. The people of rural and regional areas know more than most the destruction and dislocation that natural disasters can cause. Many country communities around the State have pitched in with rapid and effective fundraising efforts to send amounts from a few dollars to tens of thousands of dollars to those struggling to cope with the aftermath of the disaster, and many individuals have offered practical support and equipment to help the survivors recover. Corporations that operate in rural and regional areas, including Wesfarmers, the Australian Wheat Board and Rural Press, among others, have contributed cash to the effort while other companies have sent foodstuffs and equipment.
The New South Wales Farmers Association has also chipped in on behalf of its members. Meanwhile, cotton growers in northern New South Wales were part of a tarp drive to collect clean module tarpaulins in good condition to send to Sri Lanka. The Rural Doctors Association was on standby to join a co-ordinated medical response from the Australian Government. The
newspaper reported on 6 January that rural towns across the State had dug deep for local charity groups such as Rotary and the Australian Red Cross, and filled collection plates at combined prayer and church services. Michael Lynch, Australian Red Cross New South Wales division executive director, was quoted as saying contributions had been amazing, particularly in the light of the suffering that country people had faced owing to the drought in New South Wales in recent years:
"Children have been emptying piggybanks and people have literally been pulling out notes from under the bed to donate to this cause," Mr Lynch said."We never expected this amount of support to come through," he said.
The compassion and generosity of country people is nothing short of astounding. The
also reported that in the State's south, where communities battle the day-to-day hardships of the drought, the Australian Red Cross received a $6,000 donation from the people of Berrigan, while Tumut locals raised $10,000, which was then matched by the shire council. Yass fundraisers collected $11,000, also for the Red Cross, and Griffith branch members collected more than $12,000.The Orange community donated about $150,000 to various tsunami appeal charities. In the central west, the Red Cross reported that more than $1,000 was collected at the Macquarie Picnic Races at Trangie, while Peak Hill raised $2,000, Gilgandra $6,000 and Parkes $6,000.
A charity event held by the south Dubbo Rotary Club raised $50,000 to help restore infrastructure and a sense of hope to the tattered villages of Sri Lanka, and Dubbo residents also donated $100,000 to the Australian Red Cross. The Country Women's Association Dubbo branch staged an appeal for clothes and other items to be sent to the disaster zone. The husband of the honourable member for Burrinjuck was just one of the many New South Wales residents who felt compelled to go to the disaster zone to see if they could make a difference. He went to Aceh to help Youth Off The Streets to set up a tent orphanage. South Coast fisherman Ron Snape called on other fishermen to join him and travel to Indonesia and Thailand to provide the technical expertise that has been lost with the deaths of so many fishermen.
Beef cattle producers in the Clarence have found a way to contribute the spoils of a strong beef market to the South Asian tsunami appeal. One producer asked his vendor to donate the proceeds of the sale of two calves to the Red Cross, and that spurred others to do the same. In Queanbeyan a tsunami aid concert raised $1,500 for the Red Cross. The Pack Saddle Roadhouse between Tibooburra and Broken Hill, which I had the pleasure of visiting just a couple of weeks ago, and the Tibooburra Hotel, at which I had the pleasure of having a cold beer on a 46-degree day a couple of weeks ago, both had umbrellas hanging from their ceilings for patrons to throw money into. In Port Macquarie more than $100,000 was raised in a fundraising walk, Hastings Helps. In my electorate of Oxley year 10 student Jade Ilitch, from St Paul's College, Kempsey, has taken it upon herself to swim on behalf of the school and gain sponsors or donations. She intends to swim at least five kilometres on Sunday and has so far been promised over $500.
The Nambucca Valley branch of the Red Cross raised more than $40,000 and Wraps with Love volunteers have knitted 75 wraps to be sent to the tsunami-affected regions. Other organisations in the Oxley electorate to raise money for the victims include the Pappinbarra Progress Association, which ran an Australia Day fundraiser, and the Wauchope RSL Club, which held a fundraising concert to aid the victims. Rene Stokes, from South West Rocks, has lovingly restored a selection of dolls and soft toys to be sent to children who have been orphaned by the disaster. Local Oxley electorate churches, including the Christian Outreach Centre in the Hastings shire, held special services, with the offerings going to people of the affected region. Zonta International District 24 raised $35,000 for the victims.
In a co-operative effort the Hastings and Kempsey shire councils, in conjunction with Surf Aid and the Adventist Relief Agency are working to assist the island of Nias, in particular, where local doctors from my electorate, including Dr Ben Gordon and his wife, Amanda, have already arrived in the devastated areas to assist those who are in need of medical attention. The cases and people I have just mentioned are but a snapshot of the massive effort that we have witnessed across country areas. I commend the Australian Government on its swift response. The $1 billion Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development is the largest single aid package in Australia's history and is a five-year commitment. Because of the scale of the disaster the affected regions will require our ongoing support.
Already the New South Wales public sector, particularly members of NSW Police and the Department of Health, have provided invaluable expert assistance to the devastated regions. The Nationals have called on the Government to make the resources of the Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources [DIPNR] available to assist rebuilding agriculture in Asia following the disaster. The expertise of skilled staff within the Department of Primary Industries and DIPNR, such as soil conservationists, agronomists, fishing experts, livestock and crop specialists, could make a real difference in helping to rebuild the vital food industries of local communities.
As a State, we should offer as much assistance and expertise as is practicably possible, and we must ensure that this disaster zone is not forgotten: It will require a strong ongoing commitment from our governments. Once again, on behalf of The Nationals, I extend our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those who died, and I pay tribute to those who have worked so hard to relieve the suffering.
Mr TONY STEWART
(Bankstown—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.50 p.m.]: As history shows, at 8.00 a.m. on 26 December 2004, nearly two months ago, a megathrust quake 250 kilometres off the coast of Sumatra sent a series of waves barrelling 800 kilometres across the Indian Ocean. These horrendous waves hit the Sumatra province of Aceh within 15 minutes and took less than seven hours to reach all the way to Africa. As I understand, this tsunami disaster has been the worst and most devastating natural disaster in the known history of people on this planet. As of this week the death toll has risen to nearly 300,000 people. Unfortunately, from my experience of having visited Aceh, I believe it will rise above that figure. More than 100,000 people are still missing and presumed dead.
The death toll in Indonesia's hardest hit province of Aceh now stands at approximately 235,000 people. The death toll in Sri Lanka, the second hardest hit by the disaster, is almost 31,000, with more than 5,000 still missing and presumed dead. In nearby India the official death toll is over 10,000, with almost 6,000 missing. Thailand's death toll stands at nearly 5,500 confirmed dead, with 3,000 listed as missing. More than 1,000 of the listed missing in Thailand are foreign tourists. On the east coast of Africa about 300 people have been declared dead in Somalia, and a number of people have perished in the Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar and other small areas of the south-east Asia zone. Like many Western countries, Australia also fell victim to this terrible tragedy. The number of Australians confirmed dead is now 19 and grave concerns are held for a further 8 Australians who are still missing.
On behalf of the Bankstown electorate I offer my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the tsunami victims. The unfolding of this unimaginable disaster reached the hearts of all Australians, who have been deeply affected and traumatised by the images of the tsunami and its victims. To date, the generosity of Australians has led to more than $200 million being raised to support the tsunami victims throughout south-east Asia. On a per capita basis it is probably one of the most significant displays of generosity in the world. Further, many Australian volunteers are currently in tsunami-stricken areas throughout south-east Asia assisting in the building of infrastructure and helping victims to regain their lives.
I am proud to report on the tremendous effort of volunteers from New South Wales. Within one to two days of this crisis approximately $2 million was provided by the New South Wales Carr Government to the Australian Red Cross and about 50 doctors, nurses, paramedics and State Emergency Service personnel were working in the stricken areas. NSW Health co-ordinated four initial national acute medical teams, which were sent to Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Medical teams were also involved with trauma surgery, public health and emergency medicine responsibilities. New South Wales provided the bulk of the health equipment supplies and other logistics to support the medical teams, including surgical instruments, pharmaceuticals and vaccines, which were, and still are, desperately needed.
The victim identification teams that were sent to Thailand, Sri Lanka and later to Banda Aceh included 21 identification experts, 13 of whom were officers from NSW Police, including fingerprint and crime scene experts, and 8 forensic medical specialists. Together with the Premier and Minister for Police, I recently met with 13 police officers who were being acknowledged by the Premier for their efforts during the tsunami crisis. We had the opportunity to gain an insight into their work and the procedures they have put in place for the ongoing identification of victims in Thailand. We should be very proud of the achievements of our police not only in providing a basis for future identification but, importantly, for setting up the framework that is now being used for identification purposes throughout all tsunami-stricken areas.
One of the officers painted a startling image of the reality of their work in Phuket, Thailand. As the young woman was sifting through some of the bodies for identification purposes she washed the mud off a little 18-month-old baby and saw that the baby was wearing an Australian t-shirt. I have had to confront many devastating images over the last couple of weeks. We should thank our courageous State Emergency Service workers and the Australian volunteers who have spent their free time and holidays to help those people who are desperately in need as a result of the tsunami. New South Wales Fire Brigade personnel have also been involved instrumentally at Aceh, Sri Lanka and, in particular, Thailand. Supplies including tents, bedding, lighting, generators, refrigerators for drugs, decontamination equipment and cooking facilities have been sent by the New South Wales Government to assist the aid workers in the stricken areas.
The whole of Australia has reached out and recognised that this is a situation we will confront for many years to come. Our hearts have gone out to those in need. They will continue to be in need for years to come. The infrastructure requirements in these areas are enormous. Like many other Australians, I was deeply affected by this terrible tragedy. As I sat back in Sydney in comfort watching this tragedy unfold in front of me on the television, reading newspaper articles and listening to reports on the radio, I tried to confront the surreal images of death and destruction and realise that such tragedy from natural circumstances was possible. This was not a Hollywood movie. The people involved are our neighbours, our brothers and sisters. They live next-door to us. I increasingly felt that I needed to become more involved in assisting with the crisis.
Not knowing where to start, I did what I considered was the best thing to do. I rang Father Chris Riley of Youth Off The Streets. As honourable members would know, Father Chris Riley is dedicated to assisting young people in difficult and tragic circumstances. As to his achievements over many years in this country, the runs are on the board. More recently, Father Chris Riley, through Youth Off The Streets, was instrumental in setting up an orphanage in East Timor for the many orphaned children in that country. As far as I am concerned Father Chris is a living saint. Knowing his past achievements, I believed that he would deliver and make a difference, together with others who are working towards that end.
Two days after the tragedy, on 28 December 2004, I rang Father Chris Riley and asked him to consider assisting in Aceh, Indonesia. I nominated Aceh because of the importance of Australia's relationship with Indonesia. They are our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, our neighbours. We needed to respond in that area. As we learnt within two to three days of the tsunami, the Aceh province of Indonesia was the most severely impacted, with the loss of life totalling more than 235,000 people to date. Following our discussion Father Chris said he would think about the matter. A couple of days later in a news release Father Riley said:
When news first began to emerge about the devastation resulting from the tsunami I was overwhelmed. At first I thought the situation was far too big for me to do anything. But after encouragement and discussion with our long-term supporter Tony Stewart, member for Bankstown, I began to think I had to do something, I had to help.
He went on to state:
I knew it would not be an easy task but now after such a few days in Indonesia the establishment of a Youth Off the Streets orphanage operating in Aceh was my quest.
To his credit, he succeeded in his quest. Later I will inform members what stage that project has reached. Over 200 unattached children, or orphans, are being assessed to determine whether they are orphans. They are in the children's care centre created by Father Chris Riley in central Banda Aceh to assist with their needs, to provide education and medical assistance where it is needed and, most importantly, to help those children understand and believe, once again, that they are children, that they can play and that there is a future for them. I was pleased to be able to assist Father Chris Riley in his quest and initiate the orphanage concept in Banda Aceh. We arrived in Banda Aceh on 8 January and our eyes were opened, to say the least.
I confronted images that are difficult to explain verbally. The best way to explain them is to use the old adage that seeing is believing. After spending a few days in Banda Aceh soon after the tsunami crisis, I can say that seeing simply is not believing. One cannot comprehend the damage that was done to infrastructure. More incomprehensible were the multitude of deaths in every space of the devastated area. The most confronting images were those of children lying on the sides of streets, between slabs of concrete, near buildings, in overturned motor vehicles and buses, or floating in the water. For the first few days I witnessed the bodies of children being picked up every few minutes and trucks going past me laden with corpses—all victims of this terrible tragedy.
I witnessed mass gravesites that I did not believe could exist in a modern world. Hundreds and thousands of corpses were being pushed into gravesites by bulldozers soon after they were found. Workers ran out of body bags and were using plastic—the sort of plastic that one would use in the garden to stop weeds from growing—as that was the only material available, to give those corpses some dignity. It had to be done quickly and effectively. Mass graves were dug along roadsides in the main stricken areas of Banda Aceh, which is about the size of the Australian Capital Territory. A good deal of Banda Aceh was not affected but one-third of it was totally devastated. That devastation was evident not just along the water's edge where one might imagine a tsunami would have had a major impact: for several kilometres inland the tsunami had an horrific and devastating effect.
The tsunami tore down everything in its path. It ripped out trees that one would have thought would withstand any force. It ripped up concrete buildings and tore them to pieces. It overturned buses that were fully laden with people. The devastation was apparent from the water's edge up to five or six kilometres inland. The tsunami travelled at about 800 kilometres per hour. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund [UNICEF] officers with whom I met when I first arrived told me that that was the equivalent of a 10-tonne truck hitting somebody. We might have the perception that some could have escaped the tsunami if they saw it coming but in reality there was no escape for most in its path. Village areas in Banda Aceh and on its outskirts were like the moon's surface. Not a single building or tree was standing. After surveying some of the devastated areas I went to the end of the road in Banda Aceh because the bridge, a major concrete structure, had been torn away.
I managed to get a canoe to take me across to the western part of the Aceh province, or the western coastline. I hiked for about 10 or 12 kilometres and came across what used to be a concrete manufacturing firm at which 740 employees had perished. Not one employee survived. Two weeks after the tsunami crisis I visited a village where most of the bodies were still in the streets. The only way they could have been taken away was by helicopter or by carrying them out on stretchers. Resources and priorities had to be used to save lives, not to assist the deceased. For 240 kilometres across the western part of the Aceh province there is total devastation. I visited one village where 40,000 people had lived in this fairly major area before the tsunami. Of those 40,000 people only a handful—82 people—survived in that one area alone. Of those 82 people 30 were women and only 12 were children.
That gives us an idea of the devastation in the Aceh province of Indonesia and in other parts of the South Pacific, in particular, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. On the first two or three days of my visit Father Chris Riley and I assessed the feasibility of establishing a child care facility. We talked to people, met aid officials and went to some of the refugee camps to get some idea of what was being done. We visited the hospital in Banda Aceh which I am proud to report was being run by Georgina Whelan, a person from Bankstown who is now a major in the Australian Army. She arrived within two days of the crisis, set up a hospital that had been devastated by the tsunami, and assisted tsunami victims.
When Father Chris Riley and I arrived, hospital staff were looking after victims who had been traumatised and tossed around by the tsunami. We witnessed patients with broken legs, broken arms and gashes. Gangrene had set in. Many amputations were performed daily. Georgina Whelan said that she had to perform 40 amputations on one day, most of them, unfortunately, on children. I confronted realities that changed my perspective, my focus and my priorities in life. Putting it into perspective, one's mortgage seems insignificant in comparison. I am pleased to report that as a result of the input of Youth Off The Streets and many other charities to which I cannot refer today an orphanage was established. I thank all those people who made that possible. Father Chris Riley and his great team of people worked 24 hours a day to make that happen.
When I arrived in Jakarta I met Rick McCarthy and Jack Saeck, who were there to assist Father Chris Riley and me in our quest in Banda Aceh. Rick McCarthy organised the orphanage and is co-ordinating it at the moment and Jack Saeck is the husband of Katrina Hodgkinson, the honourable member for Burrinjuck. Both those people were instrumental in assisting during this crisis. They had to be numb to what was around them and they had to get on with their job, which they did very effectively. Fifteen volunteers from the Youth Off The Streets exchange program travel to Banda Aceh every three to four weeks. Australian volunteers—doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and building workers—have all gone there to offer assistance.
That great result was made possible only because of the generosity of Australians. We recognise that these are our brothers and sisters and we must support their ongoing needs. The biggest challenge now is to support the ongoing needs of survivors. It will take about five years to rebuild the necessary infrastructure. The orphanage established by Father Chris Riley will assist up to 1,000 children. According to UNICEF, there are 40,000 orphans in Banda Aceh province alone, so an additional 39 orphanages are needed.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL
(Ku-ring-gai—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [4.09 p.m.]: Like many members of the House, I watched the events and the devastation of the tsunami unfolding on my television screen on a nightly basis in late December and early January. For me, the depth of the disaster was marked by the fact that each night the footage became increasingly horrific. However, the appalling images in the print media and nightly on our television screens from which one could not escape were offset by the response to the disaster from communities across our region of Sydney, the State and, indeed, across Australia as a whole. I will touch on some of those responses from a local perspective.
Melissa and Seelan Nayagam are residents of Roseville. Melissa and Seelan, who is of Sri Lankan and Tamil origin, were moved immediately to contact and encourage neighbours and friends to donate goods to help with the relief effort in Sri Lanka. Within a reasonably short time they had containers aboard Singapore Airlines aircraft, which carried those relief supplies to Sri Lanka. The response encompassed the individual efforts of people such as Sue Hamilton and Fran Eustace of North Turramurra, who, on their own initiative, organised a fundraising evening at the North Turramurra Bowling Club to raise money to be donated to the various relief appeals that were being conducted nationally and internationally in response to the disaster.
As in many parts of Sydney, young people in my electorate were also touched by the disaster. Within days of the tsunami, 13-year-old Michelle Long of Pymble told her father that she wanted to donate to the effort the money she had collected throughout the year for her birthday, Christmas and other reasons. She ended up contributing $360 to relief efforts that were then under way. Michelle also inspired a number of her school friends to do likewise. The West Pymble Bowling Club—a modest club unlike the flash clubs to be found elsewhere across this city and State—managed in one event to contribute $42,000 to the relief effort. The response encompassed those members of the Wahroonga Rotary Club, who, within the first few days of the disaster, were moved to spontaneously take up donations at Wahroonga shopping centre and the Wahroonga railway station, raising many thousands of dollars. That action was reflected in the efforts of other clubs and registered clubs in the area, including the Roseville Memorial Club.
The Sydney Adventist Hospital at Wahroonga, which has a long and proud history of involvement in disaster relief and the developing world, immediately took a decision to match the donations of its staff, dollar for dollar. It ultimately contributed more than $100,000 to the relief effort. The response to the disaster also included individual efforts such as that of Dr Alison Semmonds of Pymble, who, moved by the disaster, contacted friends and neighbours to collect clothing, food and other equipment. Dr Semmonds, through the good auspices of the Pymble Uniting Church—particularly Lorraine Colvin and Philippa Graham—was instrumental in collecting goods that were shipped to Sri Lanka to help relieve the pain, suffering and misery. I also acknowledge the efforts of other churches throughout the length and breadth of Ku-ring-gai that, like churches everywhere, saw their congregations come together to contribute and attempt to relieve the terrible devastation.
Medical personnel, such as Dr Paul Dunkin of Turramurra, also responded. Dr Dunkin, a Navy reservist, left for Banda Aceh on 29 December and saw 12 days active service, literally saving lives during his time in the area. My friend Dr Graham Stewart of West Lindfield, who is also a reservist, is currently in Banda Aceh. Graham tells us that there is another point to the disaster effort in that some people are receiving medical attention for the first time in their lives. Surviving children and adults are having their first check-ups and having medical conditions diagnosed that otherwise might not have been found. Like elsewhere in Sydney, most schools in my area, including Lindfield primary school, conducted gold coin donation days when school resumed in late January-early February.
I pay tribute to all of those efforts. We all could have simply sat in front of our television screens and become increasingly appalled. But this disaster has shown that there are people in our community who are prepared to do more than that: They are prepared either to reach into their pockets and contribute or to travel to the area and use their skills in whatever way possible to try to relieve the suffering that was caused. They are generally prepared to tap into local communities to provide the relief efforts that are so valuable at this time. The north shore of Sydney at times cops criticism for being too comfortable. For me, the two "c" words that epitomise the north shore of Sydney throughout this disaster are "charitable" and "community spirit". I am proud of my community. I am proud of each of the efforts that I have mentioned and I am proud of those other efforts that have been publicised since the disaster occurred. It is a terrific time to represent an area such as Ku-ring-gai, where so much is being done practically to remove the pain, suffering, death and misery caused by this disaster.
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE
(Strathfield) [4.16 p.m.]: I think all people would acknowledge that the tsunami is one of the most terrible tragedies to occur in living memory. Several earthquakes triggered huge waves of destruction that travelled quickly across the ocean and reached countries across Asia. They touched the shores of our neighbour, Thailand, as well as Sri Lanka, India, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives and other countries across the region. The waves did not discriminate: the wealth or the poverty of their victims did not matter, nor did they discriminate if they were tourists, children or the elderly. The tsunami touched and destroyed the lives of thousands and thousands and thousands of people.
Sadly, in many cases the poorest of the poor suffered the most. Many of those who lived in villages beside the ocean and earned their living from fishing lost not only their families and homes but their entire way of life. They lost their boats and, therefore, their means of earning an income and the ability to keep a roof over their families' heads and food on their table.
After the tsunami hit I had a look at the census figures for the electorate of Strathfield. I was staggered to find that, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 2001, 6.08 per cent of my electorate—which equates to about 4,759 people—come from southern Asia. The day after the disaster I travelled from Canberra to my office, where I tried to contact all the consuls general of the affected countries. I managed to reach most of the consuls general and honorary consuls general initially, and since then I have spoken to many of them personally. I asked them what we could do to assist their countries. The Consul General for Thailand, Mr Suraphan Boonyamanop, said, "Look, we need emergency supplies immediately." He sent me a little letter outlining those items. I will talk later in this Chamber about some of the items that the Thai Government requested.
I then wondered what we could do at a local level. There are a number of schools in the electorate of Strathfield so I decided to write to all the principals of those schools to see whether they would like to adopt, sponsor or partner a tsunami-affected school. With the help of my staff member Rhonda Woodford, who was supposed to be on holiday I sent out a letter and, surprisingly, managed to touch base with a few principals. One example of how much this disaster touched not only adults but younger people is Homebush Boys High School, who contacted a group of students who went to Croydon Primary School, which is in Young Street, Croydon. They sat in a classroom made available by the principal, Mr David Horne, and decided what they could do. Those fine young people, with students from Croydon Primary School, launched an Adopt-a-School Program and wrote personal letters to children whom they had not met. Many of them had lost their parents, brothers and sisters and relatives. They wrote that they live in Australia and wanted to do something tangible to help; they asked what was needed. They were personal, direct and profound letters.
Following that a number of people suggested to me that as the Adopt-a-School Program was up and running, an orphanage could be sponsored to help children who had lost their parents and family members and whose support system had been taken way. The Burwood Lions Club was interested and held a meeting that was addressed by a Sri Lankan gentleman, Dr Victor Rajakulendran, who was associated with the Sri Lankan Lions Club. The Lions Club is now looking seriously at adopting or sponsoring an orphanage in Sri Lanka. The Ashfield RSL Club, which is located on Liverpool Road, Ashfield, heard about that idea and is also keen to help or sponsor children in an orphanage in Thailand. Since then I have contacted some organisations in Thailand and I hope I can facilitate that connection in the near future.
Homebush has a huge population of Sri Lankans. They are mainly Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans from the north-east. The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation [TRO] immediately put out a call to collect clothing, towels, linen and items needed in an emergency. I was invited to help them pack up the material. At the time they were using the basement of a block of units on The Crescent in Homebush. Luckily, once again, Homebush primary school, which is in Rochester Street, also opened up its doors and allowed the organisation to use its facilities to help package the material. Even Kennard's Self Storage donated fantastic well-constructed boxes to the TRO.
Further along The Crescent near the Homebush West end of my electorate the Tamil Resource Centre set up a collection depot. I put out an appeal on the radio and people drove spontaneously from as far away as Wollongong to donate boxes of material—not old clothing but new clothing, toys, brand new sheets and towels. Their generosity was absolutely overwhelming. On 6 January the local Sri Lankan community and other groups organised an inter-faith church service at Homebush Public School; it was a prayer vigil. The Indian community then rallied and held a tsunami fundraiser on 9 January at Homebush Boys High School. Once again, under the leadership of its great principal, Mr Ian Patterson, Homebush Boys School was opened and the event raised $15,000. Within one week a concert of cultural dances was put together and people donated spontaneously to the cause.
On 16 January at Homebush primary school an open prayer meeting was held with different religious leaders—Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims—offering prayers, and money was collected. Burwood Westfield allowed the Sri Lankan TRO to use an area near Woolworth's to collect money. I was invited to assist and I saw little children, elderly people—everyone—freely donating money; they were all touched by what had happened and wanted to do something concrete. A group of ladies who were making Red Cross trauma teddy bears heard on a radio broadcast what the local community in the Strathfield electorate was doing and contacted my office and asked that I take some of the bears on my trip to Thailand. I thought that was a fantastic idea: the bears would bring some comfort to some of the children. I called Singapore Airlines and, lo and behold, I was told that I only had to let them know what I needed and they would take the teddy bears to Thailand for me.
In Parliament there is a wonderful bipartisan group called the New South Wales Parliament Asia Pacific Friendship Group. Many of my colleagues from both sides of the House are active members of that committee. The group was planning to go to Thailand before the tsunami hit that country so badly. I thought we needed to do something concrete when we got there. In relation to medical supplies sought in the letter to which I referred earlier in this speech from the Consul General, I managed to contact Dr Trevor Garland, the Honorary Consul General for the Solomon Islands, which, fortunately, were spared the tsumani. He said he would try to get medical supplies. With the help of a wonderful woman from Thailand who is head of clinical services he was able to get 25 boxes of supplies from St Vincent's Hospital. I met the woman's sister and her husband later on. Dr Garland and St Vincent's Hospital staff obtained and boxed these medical supplies and clearly labelled them.
The Hoc Mai Foundation, which honourable members are aware of, has undertaken wonderful projects in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi, to help the local people at the hospital, to house poor rural families and to train doctors via satellite through Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney. The foundation also donated medical supplies. Once again Singapore Airlines asked us what we needed and transported those 25 boxes of medical supplies and a big bag of teddy bears. When I arrived in Phuket my visit was to the Governor, Mr Udomsak Usivarangkura. Coincidentally, the Governor's wife, Mrs Maneepan Usivarangkura, who was present, is Chair of the Red Cross. When I gave her a trauma teddy bear, a photograph was taken. I will give that photograph to the wonderful women of our local Red Cross in my electorate who so patiently and diligently gave up their time to make the bears. The governor and his wife were so pleased with the efforts made by this nation in supporting their country.
The Governor of Thailand, the Consul General, Mr Suraphan Boonyamanop, and the Government are keen to get tourists back to Thailand and Phuket. If tourists do not return to Thailand and enjoy its wonderful culture and everything it has to offer, those families that have already suffered so much from the tsunami will suffer another wave of destruction: they will lose their livelihoods, income and jobs. I want to put that on the record because I said that when I got back to Australia I would do everything possible to encourage people to go back to Thailand and places such as Phuket, where major reconstruction is going on and plenty of accommodation is available. There are also many great restaurants and hotels offering many activities. If tourists return they will do something tangible to help the people keep a roof over their heads. The tourists will provide an income stream so that the local people can rebuild their lives so badly shattered.
I then visited Phuket hospital. I was moved when I saw photographs of people who are still missing stuck on the pillars in front of the hospital. People are still there looking, hoping and praying that someone will find that missing person they love. I will not go into too much detail as I get a little too emotional, but people are still approaching tables set up in the foyer of the hospital in Phuket and asking if anyone has seen a particular person, is there any relevant information, where can they go next to get help? Hopefully, those people will find some comfort in some way that I am not aware of, but many wonderful people are giving their time and trying to support those families.
I then visited the children's ward, where I gave some extra teddy bears to the children. Thank you, Red Cross; the children really appreciated those teddy bears. I then went on a tour of several schools, one of which was right on the waterfront and felt the full brunt of the tsunami. The tsunami hit on Sunday. Imagine if it had arrived on the Monday, when the school would have been full of children. Imagine what could have happened if the tsunami had hit at night! How many more lives would have been lost because people would not have been able to swim away or climb to higher positions. All that was left of the school was a one-storey structure. All other rooms were washed away; all other classrooms were gone. In the trees I could see all the broken branches. The wave had been as high as the clock in this Chamber. It was a staggering sight. This little school desperately needs help and support. It needs books, desks and other supplies.
Another school I visited is situated about three streets back from the beach and was not damaged by the tsunami. But there are cracks in its buildings caused by the earthquake. That small school is taking many little children from other schools that have been destroyed. There are up to 70 children in a classroom, and they also need help and support. These are long-term reconstruction projects. As the honourable member for Bankstown, Tony Stewart, mentioned earlier, this is a long-term process. He mentioned five years. I am not sure how long it will take to help all of these countries get back on their feet, but they will need help for a long time to come. I hope that, after the initial outpourings of passion and generosity, Australians and others will continue to think about people in our neighbouring areas.
Sri Lanka also has had terrible problems. Many of its affected areas have been the subject of 15 to 20 years of civil war, so the loss of basic infrastructure like roads, which trucks need to get supplies to affected areas, had already been badly damaged over the years. Sri Lankan communities are keen to ensure that everything possible is done to help. They ask, "Please do everything you can to make sure that the aid that goes to Colombo manages to get into the north-eastern areas," where 45,000 to 50,000 people tragically lost their lives. Sri Lankan communities have given me a list of schools in those areas and orphanages that need support and help.
Locally, in Parliament House in the afternoon of Thursday 24 February, our bipartisan committee is having a fundraising afternoon tea. Jeff Hunter, the honourable member for Lake Macquarie, Chair of the Asia Pacific Friendship Group, and his staff have been putting tremendous effort into that event, letting people know that that fundraising function is to be held here at Parliament House on Thursday 24 February at 3.30 p.m. in the Strangers Dining Room. It is only $20 per head. It is just one little event, and everyone is invited to take part in it. I believe a number of consuls general from the tsunami-affected areas will attend the function. I place on record our thanks to the Speaker, the Hon. John Aquilina, and the President, the Hon. Meredith Burgmann, for their assistance in organising that afternoon tea, without charge, so that all money raised can go to support the victims of the tsunami.
In New South Wales the Carr Government acted promptly, efficiently and compassionately. I am aware that $2 million was donated to the Red Cross immediately. Medical teams were immediately dispatched to the affected regions. About 30 doctors, nurses, paramedics and emergency service teams were in the areas as quickly as they could possibly be there. Of course, they did a lot of good work, using their wonderful expertise, to identify those who had died. Doctors, nurses, people on holidays and volunteers—key workers who assist in an unassuming and humble way—gave up their time to go to affected countries. Some went to areas that had few facilities to support them, let alone the local people. Some of those areas could have been slightly dangerous, but they did not worry about that. They did not question their comfort or personal safety; they wanted to go because of their incredible generosity of heart, a feature of every Australian.
I conclude by noting that ours is a small nation of 21 million people. Earlier I said that when it comes to compassion Australia is, indeed, a super power, because, per capita, Australians have given more than other developed nations. We regard ourselves as great sportsmen, musicians, scientists and artists, embracing mateship and a fair go, but from an international perspective Australia can properly be defined as a nation of people of compassion. We must feel for and identify with people if we are to be generous, and the incredible effort made by each and every Australian—not just in my electorate of Strathfield but in New South Wales and the whole of this country—in responding to this disaster, has been amazing. I thank each and every one of them.
Mr DONALD PAGE
(Ballina—Deputy Leader of The Nationals) [4.36 p.m.]: The tsunami has left a trail of death and destruction; it has been the biggest natural disaster of modern civilisation. Over 300,000 people have been killed. Millions have been displaced and have suffered the loss of families and friends. The magnitude of the disaster has had a number of effects on all of us. The first, of course, is the huge impact of the disaster itself. I was very moved by the powerful description given by the honourable member for Bankstown, who has been to the region and told us some of what he saw first-hand. We could not help but be moved by the fact that in one area of 40,000 people only 82 had survived. Earlier the honourable member distributed to members on this side of the Chamber some photographs showing hundreds of human bodies floating in the waters. These were especially moving. So the disaster has had quite an impact on each and every one of us.
This tragic event helps us, as individuals, to get our priorities straight. Sometimes we think we have problems. We do not have any problems when compared to those of our neighbours. As a result of this tragedy we have come closer to the Asian community. In the past there might have been some speculation about whether we are part of Asia. I know we are part of Asia. The generosity of the response of the Australian people has been magnificent, heartfelt and genuine. We as a nation are very much part of Asia. We feel for our friends to the near north, and we have responded appropriately. It has also been shown that we Australians are keen to help in a practical way. We were first on the ground; we have provided troops, police, medical teams and a whole range of goods and services. Australians are very good at responding to disasters. We do that well in our own country, and we have done so extremely well in relation to the tsunami disaster.
I might make one small observation. On the afternoon of Sunday, Boxing Day, I got a telephone call from the younger brother of a girl who was on Phi Phi Island, Thailand. At that stage she was missing. He said, "Look, I want to go and see if I can find my sister but I don't have a passport." This was on the Sunday afternoon, and he said, "I want to go tomorrow." I thought, the chances of being able to get a passport for tomorrow are Buckley's and none.
I contacted my secretary at home that Sunday afternoon and we had a bit of a chat. We checked what we could do to find out what he would need to apply for a passport. Then I phoned him and I said, "Look, the best chance you've got is to go to Brisbane tomorrow morning to see if you can get a passport", and I gave him as many details as I could. I could not believe he had gone to the passport office in Brisbane at 10 o'clock and he had his passport by two o'clock. That has to be record time for anyone to get a passport. I give credit to the immigration officer who, realising that this young man was desperate to try to find his sister, organised a passport within four hours. It is a fantastic and practical demonstration of how we can move quickly and appropriately when required.
As the honourable member for Bankstown and other speakers have said, rebuilding infrastructure will require ongoing support. We must remember that many of the professional people who are needed to rebuild tsunami-affected communities—doctors, nurses and teachers, the educated people—are no longer available because they also died or were injured in the disaster. There is a lot to do. I endorse the earlier comments of the honourable member for Strathfield about continuing to try to help these communities by supporting their tourism industries, and in every practical way we can.
The Asian tsunami claimed two victims from my electorate, both of whom, tragically, were young women. One was 30-year-old Susie Oliver from Brooklet and the other was 32-year-old Moi Vogel, who had married Christian Nott just three months before the tsunami. Moi, who grew up in Mullumbimby, and her husband were spending their delayed honeymoon in Vietnam and Thailand. In a phone call to her father on Christmas Day from a Thai resort north of Phuket Moi said they were moving to a bungalow on the beach. She was very excited because she had just found out she was three months pregnant. Unfortunately, the next day she was gone.
Susie Oliver's story is equally tragic. Susie was an environmental scientist who had been seconded to work as an Australian youth ambassador in Hanoi, specialising in coastal management. Her period of secondment had ended and she was having a few days on Phi Phi Island resort in Thailand before returning to Australia. She emailed her family on Christmas Day saying she had just arrived and was looking forward to a couple of days break before coming home. Susie, together with thousands of others, never made it home.
In the days that followed members of her family went to try to find her. She was identified, unlike many others, and that provided the family with some closure. I attended Susie's funeral in Bangalow, and there were nearly as many people outside the church as there were inside. It was obvious that Susie was a very special person. She was talented and liked by all who knew her. I extend to the families of both Susie Oliver and Moi Vogel my condolences on their tragic passing. My thoughts are also with the many other victims of the tsunami, and their relatives and friends.
If any comfort is to come from this tragic event it is that ordinary citizens and businesses across the nation, including many in my electorate, have given overwhelming support to the many charities and non-government organisations working to bring comfort and relief to those hurt in the disaster. I applaud the Australian Government on its $1 billion aid program, the largest of any nation, and I applaud the response of everyone in my electorate who has responded so generously. Numerous individuals have contributed not just once or twice, but many times.
I am reluctant to single out individuals or organisations because I know I will leave someone out. Many have helped in ways other than donating money. A huge number of fundraising events have been held, including one at the Beach Hotel and another at the Brunswick Hotel, both of which I attended. John and Delvene Cornell donated a day's takings from the Beach Hotel to the tsunami victims appeal. Tom Meisner from the SAE donated $3.4 million, which is an enormous contribution. I am doing what I said I would not do and identifying people, but those people should be recognised, together with a whole lot of others.
Other people have provided mobile phones. All the phone lines went down, which meant that mobile phones really came into their own. It was interesting to note that a lot of young children wanted to make a contribution to the appeal because, inevitably, they had seen on television what was going on. They were encouraged to feel they were making a contribution by providing toys for affected children. I pay tribute to everyone from Australia and other countries who have been, and continue to be, involved in the relief effort. They have renewed our faith in humanity by responding so generously.
Ms LINDA BURNEY
(Canterbury) [4.45 p.m.]: On Boxing Day and every day for weeks afterwards the world woke up counting. For the first couple of days people would get out of bed, turn on their radios and televisions and think that perhaps the effect of the tsunami was not too bad; but the number of people reported dead continually increased—not every day but in every news bulletin. The people not just of Australia but the world as a whole realised that something unprecedented in our lifetime was unfolding. When I say our lifetime I mean the lifetime of people occupying the planet right now.
For many people in Australia and around the world it was Christmas time, which meant holidays, being with families, and relaxing. In that atmosphere particularly the effects of the tsunami, not very far from the shores of this nation, were incomprehensible, bizarre, and confusing. I have listened to the contributions of other members and I feel quite inadequate. We must recognise the families of those in this Chamber who participated directly, and continue to participate, in the relief effort. We must recognise also the honourable member for Strathfield, the honourable member for Bankstown, and the honourable member for Lake Macquarie, who visited the affected areas. We should feel humbled by their efforts.
The tsunami reminded us of a number of things, including the power of nature. I remember thinking that man has changed the world so much by destroying things that cannot be replaced, but that nature rose up on Boxing Day to remind us of its force and evolutionary changes. Despite man's efforts, it is still all powerful. Who could predict the geophysical and geopolitical implications of this enormous disaster? As other speakers did, I also recognise the swift international response to the devastation to infrastructure and enormous loss of life, which has drawn together people from various nations. The tsunami affected poor people living in poor countries. Without the international efforts that have been described today those people would never be able to recover. The faith and beliefs of many have been challenged by this tragedy that affected such vulnerable people
I add my voice to those who have already said that we should not forget this catastrophe. As images slowly fade from our newspapers and as television and radio reports decrease while the media move away from this tragedy, the shattered lives of millions of people, the shattered homes, and the shattered countries will remain. This tragedy also reminds us that, out of all acts, humble acts such as women knitting trauma bears are probably the most important. All members of this Parliament have heard stories about six-year-old children emptying their piggy banks, and those humble acts are the ones we remember. When people are confronted by something as enormous as this recent tragedy, we think about what we can do. Those humble acts show what can be done.
Numerous comments have been circulating about donors and donor fatigue. We must remind ourselves that there are countries throughout the world that are gripped by inhumanity and desperation. Just two that come to mind are Sudan and the Congo, in Africa. While generosity is incredibly important and has been overwhelming in this recent tragedy, we need to remind ourselves once again as human beings that there are other types of tragedies in other places.
I will conclude by making four quick points. This tsunami disaster reminds us of the fragile environment of many nation states on this planet. Most of those countries are in close proximity to Australia—throughout the Pacific and Asian regions. This disaster has brought home how devastating a large-scale natural disaster would be for Pacific and Asian nations. It has brought to the fore the need for environmental protection and the need for assistance to be geared to detecting environmental changes.
I cannot help thinking about the young people who have been referred to during this debate and their vulnerability in countries in which there is no social security system, where there is insufficient capacity after devastation—and perhaps even beforehand—for young people and children to be cared for in an ideal way. We should remind ourselves that there are many devious activities that can absorb young people in the most horrid ways. Young people need the protection to which the honourable member for Bankstown referred earlier.
The title of a book and a movie that currently is on the best read and best see lists,
The Butterfly Effect
, reminds us that the rippling effect of a butterfly beating its wings can spread right across the world. I like to think of that in the context of people in Australia, in other countries in the Western world, and in Asia, India and Africa whose lives have been so devastated by the tsunamis. The devastation will not be confined to the victims directly affected by the tsunamis. Survivors who lost their family structure and who will be cared for by traumatised adults will also be affected as a result of trauma being transferred to them during parenting. The disaster has implications not only for young people who are growing up but also for their children and their children's children.
In conclusion I point out that what happened on Boxing Day will not simply take 5 to 10 years to fix—although that is true of re-establishing infrastructure. Future generations will be constantly reminded of and affected by the events that occurred on Boxing Day 2004.
Mr RUSSELL TURNER
(Orange) [4.54 p.m.]: Despite having paid close attention to reports in the media and to stories related by colleagues, I have, like most people, only a small appreciation of the effects of the tsunami disaster. Prior to Boxing Day I had heard the word "tsunami" but I did not really understand what it meant. I suspect that at that time people throughout Australia had never heard it, and for the first couple of days after the disaster occurred we were struggling with how to pronounce it. But now the word is linked to a tragedy that none of us will ever forget.
The death toll at this stage is 296,000, which includes 19 Australians, but the toll is expected to rise. The tsunami disaster is one of the greatest natural catastrophes of modern time and has affected countries such as Indonesia, which bore most of the brunt, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, and even reached as far as the coast of Somalia, in Africa. Many of the affected were people whose families for hundreds of years occupied villages close to the water's edge so they could live near their fishing boats; many of them relied on the sea for protein and food. But now the survivors are reluctant to return to their devastated villages, and it will take a long time before they are confident enough to do so.
Emergency services and medical supplies continue to stream into the region. Attempts are being made to rebuild hospitals and schools and provide some basic housing as well as water purification. Those emergency measures are being put in place as quickly as possible, and they are far from the luxuries of life. Many of the people who survived have never experienced a luxurious life, but at least they will have potable water and healthy food as they try to put their lives back together in some form or other. As other members said, Australians do not understand the hardship that people who lived in the affected villages had to endure all their lives, so we certainly would not understand the hardships they will have to endure in the future.
I am very proud that Australians have responded in an unprecedented fashion to the plight of the survivors by making donations, ranging from the Federal Government's $1 billion contribution to community contributions that have poured in and contributions in kind. Some people have made a commitment to travel to the affected areas to make their direct contribution to the recovery effort. I take this opportunity to acknowledge some of the fundraising efforts that have been undertaken in the Orange electorate by various people and organisations. Most of the details have been reported by the
Central Western Daily
and I will highlight just some of them. The paper reported:
When CareFlight doctor Alan Garner landed in Banda Aceh four days after the tsunami disaster, his first impression of the devastation was quite unexpected.
"It was amazingly quiet. Usually Asian cities are very busy and loud, so that was the first indication something was terribly wrong," he said.
"We saw the TV images but I don't think we appreciated the force of what occurred."
Dr Garner said he had seen people die that he knew could have been saved if they were treated in Australia.
"It was something we never discussed—what we could do and couldn't do—we just knew what level of care we could provide," he said.
The emergency physician lives in Wentworth Falls, but travels to Orange regularly through his role at CareFlight.
Central Western Daily
Orange's 14 councillors have raised $6,000 for tsunami victims by agreeing to donate a portion of their monthly fees to help the relief work.
Cr Jason Hamling initiated the fundraising effort after images of the aftermath of the Boxing Day disaster struck a particular chord with him. Three years ago he spent his honeymoon in south-east Asia and visited many of the centres that have been devastated by the tsunami.
"Many of the places we went to were all wiped out", he said. "These people are doing it tough and I just wanted to help."
To date, the combined Rotary clubs of Orange, of which I am a very proud member, have raised over $90,000 and are confident the figure will reach $100,000. This is a generous response from the people of Orange because $90,000 equates to approximately $2.50 for every man, woman and child who lives in Orange. That is a tremendous effort. Throughout the district Rotary clubs have raised $270,000. The
Central Western Daily
Rotary assistant district governor Geoff Bargwanna said Rotary had already established contacts in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. He said Rotary would investigate the needs of affected regions and then buy goods in Australia to send overseas.
"We want to make sure all money is used to directly help the victims", he said, "We are pushing as hard as we can to get results as quickly as possible."
Donated money will be used to purchase shelter kits and solar powered water purifiers that will be transported to affected areas.
As a further example of local people helping the cause, a fundraising event was held by Australia Cinemas at Orange—where I cut the ribbon for the first showing of the day—Tamworth and Wagga Wagga. The management of Australia Cinemas donated the full ticket sales for the day plus all the sales from the candy bar. Orange businesses supported the tsunami appeal by making a donation or donating part of the proceeds of their takings on a particular day. For example, Angus and Robertson donated $1 from every book sold on the day; Hansen Optometrist donated all money paid for adjustments and minor repairs of spectacles; the Orange Donut Shop, which is owned by my son, donated $1 from every cup of coffee sold on the day; and Book City donated $1 from every book sale. The list goes on and 50 to 60 businesses contributed in some way on the day. There was a wide variation in fundraising activities. The
Central Western Daily
A weary group of Bathurst Jail correctional offices and off-duty Orange police officers arrived in Orange just after 4pm yesterday after walking from Bathurst to Orange to raise funds for the tsunami appeal …
The group raised $10,500 for their efforts …
Many of the group were struggling on the last leg from the outskirts of Orange to Orange Police Station but were buoyed by family and supporters who joined them for the last part of the walk.
A welcome beer awaited the group when they relaxed after the walk at the Parkview Hotel.
As to another tsunami appeal effort, the
Central Western Daily
Optometrists from OPSM Orange are urging residents to donate their old or unused glasses to the Lions Recycle for Sight program to help people affected by the recent tsunami …
All glasses donated will be cleaned, repaired and regraded before they are distributed to those in need, so glasses in almost any condition are welcome …
Chairman of Australia Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre, Ken Leonard, said this was a great way for people to make a practical contribution to the relief effort without any additional monetary requirement.
"Our aim is to collect 50,000 pairs of glasses and distribute them to those in need", he said.
Central Western Daily
reported on the fundraising efforts of the people of Millthorpe, which is a little village about 15 to 20 minutes out of Orange. It said:
Residents of Millthorpe and district have come together to help victims of the Asian tsunami, by organising the "Millthorpe Mammoth Marathon Cuppa" to be held on Friday, January 21 and Saturday, January 22.
The marathon cuppa will be held in the School of Arts, Millthorpe from 9am to 5pm on both days …
Committee spokesperson Reg Brown said "It is a good way for the people in Millthorpe and surrounding towns to get involved and it brings the community together."
The Millthorpe Mammoth Marathon Cuppa will serve tea, coffee and cordial as well as pikelets, sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and slices.
There will also be a donation bin for anyone wishing to make further contributions.
On 28 December 2004 the
Central Western Daily
… about 40 medical professionals, including many from Orange have placed their names on a register of volunteers who are willing to help out with tsunami relief work if needed.
I do not know how many of those volunteers have gone across to help, but members have spoken today of many Australians who have. A daughter of a friend of mine responded to an Internet call from an American organisation. Before dad knew it, his 26-year-old daughter had gone overseas. I am not sure which country she went to; I think she went to Indonesia. Whilst he admired her decision, he was concerned because he had not heard of the organisation, and the United States of America embassy could not give him any more information. He was proud of her commitment, but he was concerned for her welfare. However, at this point she is over there making a wonderful contribution.
One Friday afternoon my 9-year-old granddaughter, who lives in Orange, together with three of her friends, conned her mother into helping them bake and ice some cookies and cakes. On Saturday morning they set up a stall in a nearby park with cardboard signs saying they were selling cakes for 50¢ to raise money for the tsunami victims. The girls raised $47.50 for the tsunami appeal. The need for assistance has reached everyone throughout Australia, right down to our kids. We should be very proud of the contribution of Australians. As I said, electricians, doctors and builders from Orange have gone to the area, and members of the armed services and Red Cross, expatriates of affected areas and volunteers of all ages have gone for a few days or weeks to do their little bit.
I am concerned that whilst we have been very generous to this appeal, other countries also need urgent assistance and many Australian organisations need ongoing assistance to enable them to continue their good work. I hope that Australians will continue to be generous and after having donated to this cause will not forget about other areas in urgent need throughout Australia and the world. I am proud to be an Australian. Our hearts go out to all those families who have lost family members and friends. The death toll continues to rise as the struggle continues to find bodies. This tragedy is ongoing and will not be forgotten for generations to come.
Mr JOHN BARTLETT
(Port Stephens) [5.08 p.m.]: I join with all other members of the New South Wales Parliament in supporting the condolence motion moved by the Premier and in expressing my condolences to the victims of the south-east Asia tsunami. My son, who works in an intensive care unit in a New South Wales hospital, gave an eye-opening description of an evacuated patient from Sri Lanka. After hearing a noise the man opened his door and was swept by the tsunami out through the back door and carried over one kilometre by the wave.
He described his experience as having been through a washing machine with broken glass, galvanised iron sheets, tree branches, garbage and sewage. That is what happened to millions of people. Some 300,000 people did not survive—five times the total population of Port Stephens—which is incomprehensible. This disaster was the biggest single catastrophe in my lifetime, if not in the history of the world. Tourism is a major part of the Port Stephens electorate and its economy. Tourist resorts all over the region were affected—in Aceh, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives. Tourist resorts all suffered the same fate.
Port Stephens has a fantastic network of volunteers in the areas of health, parks, reserves and the environment. It was amazing to see them all come together and do whatever they could to assist. The overwhelming response to a catastrophe such as this from a small area like Port Stephens makes one proud to be Australian. We reached out to Muslims and to Hindus, which will stand Australia in good stead in years to come. I refer briefly to some of the wonderful contributions of people in Port Stephens. Nelson Bay Junior Cricket Club, which was going to Melbourne for a cricket event, attended the tsunami international cricket match and made their contribution to the appeal. Gary Davis, Gill Bartlett and others did a wonderful job with those kids. David Walsh, a local bus driver, conducted a campaign and sent 4,000 soft toys to tsunami victims. Virginia Pryke, an optometrist at OPSM, Raymond Terrace, was involved in the Lions Recycle for Sight Program as part of the national plan to send 50,000 recycled spectacles overseas to those who had lost everything.
The Nelson Bay Australia Day Committee and Nelson Bay Rotary Club conducted a raffle and raised $5,000 for the Red Cross. Local primary schools organised a fundraiser initiated by Grahamstown Public School Parents and Citizens Association. Other schools in the area raised $5,000. The National Australia Bank in the Tilligerry peninsula received $15,000 in donations from various sources, and various clubs in the area raised funds. Tomaree Education Centre is holding a battle of the bands event to raise funds. Port Stephens council contributed $10,000. Newcastle Permanent Building Society opened its doors to receive donations. Three offices in the Port Stephens area received donations of $75,000. People from Australia went as neighbours, friends and allies to assist those in need.
Pastor Bill Brill of the Beachside Christian Fellowship at Taylors Beach—that fellowship already had links to an orphanage in Sri Lanka—raised $10,000 from its 120 members. It also collected an additional $25,000 at the local Salamander shopping centre. I am proud of the generosity of the Port Stephens electorate. Mark Adamski, my general practitioner, was one of the first doctors to visit the Maldives. I will read onto the record some of the comments he made to the local
. The article states:
"Imagine the impact, 80 deaths, 1000 casualties, 20,000 homeless, some islands completely destroyed and most others damaged," he said of the destruction caused by the four meter waves pounding the Maldives eastern coast.
We've made our presence felt there now. We can't let them down now."
Dr Adamski is urging all Australians not to forget the plight of the Maldivians and says their development has been set back by 20 years.
Dr Adamski said that practical support would be needed for a long time. He is trying to establish community groups along the lines of Adopt a Community. He established a Maldives steering committee to provide ongoing support. That committee will raise money and send tradesmen and volunteers to help with the rebuilding. Its aim is to help by adopting a small community or two and providing ongoing assistance such as the construction of new schools, health centres and homes. I am extremely proud of the contribution of members of the Port Stephens electorate. I am proud of what Australia and New South Wales have done. I join all other members in expressing condolences to those involved in such an horrific event—an event that brought the world closer.
Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON
(Burrinjuck) [5.16 p.m.]: I extend deep and sincere sympathy to all those in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India, Somalia and Thailand who lost loved ones in the tsunami on 26 December 2004. I congratulate the Commonwealth Government on its $1 billion aid program, which set an example for the rest of the world to follow. I applaud everyone in the Federal Parliament for wanting to assist the victims of the tsunami. All members of the Federal Parliament and the New South Wales Parliament are extremely concerned. On Christmas Day and on Boxing Day, when news of the disaster hit, I was in Marulan with my large and extended family on my husband's side.
We had gone camping for a few days. I headed home with my new 10-day old baby, Hamilton James Merriman Saeck, who was not quite up to the camping experience. When I relayed information about the tsunami to my husband he was extremely concerned, as were so many Australians. As the honourable member for Bankstown said in his excellent contribution, my husband volunteered to help Father Chris Riley's team, Youth Off The Streets, and he travelled to Banda Aceh to assist with the aid effort. I am yet to receive a full and comprehensive report from my husband about that trip. I know that it was a very traumatic experience for everybody who travelled to that part of Indonesia to assist with the effort and ensure that they could do whatever was possible to help those involved.
I acknowledge the magnificent work of Reverend Tim Costello, who ensured that Australians were kept aware of what was going on in the area affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami. He reported those events to us and conducted many charity appeals. Every time I turned on the television to see what was going on, which was virtually all the time during that period, Tim Costello would be telling us exactly what was happening in the disaster zone. World Vision, Care Australia, Oxfam, the Red Cross, Rotary and many other organisations ensured that funds were directed to those areas that needed them. Youth Off The Streets, Father Chris Riley's charity organisation, assisted orphans in that area. Father Chris Riley is well known as a person who will do anything to ensure that children and young people are in a secure and safe environment. He will do anything to make sure that children, adolescents and teenagers—particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds—get the best start possible. So I was not surprised to hear that he wished to establish an orphanage.
The task is enormous, and the honourable member for Bankstown gave an update this afternoon of the progress of that project. It proves that even comparatively small organisations, such as Father Chris Riley's Youth Off The Streets, can achieve remarkable goals—it is not easy—when they set their minds to it. I congratulate every volunteer who travelled to Banda Aceh with Father Chris Riley's Youth Off The Streets. It has been a hard time, and I congratulate them on their outstanding efforts. I happen to know a little about that organisation and what its volunteers have been through on this occasion—that is why I single them out for special mention. However, I know that World Vision, Care Australia, Oxfam and other aid organisations have also done a sensational job.
Many volunteers from the Burrinjuck electorate, the Australian Capital Territory, Queanbeyan and the Monaro electorate also assisted on the ground in areas affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami. I must mention Rick McCarthy from Bowral, who travelled with my husband, Jack Saeck, to Indonesia to help with the relief effort there. As many members who have spoken before me have said, local electorates were much affected by the disaster and responded incredibly generously to the call for assistance for its victims. I do not like to list organisations that have provided assistance as I am in danger of forgetting some. However, I will mention a few. Members of the Rye Park/Boorowa branch of the Red Cross raised $4,000 in just a few days for the tsunami victims. Boorowa locals also gave money through the Boorowa Community Bank, the post office and Westpac, and many thousands of dollars were received.
The Red Cross volunteers in Crookwell turned out in force to raise funds in the main street for the disaster. Davies newsagency in Crookwell donated 10 per cent of its takings for one day. I particularly commend the efforts of the milling organisations in Tumut in the southern part of my electorate. The Weyerhaeuser corporation donated $US100,000 and matched employee contributions, dollar for dollar, up to another $100,000. That is a huge contribution from a large organisation, which led by example by making such a substantial donation. That assistance from Weyerhaeuser will be used for environmental assessments, shoreline community restoration, food, water purification tablets, soap, shelter materials, basic medical supplies and cooking supplies. Carter Holt Harvey, another large timber mill in Tumut in my electorate, made a corporate cash donation of $50,000 and matched employee contributions, dollar for dollar, up to another $50,000. That is an extraordinary effort by those two organisations.
Tumut Red Cross set up a collection table in front of the post office and made more than $10,000 in just two days—it is just extraordinary. A week later the Tumut Red Cross made another almost $3,000. The Tumut Catholic church donated $6,800; Adelong and Batlow Catholic churches pitched in with a further $2,200; and the Anglican church in Tumut raised $2000 for AngliCORD, which is the church's overseas aid arm. Some $10,000 was handed in to the Commonwealth Bank at Tumut and $2,000 was accepted at the Batlow branch of the Commonwealth Bank. Some $15,000 was received at the ANZ bank at Tumut, $5,000 was received by St George bank, $9,000 was accepted at the National Australia Bank, $6,000 at Westpac and $1,000 at the Snowy Mountains Credit Union. The response to the disaster from my constituents was absolutely outstanding, as it was across the nation.
In Yass the Yass Family Country Music and Variety club raised $1,500 at a concert at the Yass Soldiers Club, which was organised by Louise St John, with assistance from Trish Moore and Steve Scroope. The Soldiers Club and business houses donated prizes. Boots Outdoor World at Erina donated more than $40,000 in tents and camping equipment and gear. Manildra donated $50,000 worth of food. A fundraiser at Hotel Binalong, organised by Ian and Julie Patterson and run under the auspices of the Red Cross, raised $12,500. The Binalong Family Fishing Club held a barbecue that raised more than $800. Bubbles Garry from the Red Cross was absolutely thrilled with the level of funding collected from the very small Binalong community.
The Yass Red Cross joined the Yass Rotary Club, mobilised about 60 local people and raised $20,000 in just one day from motorists who stopped at the service centre on the Hume Highway. People apparently emptied their ashtrays and their pockets and donated whatever they could. That is an extraordinary achievement by those organisations in a single day. I also thank the Yass service centre, Caltex and McDonald's. A tsunami benefit night at the Goulburn Railway Bowling Club on 22 January raised $10,000. Mulwaree High School senior students and prefects also collected a substantial amount of money, and I congratulate them and their school.
Inmates and staff of the Goulburn Correctional Centre pledged more than $13,000 to the Oxfam Community Aid Abroad fund for the tsunami appeal. The Goulburn Soldiers Club and the Goulburn Workers Club both made very significant donations to the tsunami disaster relief fund. The Gundagai Services Club held a concert, organised by James and Michelle Brook, that also raised a significant amount of money for the tsunami appeal. Neil Sheather and Dapto bowlers, brothers Charlie and Leo Sorgsepp, shaved their heads and raised money as well. I must also mention Helen Wood from Gundagai, who raised almost $3,000 by holding morning teas. Peter Batey, who is something of a legend in Coolac—he is a great charity worker—raised funds at the recent Coolac festival. He does a great job. I must also mention Lorraine Davison from the Taralga Country Women's Association, who organised a clothing appeal to raise funds for tsunami relief.
I know that other speakers wish to contribute to this debate. The tsunami was a very significant event that I am sure we will remember forever. It struck at the hearts of so many people in our local communities. I am very proud of my husband for wanting to go and assist the people affected by this devastation—and I was, of course, very pleased to see him return safely. We must continue to encourage people to donate to this appeal because, although significant sums were donated from all over the world, it will not go far as the devastation is immense.
Mr ALAN ASHTON
(East Hills) [5.28 p.m.]: I endorse the motion moved by the Premier and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition. It is very hard to say anything new and creative about a tragedy on such a grand scale as the Boxing Day tsunami but I will make a few points. Like everyone in Australia enjoying the Boxing Day holiday, I heard about the tsunami a few hours after it had happened. It was referred to as a tidal wave—which a tsunami is not—and it was reported that some villages had been affected in parts of Indonesia and certainly some small parts of Thailand. It was not until much later, in the modern world where information comes so quickly, that it became obvious that the devastation was much greater than anyone had thought. Even about a month after the tragedy, film was being shown of dozens of cars being washed down the streets in places such as Banda Aceh. If cars can be washed down streets, unfortunately people can more easily be washed down streets. Many more women than men, and children, died as a result of the tsunami on Boxing Day.
I do not wish to trivialise this issue, but over Christmas I finished reading a book called
by Simon Winchester. He wrote of the great explosion that literally blew the island of Krakatoa to smithereens in 1883, killing 30,000 people. The smoke and volcanic ash from that event 120 years ago were perceived in London. Imagine what could happen with the population density today. We all sat stunned as day by day we watched the situation worsen as more information filtered through. To Australia's credit, our people responded magnificently to support survivors. While we focused on Australians who died—19 are now confirmed dead—the overall figure seemed to grow every day, and not just by a few dozen. Unfortunately, on occasions such as this we think of the Australians who have died, but in this case 300,000 people have died from a natural disaster.
I learned how tectonic plates work: they are moving all the time. We are moving a couple of centimetres north every year, as the world shifts. The earth is molten in the middle, with tectonic plates that move. The Leader of the Opposition was right when he said that someone is always blamed when a great tragedy occurs. People have been blamed for causing wars, or for creating a village or an environment that caused a disaster. But nobody could have anticipated that something like the tsunami would cause such devastation. Even if a tsunami warning alert system had been in place, how could the alarm have been given to people who were on a beach or going about their normal life in a south Asian area? So many nations have been affected. I send my condolences and those of the people in my electorate to all those who have been affected—people who are all part of the human world. We now realise that we are all part of the one world.
Australians and many others have shown their generosity. I pay credit to the very quick, timely, appropriate and generous support of the Prime Minister and the Federal Government. To their credit, Australia took the lead. The Prime Minister was able to make that contribution, a contribution that could not have been announced under the American system. The President of the United States of America does not have the right to say, "I am going to send $1 billion of aid over there in a period of time." He has to get the approval of the senate estimates committee, among other things. We do not have that problem under our parliamentary system. If the Premier or the Prime Minister decide to spend money, it can be spent. It was important for the Prime Minister to make a decision quickly to spend the money.
I pay tribute to the husband of the honourable member for Burrinjuck, who travelled to Indonesia to help with the relief effort. The honourable member for Bankstown quickly phoned Father Chris Riley and asked what could be done on the world stage—an interesting role for a member of Parliament. I give him full credit, because such a thing is not common in State politics. Many schools in my electorate have helped, including Panania Public School, Milperra Public School, Picnic Point Public School and high schools. The front cover of "Banks View", a newsletter from Daryl Melham, Federal member for Banks, had a photograph of Daryl with Fiona McCauley from Panania Public School.
Thousands of books were donated to the school, my office, Daryl's office and the office of Michael Hatton, the Federal member for Blaxland. The day after that publication was sent out to the electorate of Banks, a man went to Daryl's office and donated $2,000 cash to the tsunami appeal. Money is still coming in. It goes without saying, and is trite to say, that the families that have been lost are irreplaceable, but there is a need for books so that schools can reopen, and for medicine. Doctors and nurses who were on holidays have spent countless hours working in horrendous situations to alleviate the suffering. An earlier speaker mentioned the role played by Brian Pezzutti, who saw patients in a life and death situation, not simply for minor medical advice.
Revesby Lions Club, Padstow Rotary, and the local Red Cross played a role in collections as well as many other organisations that I will not mention because I do not want to ignore groups of people. Everybody played a role in trying to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the tsunami. The lives of 300,000 people have been lost in one single catastrophic natural event. In those very poor countries survivors have nowhere to live, and their families have been washed away and drowned. Millions of people have been left without relatives and without their livelihood. Many have big families, and there could be nothing worse than losing 7 or 8 brothers, or 11 or 12 children.
Disasters cannot be compared, but all Australians, both in well-paid or poorly paid positions, across all the political divides of this country, recognised that this event needed a massive response. It was not a matter of saying, "Look how good we are in Australia. We helped." It was the reality: that is what we did. We recognised that we are part of the Asian world. The tsunami in the Indian Ocean had me and many people I know riveted to the news: we had to know what was going on. And each day the news got worse, and it is not over yet. I convey my condolences to all those victims of the tsunami, no matter where they lived, including the Australians who were there. Two of my key supporters in the Australian Labor Party wanted to be in Phuket on 26 December but the hotel would not allow them to stay on the ground floor near the swimming pool with young children. That hotel was completely washed away, disappearing from the face of the earth. They had booked into a bigger hotel for the 27
. In the ultimate, they did not go.
That is just one story. I suppose it is trivial compared to the stories about the 300,000 who died, but it demonstrates how this event touched even people who thought friends or family members were there. I rang and was told by this fellow, "It's okay, Alan, we're in Panania." I realise that everybody has a similar story. I pass on my condolences and those of the East Hills electorate to those who suffered losses in the tsunami, and I congratulate those who have played a role in trying to assist its victims and do something for the future of the people of the Asian area.
Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD
(Hornsby) [5.40 p.m.]: I, too, support the motion moved by the Premier and supported by the Leader of the Opposition. In doing so, I acknowledge the enormity of the tragedy. As events were unfolding we were drowning in the ever-increasing number of deaths caused by the tsunami, and in the ensuing days we were immersed in the reaction to the disaster and the immediate call to arms of Australians, who put their heart and soul into the relief effort. I extend my condolences to everyone whose life has been touched by the tragedy that hit on Boxing Day 2004. The day after Boxing Day my family and I were travelling towards a location where we were to celebrate the happy occasion of an eightieth birthday. That day I listened constantly to news broadcasts. I felt compelled to listen to and watch these news events over and over again in subsequent days, as most people did, just to become acquainted with and comprehend, if we could, the enormity of the tragedy that occurred along the Indian Ocean rim.
I would like to congratulate all Australian governments, particularly the Federal Government and especially the Prime Minister, on our response. It was an amazing $1 billion relief effort, and they are to be commended given the size of our population. I would also like to congratulate local communities who cemented their focus in order to assist—from the smallest child to the most senior of our citizens. I congratulate as well honourable members of this House, whether they went overseas to work out the next step to take in relief operations to support local residents affected by the tsunami, or whether they stayed behind to assist with the relief effort. One of my staff members was planning to go for a holiday in Phuket over the Christmas Day/Boxing Day break. But at the last minute she changed her mind and decided to go in February. Hopefully, at some stage she will go there and in that way help the local community to rebuild its tourism industry. It was purely by fate that she changed her mind and was not there on the day of the disaster.
In the days following the tragedy I was on the telephone to the mayor of the Hornsby Shire Council. He and I spoke frequently to the President of the Sri Lanka Association, Aubrey Joachim, to work out how we could assist with the establishment of relief depots. On the outskirts of the Hornsby electorate a Salvation Army depot was established on the corner of Old Northern Road and New Line Road, Dural. I know that the Sri Lanka Association put other such depots together. I congratulate the Sri Lanka Association for coming on board very quickly and determining what assistance was needed. Initially, it called for blankets, clothing, toys, tinned food and so on, then later moved on to supplies of water and medicines as well other necessities to help Sri Lanka in those early days after the tragedy.
I also put into play the setting up of three donation points in my electorate—at Hornsby RSL, Berowra RSL and a collection point at Brooklyn. I congratulate Les Potter, the President, and Bob Ayscough, Chief Executive Officer, of the Hornsby RSL for their tremendous assistance, as well as Steve Higginbotham, Chief Executive Officer of the Berowra RSL and the President, Councillor Garry Whittaker, who also came to the fore and gave great assistance in providing the space for people to donate. Congratulations also to Anne and Bill Graham, of Brooklyn, who dedicated part of their house to receive the goods. Over a period of two weeks loads of clothing, toys, tinned food and other items poured into those three places.
The international freight forwarding company Schenker Australia made all of this possible. Kevin Addison, the son of a Hornsby Lions Club member, was working for Schenker and in the initial stages made the offer of an aeroplane to take goods to Sir Lanka. But then he gave us space in a container and two weeks for collection, and at the end of that period large trucks came to the electorate, collected the goods that had been received at the Hornsby RSL, Berowra RSL and Brooklyn collection sites, and took them to the container. Schenker met the bill. Hopefully, by now, that container is in Sri Lanka or one of the other countries along the Indian Ocean rim—or at least almost there. That was a fantastic effort on the part of my local community.
A disabled member of my community organised the collection of wheelchairs and walking frames. I found that very moving. He had something like 26 wheelchairs and more than a dozen walking frames, and we discussed how he would get those items to a container that was ready to take them. That was an amazing effort. I congratulate the local Rotary clubs at Hornsby, Waitara and Berowra. I should like to mention the presidents of those clubs. At Berowra the president is my husband, Stephen Hopwood. The Hornsby Rotary Club President is Robert Holder. From Waitara Rotary Club, Simon Bryan stood for a couple of days in the Hornsby mall and collected $11,000. That was an extraordinary effort. Other honourable members have mentioned little children who willingly put their ice cream money, Christmas gift money or money they had saved up into buckets. I would like to commend Bruce Allen, the district governor of district 9680, for inspiring the Rotary clubs. I know that over a number of days his own Castle Hill Rotary Club collected well in excess of $35,000, a fantastic effort.
I would like to also thank Ella James, who on her Saturday evening program on 2UE advertised the collection points not only for the Sri Lanka Association but also for the Hornsby area generally. That was a wonderful effort. I received calls from all over Sydney asking for directions to the Sri Lanka collection points. I would like also to thank Sunil, of Sunils at Thornleigh, who worked with other restaurants and made food and arranged a collection point in North Sydney. Their effort was fantastic, with many thousands of dollars being raised. Hornsby Shire Council gave $10,000 and also assisted with permits and other measures to facilitate the collection of money. Local churches, schools and community groups, too numerous for me to talk about specifically, also collected money in their church services, in school grounds and in community groups. That was a heart-warming and amazing effort.
A couple of Saturdays ago I attended a function called "The Journey Forward", organised by a Thornleigh lady, Deepika Weerakoon. She and a committee organised a Hornsby RSL dinner at which Sri Lankan and Asian food was on the menu. It was attended by personalities such as Kamahl and others, who came along to give their support, not only through entertainment but also with the auctioning of items. It was indeed a very profitable auction. It was a good evening. Philip Ruddock, the Federal Attorney General, attended, as did the mayor of Hornsby, Nick Berman. The Government was represented by the honourable member for Auburn. Everyone had a chance to share their stories of this terrible tragedy. I congratulate the
Hornsby and Upper North Shore Advocate
Berowra Bush Telegraph
Hornsby Bush Telegraph
on their fantastic job in advertising these fundraisers.
Deepika said in the
Hornsby and Upper North Shore Advocate
that she was against hand-outs. She did not like to go out and ask for donations; she liked to give something in return. She said that people were getting a good evening but the best part is that it was for a good cause. The
Hornsby and Upper North Shore Advocate
is also advertising a fund-raising dinner and auction, "Hope for the Children", to raise money for children orphaned as a result of the Asian tsunami. The event will be held at the Hornsby RSL Club on Saturday 5 March and is being planned by Dayan McLeod, Denise Taylor, Carine Owens and Katrina Grimes, a group of Thornleigh mothers. The mayor and I will attend the function with local community groups and residents.
Carine Owens, one of the main organisers of the evening, said that being a mother was the inspiration for helping orphaned victims of the tsunami. The idea came to her early one morning while she was feeding her baby. She enlisted her neighbours to help bring the idea together. I congratulate the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia on the great deal of support it gave to the first function I attended. I contacted the offices of various consuls general and associations, including the United India Association and the Sikh Association, that gave me vital information about what they needed. I was ever vigilant for people in my electorate whose friends or loved ones may have been directly touched. Now that school has resumed some schoolchildren may come forward with stories about relatives or friends who are missing or who have died, or whose lives or businesses have been affected by the tsunami. I congratulate everyone on their efforts in helping those who have been affected by this terrible and grave tragedy. This event has impacted on some of the poorest people in the world and I will continue to offer every support I can to help them.
Mr JOHN PRICE
(Maitland) [5.43 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Premier. I wish to speak specifically about the impact of the tsunami on the community in my local area, specifically the village of Gresford in Dungog shire, which has a population of about 300. The possibility of foreigners of any kind being long-time residents in Gresford is fairly remote. It is an old dairy farming area that is now a major cattle producer in the shire. It has the distinction of having postcode 2311, which is acknowledged as covering the area in which the richest people in Australia live. That has occurred because the people from the north shore who own some of the old farms in the area come up on the weekend and the census is taken on a Saturday night. The 200 pensioners who live in the area were bemused when they found that they were living in the area with the highest income in the State.
Out of that statement comes a picture of generosity. Two retiring but quite prominent people are resident in our area. One is a lady called Amorell Dempster who works in Sydney from time to time but whose family lives in Gresford. She has three children, all of whom attended the Gresford primary school and who are now well and truly residents of our area. The other is a fellow named Jordan Radajurai, a restaurateur who runs the restaurant in the local hotel, the Beattie Hotel. They are both Sri Lankan by birth and they both have spent an extensive part of their lifetime in Sri Lanka. They are not newcomers; they are people who knew the area. Both of these people quickly acknowledged that the areas in which they lived were affected by the tsunami.
Mrs Dempster estimates that 30,000 children within her immediate area have been left homeless. Neither of them sat on their hands. Mrs Dempster organised, through the local ministers, an ecumenical church service at the Anglican Church of St Annes. The locals from all faiths almost filled the church, which was significant when one considers that there are about only 300 local residents who are reasonably spread out on farming properties. The collection went to the tsunami. Amorelle spoke of her experiences as a young woman visiting orphanages. Her parents were middle-class Sri Lankans who felt it was their Christian duty to assist people who were less well off. She told an incredible story of the washing of babies nappies in the bay, to demonstrate the poverty of the area even before it suffered the major natural upset of the tsunami.
Jordan and Amorelle got together to organise a community picnic which was held on 5 February at the Gresford Oval. They organised an 11-a-side cricket match. Refugees from various areas in Asia living in Sydney made up one team and locals made up the other. On the day one of the local bands, the Pound Crossing Band, and traditional Asian musicians provided entertainment. People participated in a candle walk around the oval in memory of those who lost their lives. A cricket bat signed by prominent Australian and Sri Lankan cricketers was auctioned. Unfortunately, I was interstate and unable to attend but reports were that the event was spectacular. Guests could make a donation and to bring their own food or they could pay a $5 fee which entitled them to a food voucher that they could swap for a selection of food donated by local commercial operators. It was obviously a grand function. The event was run under the auspices of the Gresford Red Cross and the Gresford branch of the Country Women's Association. The money collected was used to help an organisation known as the Just Enough Faith Foundation, a Sydney-based operation run by Jeff Gamblin and his wife, Alina. The
of 2 February stated:
Friends of the Gamblins, Colin and Maureen Diamond, have just returned from Hong Kong where they have arranged for the shipment of four containers to Sri Lanka.
"The containers will be filled with 7000 cricket sets, 28,000 assorted sports items, 1000 dolls and strollers for the girls, one container of plastic tricycles, 10,000 yo-yos and a quantity of plush toys, play dough and other various toys to be donated to fill the containers," Ms Dempster said.
"And we need to raise $34,000 to pay for the items and freight costs.
Gresford did not raise $34,000, but it did make a significant contribution to the foundation. I commend the people who were involved for their effort. I also commend the local community for rising to the occasion and recognising that others less fortunate than themselves have been significantly disadvantaged. I am proud that they offered whatever they could to try to address the problems.
I also mention the concern of the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, who was born in Sri Lanka. Bishop Roger Herft and his wife, Cheryl, were extremely distressed because they know the area where the tsunami struck. Fortunately, their relatives were not among the victims of the tsunami, which was a matter of great relief to both of them. Prior to Bishop Herft's departure to take up the role of Archbishop of Perth, he has been adding his weight to the tsunami appeals. By ensuring that his ethnicity is widely known, he is assisting people to understand that that we are all flesh and blood and that from time to time we need to assist each other. I commend Bishop Herft for the stand he has taken.
The tsunami disaster was a catastrophe of incredible proportions. Most people will recall the tsunami that struck the northern coast of Papua New Guinea a few years ago when approximately 3,000 people were killed. Although people in Australia recognised the tragedy of that disaster, the magnitude of the more recent tsunami has brought home to us the devastation that a huge natural disaster can cause. People who live in coastal areas are concerned about how well prepared Australia is for tsunamis, which, sadly, occur from time to time and virtually without warning.
I am pleased to support the motion moved by the Premier. I acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice being made by those in the affected countries. I also acknowledge the extreme generosity of those from other countries throughout the world in response to the tragedy, particularly the response by the people of Australia. While I have referred specifically to the devastation that occurred in Sri Lanka, I also recognise the more widespread devastation throughout other countries. It is great to think that Australians can help those in countries that are suffering and that we have done so.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER
(North Shore) [6.01 p.m.]: Early in January I received letters and emails advising me of fundraising efforts that were taking place in my electorate and in other areas. Tonight I wish to mention just a few of them because they indicate of the outpouring of sympathy and support that has been shown by Australians—irrespective of where they live, their age or their background—for the people who have been devastated by the tsunami that occurred in countries to the north of Australia on Boxing Day. Fundraising functions have been organised by individuals, groups of friends, businesspeople, students and teachers. Many of the functions have been held in restaurants that specialise in foods that originated in the affected regions and others were sponsored by clubs, small businesses and service groups. In a combined effort, these groups and individuals have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I will mention just a few of the many functions held in the North Shore electorate. A fundraising dinner for orphaned Thai children was held at the Hot Basil restaurant in Crows Nest and has provided money that will be used for their education. At the Thai Kanteen restaurant at Mosman, a place that is well known to local residents, $2,205 was raised. Another Crows Nest restaurateur, Narayana Reddy, raised more than $17,000 at a special benefit night which featured sporting legends Nick Farr-Jones and Greg Mathews. The many sporting identities who live in my electorate have been most generous with their support for the functions that have been held to raise money for the victims of the tsunami. A sports day that was organised by Mosman residents and involved groups such as the Balmoral Beach Club and Balmoral Braves, who raised $120,000. The sports day involved local identities such as Phil Kearns, a former Wallaby.
It is not surprising that these activities raised so much money because, as other members have already mentioned, the tsunami was the main topic of conversation during the latter part of December and the early part of January. People watched in horror as the death toll mounted, as the scenes of devastation continuously appeared on our television screens and as the plight of the remote villages of the world, which had been cut off as a result of poor communications, became known. I was not at all surprised but very touched when I saw a television report of a former member of this Parliament, Dr Brian Pezzutti, boarding an aircraft on the day after the tsunami occurred. I had already commented to my husband, before I saw that, that I was wondering when Brian would go there.
As people who know Brian Pezzutti well will confirm, he has been in nearly every trouble spot that has needed doctors urgently. Recently, when he and his wife, Dr Chris Pezzutti, visited my home, we were talking about his response to the emergency. It is tremendously admirable of people to respond readily by immediately travelling to these areas of devastation to offer support—and they do so very efficiently. I was impressed by the way the planes were packed and everything that was needed was taken to the region. Brian said that Australia was one of the first countries that arrived in the region after the tsunami and did not have to borrow things. The emergency response teams were fully prepared and I believe that speaks tomes about the preparedness of Australians to respond to emergencies and react immediately to provide assistance to other countries when they need it. Australia's response to the tsunami disaster was particularly significant because the countries that were affected are near Australia and are visited regularly by Australian tourists.
Other fundraising activities in my electorate included Mosman Fitness First raising over $3,000 by discounting their non-member entry fee to just $5. The number of different initiatives that people devised to assist in raising money was amazing. The clubs in my electorate also were very generous, as they always are. The Kirribilli club, the Mosman club and the North Sydney Anzac Memorial Club raised more than $29,000. The general manager of the North Sydney Leagues Club, Jim Henry, reported that staff had offered a percentage of their income to help the tsunami victims. A benefit concert also was held to raise money for the victims. Businesses in my electorate were also very generous. The Mosman Greater Union theatre and the Mosman Chamber of Commerce raised $20,000 to help to rebuild the Talalla area in Sri Lanka. The area comprises mostly fishing villages and small towns and 96 per cent of all houses in that beachside location were either destroyed or severely damaged. Money was raised to build houses and repair schools—28 schools in the region were lost—and to set up the distribution of food for families whose breadwinners had been lost.
Another well-known local business in the North Shore electorate, Richardson and Wrench at Mosman and Neutral Bay, is donating $1,000 from the sale price of every house during the next few months and $400 for each unit that is sold over the next few months. A Mosman resident and founder of SkyJuice Foundation, Rhett Butler, has joined forces with Clean Up Australia's Ian Kiernan to raise in excess of $1million for a project to supply clean water to tsunami-affected areas of Sri Lanka.
Another Mosman resident who is also the chief executive officer of Opportunity International, Paul Peters, has provided loans to help more than 700 fishermen who have been affected by the tsunami to re-establish their businesses. People of my electorate who pursue creative endeavours include an artist, Kevan Hardacre, who is donating 45 per cent of the sale price of his artworks to the tsunami appeal. The general public have been incredibly supportive of fundraising endeavours. I am sure that all the people who watched the New Year's Eve fireworks from the northern shores of Sydney Harbour dug deep to fill the collection cans that were being carried around Bradfield Park, Cremorne Point and McMahons Point. Collections taken during that short New Year's Eve period raised $100,000 from those three locations.
I want to refer briefly to the appeal effort by our schools. I know that every member could talk about the initiatives of their local schools, and some of them have been in touch with me. Children and their families have particularly identified with the sight and scenes of mums and dads looking for their lost children and the children who have been orphaned. I received a letter from the president of the Parents and Citizens Association at Grahamstown Public School in Port Stephens, whom I have corresponded and had many conversations with in recent months because of the school's campaign to have airconditioning installed.
Very shortly after the tsunami crisis she e-mailed me and said that all campaigns were off because they were focusing, for the time being at least, on raising money to help the tsunami victims. I was very pleased to write to the students of Grahamstown Public School to congratulate them on raising $517 for the children and victims of the tsunami. They had a mufti day and donated a gold coin to raise the money. The $517 raised was matched by the Grahamstown Parents and Citizens Association. Better still, the efforts of the students at Grahamstown prompted other local schools to join in, and another 14 schools in the Port Stephens area raised $4,976. Those schools sent more than $6,000 to UNICEF. I wrote in my letter to the children of Grahamstown Public School:
It is wonderful to hear that you have raised $517 and it proves to me how much you care about others and shows that you understand that you can make a difference to their lives.
It is very important for children to understand and to acknowledge that they can make a difference. I am very proud of those students. Students at the Sacred Heart Primary School, in my electorate, donated a gold coin and made paper hands carrying prayers of hope, which they sent to children in the tsunami-affected areas. The children are coming up with beautiful ideas. On Australia Day a group of year 8 and year 9 North Shore school students raised $250 at a special cricket day. Other schools in the area are running a clothing appeal. A teenager known by her stage name of Sophie Von from SCEGGS Redlands—just up the road from where I live—wrote a song about the tsunami which she performed at the "Raise the Roof" fundraising concert at the State Theatre last month. Many more students have been involved right across the spectrum. Government schools and non-government schools from the Catholic and independent sectors have been involved because the children and their families have been touched by the plight of the children in Asia.
On my desk today was a press release from Opera Australia announcing that the "Verdi Requiem" will be performed on 4 March in aid of the Asian earthquake and tsunami appeal. It would be well worth attending this benefit concert. I would be happy to send a copy to any member who has not received information about it. It would be a wonderful way to show our sympathy and support for the people who have been affected by the tsunami.
Mr JEFF HUNTER
(Lake Macquarie) [6.18 p.m.]: Today many members have outlined how they and their communities have rallied to support those who have been affected by the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami. Many members have outlined the fundraising events that have taken place in their communities. Similar events have taken place in the Lake Macquarie electorate. Today I am pleased to contribute to the debate and refer to some of the good work that has been undertaken since 26 December. The Premier's motion states:
That this House:
(1) extends to all Australians and Australia's neighbours who suffered personal losses during the tragic December 26 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster its profound sympathy in their bereavement and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured; and
(2) expresses its gratitude to those who have so generously contributed time, effort and money to relieve the suffering of those affected.
As outlined by many members of Parliament, communities rallied around as the tragedy of the tsunami became clearer over the days following Boxing Day 2004. In Lake Macquarie my colleague the Federal member for Charlton, the Hon. Kelly Hoare, opened her office to receive donations. Lake Macquarie Mayor, Councillor Greg Piper, made a council donation to the relief efforts, and other Hunter councils joined in. Greg told me he is also trying to get the communities in the Hunter region to support and adopt a province or town in Aceh, which was so devastated by the tsunami.
Week after week the
Lake Macquarie News
has published articles about fundraising efforts by local people in the Lake Macquarie area. Those efforts have been replicated across the Hunter region, New South Wales, and Australia. Australia is now the world leader, with its citizens donating to help those affected by the tsunami. As has been said by previous speakers, the death toll from the tsunami is approximately 300,000 people. It is very hard to contemplate such a tragedy.
I want to refer to the great work of the New South Wales Parliament Asia-Pacific Friendship Group and its members. As chairman of the group I am proud of the work of the members since Boxing Day. On 7 January I sent a letter to members of the friendship group, in fact to everyone in Parliament, advising of the work of the friendship group in the relief effort. I listed some of the initiatives, which I would like to put on the record. They include contacting consular offices with offers of assistance for any relief activities they are undertaking locally or overseas.
I spoke personally with the Thai and Indonesian Consuls General and offered to assist the Indonesian community in setting up a fundraising function at Parliament House, and a function was held on 9 February. I was unavailable to attend because I was in Thailand to see first-hand the problems and offer assistance. However, through the friendship group I was pleased to organise for the entire dining room to be closed to members of Parliament so that 300 people could attend the luncheon fundraiser. I thank the honourable member for Wallsend, who is a member of the friendship group, for hosting the function.
The 9 February function raised $170,000 and the money was donated to CARE Australia to assist with its activities in the region. The fundraiser was organised by the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian community in Sydney, including the Indonesian Community Council, the Australian Indonesian Business Council, and the Australian Chinese Charity Foundation. I formally recognise Wardana, Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia, Siti Sofia Sudarma, head coordinator of the Indonesian Tsunami Appeal, and Iwan Sunito, head of corporate fundraising for the Indonesian Tsunami Appeal.
I was pleased to be able to work with Sofia—she works in the Indonesian consulate—and to spread the word about the fundraiser. It was fantastic to see corporate New South Wales coming to the party and assisting in that fund-raising effort. A number of corporate groups paid sponsorship money to appear in a booklet that was made available on the day of the function. The message to people on the second page of that booklet reads as follows:
On behalf of the sons and daughters of Aceh and North Sumatra, we thank all of our friends who have responded to the Indonesian Tsunami appeal with such overwhelming contributions and support. Your generosity has been both remarkable and humbling.
Our appreciation also goes to Mr Jeff Hunter Member for Lake Macquarie, Chair of NSW Parliament Asia Pacific Friendship Group, who unfortunately is unable to be here today and Mr John Mills Member for Wallsend, Chairman of Committees and Member of the Asia Pacific Friendship Group for his kindness in hosting this event.
We are grateful for the support to the Indonesian community's Tsunami fundraising appeal that we have received from The Prime Minister John Howard, the Attorney General Philip Ruddock, the Premier Bob Carr and The Leader of NSW Liberal Party John Brogden.
We are greatly indebted to our committee members for their dedication that has made this event possible. In particular we thank Mr Benjamin Chow the Chair of the Council for Multicultural Australia, Dr Peter Wong Member of the Legislative Council, the AIBC Committee, the ICC and the ACCF for their valuable advice and involvement. Special thanks to Mr Ian Tjhan and Mr Irwan Utama who have spent countless hours in designing and producing this event's magazine.
The devastating effects of the Tsunami will live forever in the minds of many survivors, whether it's the local people of Aceh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India or any tourist on a holiday.
Those of us, who are not directly affected, could never fully comprehend the trauma and the impact of this tragedy. A close Sydney friend who survived the Tsunami in Sri Lanka recounts his experience:
It was great to hear from you by your correspondence associated with Tsunami appeal... Debbie, myself and our children were caught up in the Tsunami whilst holidaying in Gallee, Sri Lanka and it is with the grace of divinity that we were able to survive as the result could have gone the other way.
It has been a profound experience for my family and unquestionably now life will quite simply never be viewed in the same context again... We will be initiating our own charity fund raising with a view to establishing an English speaking school in the village that we were staying at...
The note in the program goes on to state:
Let us give unconditionally to those survivors that are in greater need than ourselves and bring hope to their future.
Thank you once again for your generosity.
That message is signed by Iwan Sunito, Chair of Corporate Fund Raising, Indonesia Tsunami Appeal, and Siti Sofia Sudarma, Chair of the Indonesia Tsunami Appeal. As I said earlier, that function was held at Parliament House. I thank Mr Speaker, Madam President and David Draper, the Manager of Food and Beverages, for closing the dining room to all other members and enabling this appeal function to take place. As stated the luncheon raised around $170,000.
Helen Sham-Ho, a former member of the upper House and a deputy-chair of the friendship group, has been working with the Chinese community, which raised close to $500,000 for the tsunami relief appeal. Not long after Boxing Day I was pleased to attend a function in Chinatown organised by Helen and the Way-in Network, a Chinese women's association. John Brogden, the Leader of the Opposition, Philip Ruddock, MP, Dr Peter Wong, MLC, Henry Tsang, MLC, Vice-chair of the Asia-Pacific Friendship Group, and I attended that function, which raised in excess of $100,000. In excess of $50,000 was raised by way of the luncheon fee, the raffle and a donation bowl. The charity auction that took place also raised over $50,000. It was great to be able to participate in that function and to see members of the Asian community rally around to help their brothers and sisters affected by the tsunami.
Earlier in the condolence motion Tony Stewart, the member for Bankstown, who is also a member of the friendship group, graphically outlined to the House the suffering and devastation he saw when he visited Aceh. The day after the tsunami struck Tony rang me and said, "Jeff, I am devastated by what has happened. What can the friendship group do?" I said, "Tony, at the moment I am at a loss to know what we can do to help." He said, "I am happy to get on a plane tomorrow, fly over there and do whatever I can." I said, "I do not know whether two members of Parliament landing in Aceh or Phuket two days after the tsunami would be able to help. Let us plan to see what we can do in Australia." Tony did that. He kept in contact with me and he worked with Father Chris Riley from Youth Off The Streets. They raised money and set off to Aceh to set up the tent orphanage. My congratulations go to Tony Stewart, Father Chris Riley and everyone else associated with that effort. I thank ClubsNSW for providing funding for that project.
Virginia Judge, the member for Strathfield, worked closely with the Sri Lankan and Indian communities. Today Virginia outlined to the House the work she did with Dr Trevor Garland, Honorary Consul General for the Solomon Islands, and St Vincent's Hospital to get 25 boxes of medical supplies. She worked with Hoc Mai, the Australia Vietnam Medical Foundation, which also provided medical supplies. I travelled with Virginia to Thailand in the first week of February and we took with us those medical supplies. Tsunami relief officials, government officials and airport officials met us at Bangkok airport, took the supplies from us, and transported them to Phuket the following day. While we were in Bangkok we were official observers at the Thai national election that was held on the Sunday after we arrived. It was an interesting election to witness.
On the Monday, the day following the election, we travelled to Phuket. I thank the Thai Consul General in Sydney, Suraphan Boonyamanop, for helping to facilitate that visit through the Royal Thai Consulate. Members of the Tourism Authority of Thailand were at the airport to meet us and they took us to meet the governor of Phuket province. Earlier in her speech Virginia pointed out that the governor was co-ordinating the relief effort in Phuket and that the governor's wife was heading up the Red Cross in Phuket. We had a fruitful meeting with him and his wife. Virginia had in her possession some of the Red Cross trauma teddy bears that were made for children affected by the tsunami. We were pleased to be able to give the head of the Red Cross in Phuket one of the teddy bears, which she thought was fantastic. She thanked us for coming to Phuket to offer assistance.
The governor and his wife asked us to, when we returned to Australia, encourage Australians, even though it was soon after the disaster, to return to Phuket. As Virginia said earlier, the second wave is now flowing through those affected provinces of southern Thailand that heavily depended on tourism. The tourists have now gone away. Many people are out of jobs because no-one is spending money and the economy is suffering. I say to the governor of Phuket and his wife that we will do our best to promote to Australians the fact that Phuket is fast recovering from the tsunami. Australians can help the people of Thailand by returning to Phuket.
I thank the manager of Cape Panwa Hotel for his assistance in looking after Virginia and me. Tom, the general manager, was pleased to have us there. He pointed out that occupancy rates ranged up to 30 per cent at some hotels. If a hotel had a 30 per cent occupancy rate it was doing very well. Many of the other hotels that had not been destroyed had only 10 or 20 per cent occupancy rates, which is threatening the jobs of many people in Phuket. I referred earlier to the Tourism Authority of Thailand [TAT]. I thank it for arranging our meetings. We met with the governor and, on the following day, we visited Phuket General Hospital, where we met with the Vice-Director of the hospital, Dr Weerawat Yorsaengrat.
The Vice-Director gave us a tour of the hospital. We visited the children's ward and met some of the ill children. But, as the doctor pointed out, most children affected by the tsunami had well and truly left the hospital. He also showed us the operating theatres and a section of the hospital that had been waiting five years to be fitted out as operating theatres. We promised that upon our return to Australia we would do our best to raise funds and send medical supplies to the hospital to enable it to open more operating theatres. On our arrival at the hospital it was sad to see plastered on the walls at the front entrance pictures of missing people. We must not forget that many, many people are still missing in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other areas affected by the tsunami.
We also visited two schools in Phuket. The honourable member for Strathfield explained earlier that one of those schools is now overcrowded because many parents are scared to send their children back to schools that were affected by the tsunami. The tsunami hit on a Sunday so the schools were not operating. But many parents do not want to send their children back to some schools, so one school in Phuket is suffering under the burden of additional children. We are doing our best to help that school. We also visited a school located near Patong Beach that was affected directly by the tsunami and, as the honourable member for Strathfield said, has only one block still standing. The rest has been destroyed. We met the principal, obtained his name and we intend to help the school get back on its feet by establishing a buddying system with a school in the Strathfield electorate.
This Thursday in Parliament House the Asia-Pacific Friendship Group will hold an afternoon tea fundraiser from 3.30 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. We hope to raise money to help not only Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka but the other countries affected by the tsunami. We plan to split the funds raised between CARE Australia and the Red Cross. We are also looking at funding another special project in Thailand that helps villages in the south of the country that were affected by the tsunami.
The Indonesian consulate advised me that, as of today, the death toll in Indonesia is 122,232 and that 113,937 people are missing. They are presumed to be dead, at refugee camps, or outside Aceh. That reveals the extent of the devastation in Aceh. Some 130 people died in the province of Northern Sumatra and 24 people are missing, presumed dead. The Thai Consul General advised me today that in Thailand the death toll stands at 5,124 people, 50 per cent of whom were foreigners. He estimates damage in the local area at 39,000 million baht—$A1 equals about 28 baht. The Sri Lankan consulate advised me today that some 31,000 people were killed. These are unbelievable figures and the Parliament's Asia Pacific Friendship Group will certainly try to do all we can to help.
As I have said, on Thursday we will hold a fundraising event at Parliament House, and I encourage everyone to come along. We have been supported very graciously by Singapore Airlines, which flew our medical supplies to Thailand. The company has also supported the fundraiser by donating two return economy air tickets via Singapore to one of its Asian destinations. [
Extension of time agreed to
A Singapore company with Australian backers, the IndoChine Group, has donated hundreds of dollars for two people to spend in its Singapore food and beverage establishments. The InterContinental hotel chain has also donated a number of nights accommodation in Singapore. These will be our major auction on the day and we hope to raise many thousands of dollars for the relief effort. There will also be a raffle, with members of Parliament and the public donating prizes, and there will be a donation bowl.
More than 200 people have indicated they will attend our fundraiser and I encourage all members of Parliament and staff of the Parliament who have some free time at 3.30 p.m. on Thursday to come to the Parliamentary Dining Room. I thank the President and the Speaker for agreeing to cover the cost of the afternoon tea so that every dollar we raise will go directly to the tsunami relief effort. I also thank David Draper, the Food and Beverages Manager, for his assistance in organising the fundraiser. There is much more I could speak about but my time is limited so I will leave it at that. I join other honourable members in offering my congratulations to the many Australians who have donated their time and effort not only by raising funds, but by travelling to the affected areas to assist our Asian neighbours. I commend the motion to the House.
Mr DARYL MAGUIRE
(Wagga Wagga) [6.35 p.m.]: Some issues cross the political divide and unite us all in this place. Today we are discussing such an event that has occurred in our lifetime and that I, for one, hope we never experience again. On behalf of my constituents, I extend my sincere condolences to families and friends around the world who lost loved ones in this tragedy. I can barely come to grips with the magnitude of the tragedy; the loss of life and the devastation have had a profound effect. But the resulting actions by communities around the world have been profound also.
As an Australian and a member of the Asia-Pacific Friendship Group, of which the honourable member for Lake Macquarie is chairman, I have a particular interest in the Asia-Pacific region. I am very pleased to be part of the friendship group and thus I believe it is even more important for me to contribute in some way. The television footage of the tsunami and its aftermath left us in awe of the great power of mother nature and the destructive and devastating forces that she can unleash upon mankind. Having said that, the response of our regional and local communities, and indeed of all Australians, also left me in awe. As the honourable member for Wagga Wagga, I put on record my pride in each individual who has made a contribution.
Many people—too many to name—have assisted the relief effort, and our region has risen to the challenge in many ways. I attended a rock concert, organised at very short notice, that raised $10,000. The Red Cross has been raising funds ever since the catastrophe occurred and I was informed on Saturday that it has raised $75,000 in Wagga Wagga. I am told that Tumbarumba conducted a tsunami appeal and that one event raised more than $6,000. I have not added up all the contributions but each event seems to have raised in the vicinity of $6,000 to $10,000, and a back-of-an-envelope calculation suggests that our region has raised at least $500,000. I also pay tribute to the organisations that have supported the fundraising appeal. I have referred to just a couple of those organisations, the Red Cross and the musicians of our community who held those magnificent events. I point out also that the local media have gotten behind this. When the tragedy occurred my friend David Font from radio station 2AAA phoned me and said, "Das, we've got to do something." I said, "You're right. Whatever you need, just call me, I'm more than happy to help."
The media organisations, the
, 2WG, FM93, the
, WIN television, and Capital and Prime all joined in, as did regional newspapers, to support all the functions that were being promoted. Many people ran the hat around at a cricket game, or attended a fundraising function, or even raised funds at churches. Our communities held prayers of remembrance for the people who were so tragically taken in this event. The model railway clubs held a fun day in which all funds raised on the day were donated; more than $2,500 was raised. Australians took part in telethons, which raised more money. The regional airline Regional Express, better known as Rex, ran a tsunami appeal. Two years ago the company was on its knees with the administrators in control of it; the company was basically beyond being saved. Not only has Rex been able to resurrect its business but its staff and the company itself have made contributions to the appeal and they should be commended for that.
One of the headlines in the
reads "Wagga support 'phenomenal'". Earlier I remarked how proud I am of our community. It is phenomenal, as is the response that all local members have had in their communities. As I listened to members' contributions I could hear their pride in the way communities have responded. Bunnings staff have put together funds for the appeal. Most organisations in the region ran the hat around or held an event to raise funds, and they are still doing that to this day. Last Saturday I attended the Marketplace, where an enormous raffle was held and $40,000 was raised in 40 days. I was there selling raffle tickets, along with the mayor, councillors and Lions Club members. Everyone is pitching in to help with this appeal.
I know that many members wish to speak to this motion. In extending the hand of friendship to our neighbours, the people who have suffered so badly in this event, I put to members this proposal. When I was watching the event, and the reality of what was happening was sinking into my mind, I thought of the children who were orphaned and the parents who were, as I saw it, almost competing to claim one child. Indeed, 30,000 to 40,000 children have been orphaned by this event. I appeal to members, as I have appealed to my community, to consider funding a child. There are organisations to which one can pay a small amount of money every month and a child will be educated, housed, clothed, and given the best opportunities available in his or her country, just as our children receive opportunities here. It is not a lot of money, and our family will commit to that, as well as ensuring that we continue to make a contribution financially.
When the event happened and we were watching the events unfold and the telethon started, I said to my wife, "Let's make a contribution." We decided on a figure. Then we looked at each other and said, "It's just not enough, is it? No matter how much we give, I don't think it will be enough." So we have made the commitment to make a contribution every month. It is not only when the event happens and during the subsequent few weeks or months afterwards that financial assistance is needed; this will take years to repair and to ensure the communities are rebuilt and have facilities.
A friend of mine, Brian Kahlefeldt, who was awarded an Order of Australia this year, has had a deep involvement with the people of Sri Lanka. This is the first opportunity I have had to speak about this matter in this place. Brian Kahlefeldt has funded a hospital in Sri Lanka, in a town that he has basically adopted. He has also funded an orphanage, he has funded a bus to ferry the destitute and dying, and he has also ensured that the local school has been equipped with computers. One of his friends, Greg Conkey, the recently retired editor of the
, said to me that some of the children that Brian had known were lost in the tsunami. Brian has spent, I would say, millions of dollars in ensuring that the community he had adopted in Sri Lanka had a hospital, a school and the facilities to go with it, and an orphanage, which he funds and actively supports. That brings home the closeness of the relationships our nations have without our realising it.
As I said earlier, this event has affected us profoundly. I sincerely wish and hope that this is a once-in-lifetime event. I never want to see it again. Nobody would ever want to see devastation on the scale of some 300,000 people lost, another 114,000 unaccounted for, and probably many more than we will never know about. It is something that none of us ever wants to see again, but it is something that we all need to ensure is rectified through ongoing contributions. I say to those who have travelled to South-East Asia, who are there now, who are representing us as Australians, to the Brian Pezzuttis of this world, to the people who have gone over and helped Father O'Reilly, and to the people who were referred to in this place today: Thank you for what you are doing. Many of us would like to be there and be able to help hands on, but circumstances do not permit. I encourage all communities to keep giving, until we can see that a lifestyle similar to, or better than, the lifestyle that people were experiencing has been made available to the people in all those nations. I conclude by again offering my condolences to all the Australians families who lost loved ones. I know that words cannot bring back the loved ones, but I hope it consoles you to know that we care.
Mr STEVE WHAN
(Monaro) [6.48 p.m.]: Like every member who has spoken in this debate today and every member of our community, I was shocked and saddened by the tsunami and the horrendous death toll, and by the ongoing impact the event will have on the lives of millions of our neighbours. I would like to join members in expressing my sympathy and condolences to the families and to the nations that have been so terribly affected. I am sure that for many of us the death toll figures we heard mounting over January and the figures we have heard again today are almost too large to comprehend. It is difficult to get one's head around the enormity of the tragedy. Today we have heard about members of this place and of the other place who went to areas affected to provide direct help. I admire their efforts; it is a great credit to them. I also admire the efforts of all our fellow citizens who have gone to the countries affected, in many cases at very short notice, and taken action to help.
Many people at home also took action on their own. Today I want to focus on paying tribute to some of the people from the area that I represent who took action to help those communities. Just about every community in Monaro has dug deep. They have put aside their own problems and helped our neighbours. The Queanbeyan Red Cross raised approximately $26,000, as of a couple of weeks ago. Gladys Bartram, Mary Tanner and other members of its committee spent hours at Riverside plaza, at the races and at other local functions collecting money. Local businesses got behind them, with the Star Q Deli posting a dinner attended by many Queanbeyan residents, including the mayor, councillors and myself.
The Red Cross was also active in Jindabyne, and Gunther Propst, from the Jindabyne continental butchery collected for the appeal. He told me of a man who came into his shop and asked him for a collection bag and, presumably, receipts. A couple of days later he returned with $10,000 collected off his own bat from local businesses at Thredbo. We all admire the tremendous efforts about which many members have spoken today. Our councils have got behind the appeals. Snowy River, Cooma and Bombala councils got together to make donations, and I understand Bega Valley council gave $5,000, as did Queanbeyan council. Queanbeyan council is hosting a Tsunami Aid Variety Concert on Friday 25 February, organised by Steve White and with a lot of assistance from local businesses. Money raised at the concert will be donated to the Red Cross.
Many communities took their own actions. The Bombala community passed a bucket around on Maybe Street on New Years Eve and collected $2,500. The Eden community did the same thing on Imlay Street and collected $3,500. The Lions, Rotary and local service clubs got behind the appeals. Clubs and pubs in our communities held functions—the Royal Hotel, Queanbeyan RSL Bowling Club, Cooma Ex-Services Club Ltd, just to name a few. Businesses in the area have got behind the efforts. The Defence Service Centre, a call centre in Cooma, hosted a dinner at the Ex-Services Club. The local newspapers and media, as in so many other rural electorates, supported appeals and made their own efforts to raise funds. Also, individuals have done their own thing, many of whom I do not know because they have gone about their appeals quietly and do not want to be publicly thanked but want to make a contribution. I highlight Julie Knowles from Braidwood who organised a dinner that raised $6,000. I know about her because of her great story in the
. She said:
What would possess a person with two small children to put on a charity dinner for 130? Why not just write out a cheque and donate to the appeal and get on with life?
She went on to talk about what inspired her to take the action of collecting the money. She said:
There were lots of moving stories but the one that still gives me goose bumps is the one of a man taking a walk on the beach with his one year old baby who is washed from his arms, leaving behind its clothes. I have a one year old baby and a four year old daughter and that story is only one of many tragic tsunami tales of survival and loss.
That tale went to her heart as a parent with small children. Those of us who are parents with young children saw parents desperately looking for their children, or children who had lost their parents, and were very moved by the whole tragedy. I congratulate Judy Knowles on organising that dinner. In her article she mentioned a huge list of local businesses and people who helped her organise the event. I will not go through them all today but there are literally dozens and dozens of them who all deserve great thanks, together with the organisers of all events.
I congratulate residents of Bungendore who organised a collection of toys and other goods to send to tsunami-affected areas. One collection that really touched my heart, along with many of the others, was a little girl, Renee Peel, in year 5 at Jerrabomberra Primary School. She got her mum and dad to help organise a collection of toys, kids clothing, coloured pencils, et cetera, and they worked with Rotary to send them overseas. Renee said to her mum and dad that they need to do this because children cannot be proper kids without toys, and she is absolutely right. Some of the things that will help make life normal again for those kids are toys and assistance and, hopefully, finding their parents and getting their lives back together.
I do not know many of the people who have helped and I am sorry I cannot include others in my contribution but I hope they know that the entire community and all those communities affected appreciate their efforts. Monaro is also the home to a lot of defence force personnel and members of medical communities, some of whom have been to affected areas to help with medical treatment. They are unselfish heroes and we admire their efforts. This was a massive tragedy for the region and for countries all over the world. Out of tragedy sometimes hope comes, and this has happened again. I believe that people are sometimes a bit cynical about the way our society works. Often we are very mean and focussed on the hip pocket but this tragedy has restored my faith in humanity and the human nature of our fellow citizens. People have unselfishly contributed and dug deep for money or other contributions or whatever they could afford. They have shown that they genuinely care for neighbours, whether they are in the same street or in Asia or anywhere in the world. The hope I have gained from this tragedy is based on the way our community has responded. I congratulate all of them and I thank my colleagues who have made a fabulous contribution to this debate.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE
(Bega) [6.56 p.m.]: Like all members of this House I endorse the motion of the Premier. We cannot comprehend the size and scale of the Boxing Day 2004 tragedy, and on that day I think all of us realised in some way our own mortality. The Bega electorate is located on the South Coast of New South Wales and I have sat and looked at the ocean many times since the tragedy and have thought how we are at the hands of Mother nature. The various ways in which our local communities have been impacted upon show the extent and depth of this indescribable and inexplicable event. The television footage showing the ways in which lives were lost and destroyed will live in every mind forever.
We must all take heart from the way communities all around the globe have responded. At a local level I express my sincere gratitude to all those communities who fundraised by collecting change and large amounts of money in those first couple of weeks after the tragedy. It was heart-warming to see that process in place. Some communities responded more quickly than others and some people had events up and running literally within 48 hours following the event. The honourable member for Monaro said that not every member of this House would realise the full extent of the way in which their local communities responded to this tragedy. Some people just got on with the job and did not notify the local media as to what they were organising.
The Bega electorate extends down the New South Wales coastline, and with a very strong fishing industry on the South Coast many fishermen wanted to provide their support and skills to re-establish the fishing grounds and the local fishing industries throughout South-East Asia. I pay particular tribute to Ron Snape of Tilba. Ron was inspirational in the way in which he quietly got on with the job of seeing what he could do to support our communities to the north. As a fisherman he could relate to the way in which the ocean turned upon the people in that region and the way in which the fishing industries were completely wiped out in terms of loss of life, loss of infrastructure and loss of fishing grounds.
Ron came to me with the idea of collecting gear and having it shipped to the tsunami-affected area. I applaud the Sri Lankan Association of New South Wales, which was able to take gear from local fishermen to the affected areas. Those fishermen included Geoff Collett of Eden, and even fishermen from outside the area, such as Keith Searl from Manly with gear donated also by Ron Searl, and David Perry. Other gear was donated by fishermen in Batemans Bay. The Tilba Rural Fire Brigade donated $1,000, which assisted in buying netting needles to create nets that would suit the needs of local fishermen. We had hundreds of metres of prawn net and beach net to assist with the re-establishment of the industry.
People are willing to donate more equipment, and the Sri Lankan Association has been overwhelmed by the donations. I am now in the process of desperately trying to find a way to have more gear sent to the region. Ben Innes from Batemans Bay, John Simmons from the Twofold Bay Fishing Co-operative, Eddie Miller from Eden, Mrs Shirlock from Callala Bay and Paul Stanford from Bodalla have also come forward wanting to donate more gear. We need to find a way to get the gear to the area. The Sri Lankan Association is not able to cope with the load, and my office has been in direct contact with other organisations to assist in that process. I have contacted the Federal Government to find out what it can do to get additional gear to the regions that have been affected.
To that end we are only halfway there. Whilst we must acknowledge the work that has been done to date, no doubt communities will continue to make significant contributions for years to come. In the weeks and months ahead there will be an opportunity for South Coast fishermen to travel to the regions and assist with the rebuilding and re-establishment of the fishing grounds and the fishing industry. I look forward to working closely with Ron Snape and others to ensure that occurs.
As I said, communities and individuals throughout the Bega electorate have been overwhelmingly generous and supportive of the relief efforts to help victims of the tsunami. The usual suspects from community groups are always there. From the Red Cross to Rotary, they have all been active. But a number of others deserve mention this evening. People should be recognised and thanked for their efforts. The Church in the Bay fundraiser was organised by Louise Eltherington in conjunction with the Salvation Army and many other Batemans Bay businesses, which donated to an auction. They set a target of $10,000, which they reached.
A powerful event was also organised by a Pambula resident, Paul Pincini, his wife, Liz, and two children, Jessica and Bonnie. They organised a tsunami victims beach walk in Merimbula. It was amazing to participate in that beach walk and see hundreds of people of all ages walking the length of Merimbula beach as part of a fundraising effort for victims of the tsunami. The event raised $15,000 and was supported by Merimbula Rotary Club, Pambula Surf Life Saving Club, Pambula Rural Fire Service, and other local businesses. I also recognise the efforts of Bega Valley Shire Council and its mayor, David Hede, who were involved in setting up and running this terrific event.
Local businesses, patrons and members of the Narooma Sporting and Services Club raised a generous total of $20,493 from a raffle in conjunction with the Narooma Red Cross. The Tilba Maverick Theatre Company launched the return of its season with a tsunami relief benefit gig. The Tilba Rural Fire Service volunteers, whom I mentioned before, were instrumental in providing practical assistance through the commercial fishing industry. By handing around buckets in Tilba they raised $10,000. Those volunteers included, once again, Ron Snape, Ziggy Kruger and local business representatives Ken Jamison and Captain Madden.
Tilba Winery raised $1,000 through an appeal effort. Local doctors in Batemans Bay held fundraisers. The Tanja Wapengo Community Group fundraiser raised more than $4,000 through a community concert and the sale of T-shirts and bandannas specially printed with a distinctive tsunami logo. Further up the coast International Children's Aid representative Lynne Chittick, along with Burrill Lakeview Village owners Dom and Liz Fondacaro and Laguna D'Zur restaurant owners Kaibil and Andrea Valaquez organised a fundraiser luncheon and collected $4,500. I pay tribute in particular to Lynne Chittick for her efforts and the work that she has undertaken.
Batemans Bay Rotary donated $3,000 worth of goods, and Eurobodalla Shire Council and the Bega Valley Shire Council donated $5,000 apiece. The Bega Anglican Church held a garage sale in conjunction with the Bega Chamber of Commerce, and I thank in particular Jan Wattling, the co-ordinator of that fundraiser, and Reverend Chris Short. The Bega Church Street Surgery also had a linen drive.
As I said, it is not possible to cover all the community groups, particularly those in country and regional areas, who banded together and dug deep in their pockets. I guess those living in regional areas are more susceptible to the way mother nature works, and I believe that those in coastal communities have been particularly touched by this tragedy. I look forward to working with members on both sides of the House to make an ongoing effort. It is very easy to fall back into the pattern of daily life, but we must remember that the situation that faces many of the countries affected by this disaster will be ongoing for decades, if not generations and lifetimes to come. I am very pleased and proud to be an Australian and to be part of a community that has shown its generosity and its support both through its government and through its local communities.
Mr JOHN MILLS
(Wallsend) [7.09 p.m.]: I support the Premier's condolence motion, which extends profound sympathy, in their bereavement, to all Australians and Australia's neighbours who suffered personal losses during the tragic Indian Ocean tsunami disaster; expresses a wish for the speedy recovery of the injured; and expresses gratitude to those who so generously contributed time, effort and money to relieve the suffering of the people affected. I particularly commend the many individual Australians who have given generously of their time to go to the tsunami-affected areas to help. They include police and armed services personnel, emergency workers, health workers, distributors of aid donations, specialist workers with children, mentally ill people and families, aid agency workers, and many volunteers.
I also commend the financial generosity of individual Australians; it has been wonderful. So has the generosity of companies, organisations and governments. We Australians have always been quick to help each other in times of trouble and disaster. On the occurrence of this tsunami disaster we have shown the same generosity, that same helping hand, to our near neighbours. For example, the Newcastle Building Society, an iconic Hunter region financial institution, opened an appeal on behalf of the Australian Red Cross. On the second day of the appeal I joined a queue of 30 at the Wallsend branch of the Newcastle Building Society.
In a few weeks $1,243,600 had been donated by local Hunter people through building society branches. What wonderful generosity by the people of the Hunter, donating their cash through a local institution to help the victims of the tsunami. I hope that at some stage the media in the Hunter will do what I heard this afternoon has been done in a number of other regional areas: that is, compile a list of the various functions and donations by individuals and organisations in our regions, to give people an idea of the contribution that they have made. I suspect it would highlight the need for ongoing assistance to badly affected countries.
As we have heard earlier, members of the Asia Pacific Friendship Group of this Parliament were quickly in contact with the Sydney-based diplomatic representatives of badly affected countries to offer assistance. We have heard many of those stories in this debate, and in particular the moving contribution of the honourable member for Bankstown, the Parliamentary Secretary at the table. My colleague the president of the friendship group, the honourable member for Lake Macquarie, assisted the Indonesian Consulate to arrange a corporate fundraising luncheon at Parliament House on 9 February. In the absence of the honourable member for Lake Macquarie and the secretary of the group, I was asked to be the parliamentary host, and I agreed.
The Indonesian Consul General formed the Indonesia Tsunami Appeal Committee, to meet the objective of providing assistance to the orphans, and providing general education and health needs for all in the badly affected areas of Indonesia, but particularly Aceh. The committee, which had a three-month mandate to raise funds for victims, organised the Corporate Australia Cares luncheon at Parliament House. All donations from that event went to Care Australia. The principal organisers were Mr Wardana, the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia; Siti Sofia Sudarma, head co-ordinator of the appeal; and Mr Iwan Sunito, the head of corporate fundraising for the appeal. One of the ways they went about fundraising was to request donations from major sponsors and corporate sponsors. For example, a major diamond sponsor donated $7,500; a major platinum sponsor donated $5,000; a major gold sponsor donated $2,500; a major silver sponsor donated $1,000; and a corporate sponsor donation was $500. All sponsors were acknowledged in the booklet produced for the occasion.
The luncheon was attended by Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and another eight of our parliamentary colleagues. The speakers at the luncheon included the distinguished guest Dr Jusuf Anwar, the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia, who was in Australia at the time. It was great to hear him speak. A number of other speakers at the luncheon were the Indonesian Consul General, Mr Wardana; the head of the corporate appeal committee, Mr Iwan Sunito; the Speaker, the Hon. John Aquilina; and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr John Brogden. The master of ceremonies was John Mangos of SBS. The surprise auctioneer on the day was Michael Photios, former Liberal member for Ryde. Though I was a member of this House in his time, I was not aware that Mr Photios had those skills; he was a very effective auctioneer. I suppose, having heard him speak many times in the Chamber, I should not have been surprised by his auctioneer skills. He did a good job and played an important part in the day's fundraising effort.
This event raised $170,000 to assist in rebuilding the future of the children in Aceh, through Care Australia. Contributions at the luncheon included, for example, a donation of $7,500 to the appeal by the Maroubra Seals Club. Present at a function in Maroubra, attended by the Premier as local member and also officials of the club, were the Consul General and the chair of the corporate appeal committee, Iwan Sunito, and his business partner, Paul Sathio. Mr Sunito and Mr Sathio agreed to match the offer of the club through their company Crown International Holdings Group. That is an example of the way that the business community put their hands in their pockets, along with local sporting groups in Sydney. As we have heard this afternoon, this type of story has been repeated around New South Wales.
I want to refer briefly to the need for ongoing assistance for the people of the devastated regions. I will relate one example I learned of at the parliamentary luncheon. The Australia-Indonesia Business Council—one of the sponsors at the luncheon—has launched a national initiative to support small and medium enterprises in Aceh to rebuild their businesses. They will do so by identifying suitable business projects and matching them with Australian companies who want to support less fortunate small and medium enterprises in Aceh and North Sumatra, and who want to establish longer term business relationships with those enterprises in Indonesia. That is one way in which to achieve an ongoing contribution from the Australian corporate sector to assist in Indonesia. Those who want to know more about this initiative can visit the business council's web site, www.acehsumatera.com.
Finally, I remind honourable members that the Asia Pacific Friendship Group is having an afternoon tea fundraiser here in Parliament this Thursday from 3.30 p.m. to 5.00 p.m., and I urge your attendance and donations. I commend all Australians for the wonderful and generous response to assist our neighbours in Asia who have been so badly affected by the disaster.
Mr THOMAS GEORGE
(Lismore) [7.17 p.m.]: As the member for Lismore, I feel honoured and proud to support the Premier's motion. In saying that, I offer the condolences of the electorate of Lismore to the families and friends who have lost loved ones as a result of the tsunami. The tsunami shattered individuals, States, nations and the world. But in doing so it certainly brought everyone together—at Christmas time, a time of giving. And didn't the people of our electorates, of Australia and of the world give! I want to thank communities for the way they have responded, but especially the community of the electorate of Lismore who, from the first moment, were asking how they could support the victims of and the families affected by the tsunami. The headline of the
of 5 January was:
From a boy with a bucket to an anonymous $10,000 donation, Northern Rivers people are opening their hearts and wallets and saying to others … LET'S DIG DEEP.
The boy with the bucket was Aaran Bow. The
Aaran Bow had no money to donate to the survivors of the tsunami, so he turned to his neighbours for help.
Armed with only a bucket and a desire to help, the 15-year-old South Lismore resident spent yesterday afternoon collecting $147.10 …
This went to the APN appeal, which was launched through the
in Lismore. The media in the Northern Rivers, together with numerous other organisations, launched a tsunami appeal to which many anonymous donations were made. However, the $10,000 donation referred to in the headline in the
was from a local family business, the Hurford Group, which immediately accepted the challenge and urged other organisations to match its support. In the House today we heard about a former member of the other place, the Hon. Dr Brian Pezzutti, who was a guest at the Lismore Australia Day ceremony. Brian will not mind me saying that he is a pretty tough bloke, who does not take a backward step. However, when he described to the Lismore community what he had witnessed and experienced, he was overcome and everyone present felt for him. It brought home to us that everyone who has visited the area—such as the honourable member for Bankstown—has returned with terrible stories. One does not understand the extent of the tragedy until one sees the effect it has had on individuals.
Indeed, we should not forget that the volunteers who made this sacrifice could very well need support also. Those who have not experienced the traumas cannot imagine what they have been through, but we, as a community, must be aware of what they are suffering and give them the support they need. Dr Brian Pezzutti wrote many articles for the newspapers and sent emails home each night after work. Dr Brian Pezzutti and Dr David Scott, both anaesthetists from the Northern Rivers Area Health Service, packed up and went straightaway. When they returned both described team members relying on each other for counselling, talking through experiences and the fact that only people who had worked on the aid effort could understand. They praised also the medical staff at home, who were quick to take up the slack caused by their departure. In his articles Dr Brian Pezzutti tried to describe firsthand what was happening.
Local churches have also played a very big part in the appeal. Plans were made for the Day of Mourning, which was supported by every church in the electorate. I pay tribute to all those churches and schools that have had collections. Indeed, during their holidays a number of schoolchildren stood on street corners collecting, selling and doing whatever they could to do their bit. As we have heard time and again, throughout the world young children are emptying their moneyboxes to give something to the appeal. In my hometown of Casino nine-year-old twin sisters, Danielle and Stephanie Nixon, were so moved by the images of the tsunami that they spent an entire day cooking cakes and biscuits to sell to raise money for the relief appeal. Along with their cousin, Kasey McNamara of Gosford, the girls set up a stall in Barker Street, Casino, and raised $120. Such stories can be found in every paper and are typical of what is happening around the world.
Casino Rotary Club organised for people to sponsor the use and distribution of Aquaboxes, which will each produce 33,000 litres of drinkable water over their lifetime. These aquaboxes, worth $900 each, were donated to affected areas from people within my electorate. Kyogle Bowling Club held a special bowls day and raised more than $3,000. The Northern Rivers Lions Club also did its bit. I know that by naming people I will probably miss someone, but this is not about recognising individuals but recognising the community. A few years ago Casino Lions Club forged a sister relationship with the Lions Club of the small Sri Lankan village of Negombo. The club now aims to build approximately 150 houses, costing $2,600 each. They are looking for donations to build those houses. I noted in some press clippings that even $150 could provide some housing in the area.
The Kyogle community has a talented group of musicians who rocked residents in the Memorial Hall on 19 February. Tom Rogers of Tom's Music Shop rallied to get local jazz band Focal Point, Kay and Barry, Col Graham, Ballina Idol winner and local vocal teacher Vanessa Hoffman, Charlie from the band Sanchez, Bruce Newton and Mark Rock, Greg Nolan, the three young Parker brothers, Wrong Thong, Ray Sorenson and Blue, and the list goes on. The people of Drake, a little town situated between Casino and Tenterfield on the Bruxner Highway, had an idyllic day on the lawns of the Drake hotel. Individuals, hotels, clubs and service organisations have done a phenomenal job. Lismore resident petty officer marine technician Brad Sullivan was aboard the transport ship HMAS
, which sailed for Banda Aceh, the capital of the Indonesian province of Aceh—a further example of members of the local community trying to help.
The clubs, the Rural Fire Service, the local fire brigades, the State Emergency Service, the police, emergency services, churches, schools, sporting clubs, clubs and hotels have all got behind the appeal, and this has happened right across the State. My colleague the honourable member for Wagga Wagga paid tribute to Regional Express [Rex], and I endorse his comments. Rex services the regional areas of this State and it has donated 100 air tickets for organisations to use in raising funds for the appeal. Even the local Harvey World Travel agency, which is owned by the Hopf family at Lismore, auctioned a Reebok shirt and cap that were signed by tennis great Pat Rafter and the 1997 winning Davis Cup team, comprising Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodford, Sandon Stolle, Tony Roach and John Newcombe. Everyone has got behind this great cause.
Everyone sent money and donations to various organisations, including the Red Cross, Caritas Australia, Plan, Care Australia, Oxfam and UNICEF. We have been touched by their generosity. It is nearly impossible for us to imagine the loss of nearly 300,000 lives. We are mesmerised by the figures. I thank, and pay tribute to, the people of the Lismore electorate for their reaction. We offer our deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers to the families and friends who have lost loved ones. On behalf of the Lismore electorate I thank all the volunteers for a job well done.
Mr PAUL LYNCH
(Liverpool) [7.30 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Premier and place on record my condolences to all those who suffered in the tsunami, and friends and families of the victims. I pay tribute also to those who have tried to make a difference in the aftermath of the tsunami, the volunteers and those who have contributed time and money to make things a little better. The thing that struck me was the almost spontaneous nature of many of the efforts of people to try to help deal with what had occurred. I attended the January meeting of the Hinchinbrook branch of the Labor Party in my electorate and, lo and behold, found that several hundred dollars of a not very large bank account was donated by that Labor Party branch to the relief effort. An organisation called SEWA International, which is quite active in my electorate and based largely on the Indian community in Liverpool, organised fundraising and a Bollywood music concert in January to contribute to the relief effort.
The Islamic Charity Projects Association, an organisation that has a number of members and followers in my electorate, offered up their prayers for the relief of the consequences of the tsunami. However, one individual whom I know reasonably well, Dr Mohamed Ayub Khan, the President of the Muslim League of New South Wales, which is centred on the Green Valley Mosque in Wilson Road at Green Valley, and Chairman of the Green Valley Islamic College, is a radiographer by profession who works in Liverpool. His wife, Vhanu Khan, is also a doctor who works in the emergency section of one of the public hospitals in Sydney.
One of his wife's colleagues who is a doctor was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck. That colleague contacted Dr Vhanu Khan to tell her of the horror and to make a very obvious point that doctors were needed desperately. Both of the doctors Khan then went to Sri Lanka to help. They did not do it in any formal sense, they did not get involved in any of the relief organisations, they simply realised that they were doctors who could make a difference, got on a plane and went to Sri Lanka. They ended up spending 3½ weeks there. They flew into Colombo, then drove 10 hours from Colombo to the place where they thought they could be of most use.
They arranged to have 200 kilograms of medicine with them, they organised for 500 pieces of clothing to be purchased for the many people who had only the clothes they were wearing and they provided money for shelter for people who had no shelter. They continue to support the victims of the tsunami. They are still involved in sending financial support to Sri Lanka.
They have established a local committee in Sri Lanka, chaired by the school principal in the local area with other local elders and the like. In a very practical way, but with not a lot of fanfare and no self-promotion, they have done the best they can to assist. In a sense their example is almost an archetype of what has happened. Without worrying about how or why, or what organisation is involved they have done what they could, using their skills as doctors and using their resources, to make a very difficult situation a little better. In a sense the silver lining in this great tragedy is the extraordinary generosity of people who have volunteered and donated money to the relief effort. On behalf of my electorate I place on record my regard and admiration for those who have done that, and pass on my congratulations. I am delighted to commend the motion to the House.
Ms PETA SEATON
(Southern Highlands) [7.34 p.m.]: Like many of us who were with friends and family on Boxing Day, we were with some friends at Moss Vale. We were remarking on how we got through Christmas Day and that much of Boxing Day without a bushfire or one of those disasters that has come to mark the Christmas season for us in Australia. We were remembering things such as the Newcastle earthquake, the Darwin cyclone and the devastating bushfires of only two or three years ago in the Picton, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly areas. It was only after all the guests had gone and we turned on the radio that we started to hear for the first time reports of the tsunami. Even then none of us could imagine the extent of the horror, devastation, agony and misery that so many people had to face and are continuing to face. I commend this motion and send to all of the affected families not just in Australia but around the world, particularly in the devastated areas, our condolences and best wishes for their future recovery.
Where we are comfortable, well fed and healthy it is impossible to imagine what some of those families are still going through. Former United States Presidents Bush and Clinton got it right this week when they said that the cameras are no longer there but we must not forget and we must not give up on our efforts. The effects of the tsunami also brought out the very best in Australians. I was immensely proud to be part of a nation that dug deepest fastest and on a scale that none of us could ever have conceived. We were willing to give. No-one blinked an eye when the Prime Minister mentioned the amount of money that was to be committed to the relief effort. We then dug even deeper into our pockets. I am sure that everyone is mentioning the sorts of things their local communities have been engaged in to help the communities that have been so devastated. In the Southern Highlands we have done whatever we can. Many people donated money through our local banks, which made it easy. Organisations such as Rotary and the Lions Club dedicated their normal January-February events to specific tsunami fundraising efforts.
Ladies from Rotary at Springetts Arcade in Bowral were offering sponsorships for people to commit money towards the purchase of some amazing tent kits, which include a gas cooker, water purifiers and blankets, with enough shelter and pretty much everything a family of eight or more would need to live in temporarily for a couple of weeks. It was one of the most practical things that people could do. Donations of time and transport to get those types of things to the affected areas would have been of immense practical value. A number of services and commemorations were held in the Wollondilly and Wingecarribee areas, which were facilitated by various councils. We attended a memorable service at St Mark's, Picton. I thank Reverend Alan Wood for his leadership in that service, which provided us with the opportunity to come together, reflect and send our thoughts to families overseas and in Australia who were affected by the tsunami.
Many school groups have got together to hold some excellent fundraising events. Lots of children in our area were writing letters to local papers, expressing their sorrow and doing what they could. One day at the ANZ Bank in Bowral I saw bank staff giving a hand to a small child who wanted to donate her pocket money. I have heard other honourable members say that many children have dug deep into their piggy banks, which is exactly what the Prime Minister did on a much larger scale. One of the things that made me most proud in the days following the tsunami was to see the leadership of the Australian cricket team. I am sure everyone in this Chamber loves cricket. After New Year we all had the pleasure of watching the Australian cricket team do so well. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend that wonderful cricket match in Melbourne where $15 million was raised. I am sure everyone sitting at home was either text messaging or phoning in their contributions to that amazing fundraising effort. Once again it cemented cricket, national pride and the Australian national character together. I know that cricket is not the only sport that has made a contribution. No doubt there will be many other fundraising attempts.
When I was reading the newspapers in the days following the tsunami one thing that struck me most deeply was the story of a young Tasmanian woman whose name I do not know. She is a medical student in her second or third year of study who was in Aceh with a friend. Suddenly she was surrounded by this dreadful catastrophe. With her limited knowledge but great enthusiasm and willingness to help, she realised that she could help best by simply pitching in. I suppose she was trying to find a niche that she could best work in. No-one was giving instructions or allocating jobs; she simply saw what needed to be done and did it. She helped to recover and preserve bodies. She then helped with identifying those bodies and, in the most sensitive way, she reunited families with their loved and lost ones.
When I read the story I thought this young woman was showing essentially the Anzac spirit we have seen at Gallipoli and on other fields of combat. It is the same spirit that sent Australians to East Timor and on relief expeditions around the world. When I read her story I was moved to tears by her genuine empathy with the people who were so badly affected. Basically, she was simply pitching in and doing whatever she could. I felt immensely proud to be Australian and that we produced young people of her calibre. I am sure all of us join in sending our condolences to the people affected in these terrible areas. Our thoughts will continue to be with them, as will our contributions of time or money. If any good can ever be said to come out of such an event, it was the strengthening of the ties between Australia and Indonesia in the days following the tsunami. I was heartened by that. We should be pleased to have those ties increase, and I am sure we all want those relationships to develop more closely.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.42 p.m.]: I join all members of this House in extending condolences to all the people who have lost loved ones and who are suffering as a result of this cataclysmic event. It is an unprecedented event in our lifetime in terms of loss of life, suffering and the potential for real issues of reconstruction over a great period. I congratulate all Australians who contributed so magnificently in the initial phase, members of parliaments throughout Australia, our own members who have been involved and, in particular, all the Australians who have opened their hearts and given so graciously in response to the tsunami appeals.
The process of rebuilding the communities that suffered so greatly in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami will need to continue for decades. I pay tribute to, and thank, the broader Newcastle community for its rapid and generous response to the tsunami appeal. I mention in particular the appeal set up immediately by the Newcastle Permanent Building Society—it is known colloquially to all of us as the Perm—and the fact that people have given generously to that appeal. All of the proceeds from the appeal went directly to the Red Cross. As of yesterday the figure stood at $1,243,640, which was contributed by Newcastle Perm members after the tsunami.
On Friday 31 December at 6.30 p.m. Bishop Roger Herft, who is Sri Lankan by birth and a man of great compassion, led the service in Christchurch Cathedral, which was packed. The bishop spoke eloquently of the suffering that occurred in the Sri Lankan community in Australia but more significantly in Sri Lanka with great loss of life and disruption. Following that service some $10,000 was immediately contributed to the Bishop of Colombo's Sri Lankan appeal. So the people of the Hunter have given generously in direct assistance. As other members from the area said, many members of the community have not only given directly but also have a commitment to ongoing support of the victims and the nations that have been so strongly affected by the tsunami.
It is time to express gratitude to everyone who has been involved in responding to the impact of the tsunami, it is time to think of the enormous loss that has been suffered by the nations directly affected by the tsunami, and it is time to commit ourselves to ongoing support. I am talking about not only the initial response but the destroyed economies, the fractured communities and, in many cases, the total wipe-out of whole family structures that have left so many orphans and so many people in need of ongoing care. I extend my congratulations to all those who have contributed. Thank you to the governments throughout Australia—Federal, State and local—that have assisted in contributing to the appeals, and thank you to individual citizens who have shown so clearly that Australia remains a compassionate society, willing to look outside its borders and to look for ongoing care for those people who suffered so dreadfully on Boxing Day 2004. I commend the motion.
Mr MICHAEL RICHARDSON
(The Hills) [7.47 p.m.]: I join with other members in this place in expressing my sincere condolences to the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami. I can remember, as I am sure other members can, the devastation that was wrought by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day 1974. I remember seeing the images on television and seeing a city that had been almost blown away. But by comparison with the images we have seen of Indonesia and Sri Lanka, that pales into insignificance. The death toll of Cyclone Tracy was bad enough—it was about 83 people, if my memory serves me correctly. However, we will never know exactly how many people have been killed in the tsunami disaster. The latest figure I have is 288,828, but the figure will only ever be an estimate because many people will never be found. I suspect that the number will reach more than 400,000 in total.
There has never been a disaster of this magnitude in world history. I echo what the honourable member for Newcastle said about destroyed communities and the need to rebuild them. This tragedy has befallen so many families, not only families in Asia and South-East Asia but families in the western world as well, families of tourists who were caught up in this disaster and who are no more as a consequence. For those who were caught on the coast of Aceh, there was little hope. I understand that the waves passed by Christmas Island, for example, which lies in deep water, and the waves did not break because of that.
But the coast of Aceh, which was close to the epicentre, did not enjoy such good fortune. The estimates are that the biggest wave may have reached 30 metres, which is as tall as a 10-storey building, and hit the coast at a speed of 50 kilometres an hour. Consequently, of course, people would have had absolutely no chance of outrunning that wave or, indeed, of surviving it. In fact, a wave of such size, of such power and of such speed beggars belief. It raced two kilometres inland, and people had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
Some of my constituents were directly affected. Newlyweds Richard and Rebecca Lee of Castle Hill were honeymooning in the Maldives. Richard was out on his surfboard and Rebecca was at the end of a jetty, taking photographs. The first wave that came in washed Richard sideways and the second wave was much bigger. He rode one of the tidal waves, which was, as one of the local papers in my electorate described it, literally the ride of his life. I suspect his bride survived because she was at the ocean end of the jetty but she would have been much more vulnerable if she had been on the beach. Tony and Jacqueline Rost from Castle Hill were at Tritrang Beach, Phuket, on Boxing Day with their three daughters. A report published in the
Hills Shire Times
"Tony saw the waves from the beach coming right up to the pool and he thought it unusual...
The next thing is we heard this sound like a train and looked up and saw this strong continuous wave just coming at us.
The wave wasn't huge but it wasn't breaking, it was just coming at us like a strong force of water. My husband screamed 'run' and we fled."
The couple ran up three flights of stairs as they saw poolside furniture, mud and trees crash into ground floor rooms. They watched the second wave from the balcony of their hotel room.
While watching, the family heard another rumble and saw a larger, faster and much more ferocious wave coming towards the hotel.
After the first wave, the muddy water had receded, so many hotel guests decided to wade through the water toward a hill which was a few hundred metres away from the hotel. That action, which was completely understandable in the circumstances, cost them their lives because the next wave washed them away. They either drowned or were smashed to smithereens. Mrs Rost said:
This was the most surreal thing I have ever seen. While people were screaming and trying to walk across we could see the big wave coming and we knew what was going to happen, but there was nothing we could do at all.
That sentiment was echoed by people who witnessed similar scenes along so many coastal strips throughout the Indian Ocean rim. It must be said that The Hills community responded magnificently in providing assistance following the disaster. There is a big Indian and Sri Lankan community in my electorate. Indeed, most Sri Lankans who live in Sydney live in The Hills and in Blacktown. The Rotary clubs of West Pennant Hills, Cherrybrook, Castle Hill, The Hills and Glenhaven swung quickly into action, as they did following the bushfire disaster in The Hills a couple of years ago. They managed to collect $105,000, an extraordinary amount, over a couple of weekends in markets at local shopping centres and at Flower Power at Glenhaven. I am proud to represent the people of The Hills, who are very generous. In the circumstances of the recent tsunami disaster, they dug deep into their pockets, as indeed they did during the bushfires. I pay particular tribute to District Governor Bruce Allen, who is a member of the Castle Hill Rotary Club. He was the driving force behind the tsunami appeal as well as the bushfire appeal.
I attended a fundraising event that was organised within a week of the disaster at Adil's Indian restaurant in Castle Towers. According to the Restaurant and Catering Association, Adil's restaurant is the best Indian restaurant in New South Wales. The restaurant was given the top award at the recent Restaurant and Catering Association's presentation evening. The fundraising function at Adil's featured an auction that was attended by approximately 120 people. The target of the auction was to raise $10,000, but the amount raised exceeded all expectations. The announcement by Adil Sarkari that the event had raised $12,000 was met with a big round of applause, as one can imagine. Adil also said that, because it is also important to look after our own in Australia, $10,000 would be given to the tsunami victims but that $2,000 would be given to victims of the recent South Australian bushfires. The event was extremely successful and its success is a great tribute to Adil, to the master of ceremonies for the function, David Johnson, and two others who assisted in organising the function.
The Indian Cultural Advancement Society sent a container load of clothing and food that had been collected in double short order to Sri Lanka. The Hillsong Church, which is the largest church in Australia, raised $400,000, sent 10,000 units of antibiotics to Colombo and put together a team of 20 medical workers to go to Sri Lanka. A number of medical centres in The Hills district, including one that is situated in the office building where my electorate office is located, were involved. I know that Dr Justin Low went to Sri Lanka in response to the undoubted need for medical assistance in the affected areas. A group of local artists, including Frank Ifield, who had a number of great hits, including
I Remember You
, and the rock brain of the universe, Glenn A. Baker, Wiggle Greg Page, Mick Gerace and Mike McClelland organised The Hills for Hope Concert in late January at The Hills Centre. The local Country Women's Association branch put together 1,200 boxes of clothing that Qantas flew to the affected areas, which was an extraordinary effort on the part of the association.
The clubs movement responded magnificently. The Dural Country Club raised $2,000 and the Castle Hill RSL Club raised $5,000, and that was sent to assist the tsunami victims. All the fundraising efforts contributed to the total of more than $200 million that was donated by Australians. I suspect that is the largest amount that has ever been donated by individuals in Australia for an unprecedented tragedy. In addition to that, $1 billion was contributed by the Commonwealth Government, which represents more per capita than has been donated by any other country in the world. The combined financial relief is something that makes me proud not just to represent an electorate that is clearly full of generous people with big hearts but also to be part of this great country. All Australians can hold their heads high because of the tremendous effort that we have made to assist the victims of this great natural disaster.
Mrs BARBARA PERRY
(Auburn) [7.57 p.m.]: I join my parliamentary colleagues from both sides of the House in supporting the motion moved by the Premier. Like them, I was shocked by the sheer scale and ferocity of the Boxing Day tsunami, which devastated the lives of millions in South-East Asia and caused immeasurable damage to infrastructure and local economies, not to mention the loss of more than 280,000 lives. The images of widespread destruction across hundreds of villages and seaside resorts were continuously shown on our television sets, newspapers and magazines. They may have captured the physical effects of the tragedy but did little to show the full extent of the misery and heartache that has set in since the disaster occurred. As with all sudden traumas and shocking events, it takes time before the psychological toll takes effect. As we all know, wounds of the mind and soul do not always heal as quickly as those inflicted on the flesh.
As a mother, I think of all the mothers who watched their children being swept away to meet a fate of being dashed against moving objects or drowned by the raging waters. I think also of the family members in our country who have to live with the awful reality of never again seeing their loved ones and not even having the opportunity to find a resting place for the bodies of those they have lost. I draw some relief, as all honourable members in this House have indicated tonight, from the worldwide outpouring of sympathy and generosity that has taken place.
The giant waves of the tsunami destroyed not only whole communities but also past notions about how the world responds to the plight of fellow humans after a natural disaster. Literally within minutes of those first waves crashing over seaside towns, residents of Auburn began to work out what they could do to help those affected by the terrible tragedy. Stories emerged one by one, piece by piece. A group of people here, a small family there, community groups organising events and various religious denominations collecting much-needed funds—it was all part of a larger effort. It was a whole-of-community effort. Given the scale of the disaster, it had to be. It made me, like all of my colleagues here tonight, proud to be part of my local community and to be an Australian. Help was desperately needed, and the community responded.
There were stories from all parts of the community. A fundraiser involving the Turkish community was organised literally within a couple of days. More than a thousand people turned up and donated more than $13,000 for tsunami victims. I recognise the efforts of Councillor Semra Batik, who is of Turkish origin, the Moruklar Motorcycle Club, and the
Turkish News Weekly
newspaper in this fundraising. There was an incredible spirit to this fundraiser, and it shut down part of Civic Parade Auburn for almost two hours. One could literally feel the goodwill in the air.
Two young girls from Auburn, Madhura and Dhanya Iyer, are aged 10 and 12 respectively. Of Sri Lankan descent, they watched the devastating images as they unfolded on their television and felt very upset for the people affected. So they did something about it. The two girls door-knocked their community in an effort that would put us seasoned campaigners to shame. Altogether, they collected $16,000 for the relief fund. Their parents and our community should be very proud of them.
One local resident, Tim Fox of Sefton, was among the first support personnel on the ground. He was sent to Sri Lanka, which was hit particularly hard by the tsunami. Mr Fox, who is a New South Wales Fire Brigades rescue officer, worked as a logistical and support officer for a medical assessment team in Sri Lanka. The biggest problems in Sri Lanka were the size of the affected coastline and the absolute decimation of local infrastructure. It was not so much getting adequate supplies: getting from place to place became the biggest challenge. Mr Fox's duties included providing the medical assessment team with supplies, transporting them around the affected coastal regions, and establishing communication systems to allow team members to contact each other and other specialist agencies. I was glad to receive a briefing at the New South Wales Fire Brigade's urban search and rescue facility in Greenacre, along with the Premier and the Minister for Emergency Services, on Mr Fox's activities, as well as on other emergency personnel working on the front line in tsunami-affected regions.
I acknowledge also the work and co-ordination expertise of Dr Michael Flynn, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, and Mr Greg Watson in respect of the teams working as part of the relief efforts. They were fine ambassadors for Australia and what we stand for. Demonstrating that a little effort can really make a difference was a six-year-old from Regents Park, Nicole Sadeghi. She began by collecting some money at a New Year's party. From there she organised a collection at a local church. Recognising her efforts, people contributed a total of $8,000 to this young lady. This was another example of individual effort that contributed so significantly to the larger relief effort.
More recently, the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia held a fundraiser for the tsunami relief effort. I was privileged that evening to be in attendance with my good friend Abd Malak, the president of the organisation, along with the honourable member for Hornsby, Judy Hopwood, and the Federal Attorney-General, Mr Phillip Ruddock. The night was a reminder of why the efforts of our community were so vital, and it helped to raise more than $20,000. Many community organisations—churches, mosques and schools—in the Auburn electorate were part of such fundraising efforts. There were many more individual and group examples of willingness to do whatever it took to provide those people ravaged by the tsunami disaster with the support they so desperately needed.
I feel the need to repeat myself: it made me proud of my local community and proud to be an Australian. May we join in the wish that the short-term devastation will be outlived by a longer-term compassion for the plight of our fellow humankind in all parts of the world. I also hope that this tragedy will renew our gratitude for what we have and cause us to value and love that which is most important—family, friends and our community at large. I conclude by again paying tribute to the wonderful people of the Auburn electorate, who have demonstrated remarkable generosity and concern for others. I commend the motion to the House.
Mr ANDREW HUMPHERSON
(Davidson) [8.06 p.m.]: I join all members in supporting this motion of shared condolence for people affected by the extraordinary tsunami that devastated so much of the Indian Ocean periphery on Boxing Day and has brought an amazing scale of human tragedy to that region, the impact of which will continue for generations to come. It is something words cannot describe. We have all seen the photographic images, the video footage, much of it amateur footage, of the tsunami moving through resorts, towns and cities and wreaking an extraordinary scale of destruction. It was an amazing display of the force of nature triggered by an undersea earthquake, the movement of the sea floor, shifting such an extraordinary force of water onto coasts around the Indian Ocean.
It is on a scale that I, and probably most of us, cannot recall. Even with extraordinary horrors of war, there probably has not been so much media footage and vision of a disaster. That has brought home to every person who has seen it the enormity of the disaster, its human impact, and the challenges that exist now and into the future. That footage has informed us of the nature of a tsunami. It is more than just a wave. We are all used to seeing waves break on beaches, but this was a moving mass of water of such magnitude and power that it was impossible to calculate the power behind it. There was no respite for anyone caught up and moved along in that wall of water. Its force and the objects it carried meant that those caught in it had little prospect of survival.
My thoughts, as are those of other honourable members, are for the Australians who lost their lives, and my thoughts are with their families, friends and relatives. As has been said, many of those relatives will never have the opportunity to say goodbye in the way we would all like to say goodbye to loved ones we have lost. My thoughts are also with the extraordinary number of tourists who died, many from Europe and Scandinavia, and the many hundreds of thousands of local families and communities on the coasts of the Indian Ocean—Sri Lanka, India, Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives and some of the smaller communities on the African coast—who were decimated. Many towns and villages no longer exist and will never be rebuilt. Many areas have lost an enormous proportion of their population and will have to create new communities. The disaster has had a massive impact on infrastructure. Roads, bridges, businesses, homes, schools—infrastructure that every community needs—will take an immeasurable amount of time to be rebuilt.
I commend all those from the New South Wales and the broader Australian community who have contributed in various ways. I also commend the military, armed forces and other expert personnel who have assisted. Many personnel are still there. Further, I commend those who, on their own initiative, travelled to the affected areas to offer assistance, and I commend the tourists who were holidaying in devastated regions and chose to stay and help. It is impossible to appreciate the horror of dealing with bodies that have been exposed to the elements for many days, assisting with the identification of bodies, helping relatives look for lost loved ones, and other associated roles.
I acknowledge and thank the New South Wales emergency services personnel and agencies who contributed resources to assist in the devastated regions. I acknowledge the donations of prisoners in our prison system. I know they do not have great resources but their generosity is an indication of the breadth of community compassion for the victims of this disaster. The Minister for Justice has acknowledged their financial assistance. We should be mindful that even those who at times have not respected the laws, rights and liberties of others have given generously to people who live in areas they may never have the opportunity to visit. They have given because of the magnitude of the disaster.
Overall, the public sympathy across our country for those who have been impacted by this disaster has been extraordinary. We have been a generous and compassionate neighbour. We have done what any neighbour should and would do. We can all feel a strong sense of pride. The public and private donation of $200 million is, by any measure, an extraordinary achievement. But the donation of money does not tell the full story. In Indonesia and Sri Lanka there was some trepidation about overcoming political and religious differences. I am pleased to say that the differences have not proved greater than the human compassion for victims. It is pleasing to see that the obvious differences, particularly religious differences, as have been highlighted over the past three years across the world, have not been an impediment to people working together for the betterment of those who have lost significantly.
I would like to briefly touch on one issue that is worthy of consideration, involving government, government agencies, local communities, and representative councils. The frequency of tsunamis is extremely rare and we will probably not see anything of this magnitude for another century or for many centuries. But tsunamis of a lesser extent do occur and we ought to give some thought to implementing a community notification process if there is potential for a tsunami impacting on the New South Wales coastline. If there was an undersea earthquake in the vicinity of New Zealand, say, two, three, four hours away or, at the lesser extreme, a wave surge, we should have in place a mechanism whereby communities can be confident that they would be notified. There should be a means in place to at least try to minimise damage and loss of life.
A system could be put in place whereby communities are given a number of hours' notice of a risk. It is unlikely that there is technology to forecast the level of impact on the New South Wales coastline, but it is reasonable to have in place a process whereby people could be given some hours' notice of a risk so that they can take precautions. We should not overstate, overemphasise or exaggerate a potential threat or risk. However, thought should be given to such a mechanism so that people in low-lying coastal communities can move to a higher location with some hours' notice. I do not believe that would be difficult to achieve.
It is primarily a matter of communication and having procedures in place. Another tsunami of this magnitude may not occur for 1,000 years, but the damage that can be wrought has been driven home to everyone. The devastation wrought by an earthquake in the ocean is beyond what any of us could have envisaged. We can learn from this tragedy and ensure that we are prepared if, God forbid, it were to occur here. With an early warning system, people would have a chance of survival. I join with my fellow members in expressing my condolences to those who have lost loved ones. My thoughts are with those whose lives and communities have forever been changed. We all realise that, but for fate, it could have been us. Sometimes Mother Nature works on a scale that none of us could ever foresee.
Mr PETER DRAPER
(Tamworth) [8.17 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Premier and join with my colleagues on both sides of the House and all Independents in offering my sincere condolences to the people who have suffered so badly from this terrible tragedy. I recall being at home on Boxing Day, seeing the first coverage, and thinking there has been a minor incident overseas. But it has now turned into a tragedy that will be indelibly etched on many people's minds for the rest of their lives. Not long after, I visited Coogee and asked my children, who are aged nine and six, if they wanted to go to the beach. Both of them said they would prefer to stay at home because they were worried a tsunami might hit. I managed to convince them otherwise and we went to the beach. That is a strong indicator that media coverage is so powerful that the images we see over and over again have a long-term and lasting effect on young minds and, indeed, on older people. I do not believe there would be a person in Australia who was not moved by the scenes of water rushing over rock walls, engulfing beaches, and racing down streets sweeping people, cars and debris at an incredible rate.
It is extraordinary that many people thankfully survived the disaster. This event moved our nation and united many communities. Walcha is a small community in my electorate. Clubs, pubs, sporting bodies, school groups and many people in the community banded together to dig deep for the people who were so badly affected. Justin King, who has been a pharmacist for 60 years, 51 years in Walcha, donated $25,000 of his own money. He has seven children and was so moved by the images of the children orphaned by this terrible event that he immediately wrote a cheque for $25,000. He inspired other local pharmacists, which resulted in the North and Northwest Pharmacists Association launching a tsunami orphans appeal. People could make donations at pharmacies right across the region.
Three young sisters in Tamworth made a sign and collected funds for the Red Cross the day after finding out one of their own family was among the dead. Damien Gomesz, who is the manager of the Liquorland store in Tamworth, held an appeal for food and clothing to go to his homeland of Sri Lanka. That was extremely well supported by the local community. Mahoney's pharmacy held morning tea events and matched the funds raised dollar for dollar. They sold toy bears at $10 each, with the profits going to the appeal. Local clubs, as usual, dug deep. West League and Wests Diggers led the way, being first in with a $2,000 donation. I recall seeing a photograph of John McLelland, the long-time president or chairman—I am unsure which—carrying around a bucket. From memory, I think he raised another $200 or so in half an hour while walking around the club. Tamworth Services Club raised money through collection buckets during the Country Music Festival. Clubs in Gunnedah, Nundle, Walcha, Tamworth and Kootingal all supported this very worthwhile cause. The Australian Hotels Association membership hopped in as well, with many clubs holding raffles and donating money.
John Williamson, who is well-known across Australia as one of our more talented country music singers, intended to hold a concert to end the Country Music Festival. After the disaster he contacted the Red Cross to organise for people to come around during the concert to collect money. A significant amount was raised. John Williamson was joined by the Sheik from Scrubby Creek, Chad Morgan, and other very talented people, including Pixie Jenkins and Warren H. Williams. It was a great concert and a good way to end the festival, and a wonderful way to raise money from the community for the disaster fund. Brock Colley, a graduate of Camerata in Tamworth, put together a significant fundraising effort to help the Red Cross. The Catholic Church's Caritas Tsunami Appeal raised $10,000 in two days in the electorate. That is spectacular. All parishes held special collection days that were extremely well supported by the community. Two students from William Cowper, David Maslen and Daniel Fawell, turned their hand to busking, not having done it before, and raised $400 in a day, which went straight to the appeal.
School kids from around the area emptied their piggy banks. Banks reported receiving donations from a dollar from one young fellow to $300 from a student who had saved vigorously and put the money into the fund. Rod Tickle from the Commonwealth Bank said that they were inundated as soon as the appeal was announced. The ANZ and the National Australia Bank both reported taking thousands of dollars in the first day. Local business houses, including larger chains such as Woolworths and Coles, actively supported the fundraising. Collections at the Wallabadah annual picnic races raised $2,100. Gunnedah pitched in with an Australia Day charity cricket match where the hat was passed around. Donated prizes were raffled. Wayne Griffiths, who is a very strong advocate for rugby league in the area, was the brains behind its organisation.
Gunnedah women Carolyn Mitchell and Leigh Macpherson organised a marathon two-day sewing bee that produced 650 articles of clothing for the tsunami victims. Local businessman John Rodstrom opened an appeal at his store TFE Technacom-Betta Electrical and donated a percentage of his turnover from a three-day sale, raising $7,500. St Joseph's Catholic community launched an appeal by collecting at stalls in front of supermarkets in Gunnedah and through a special collection at mass. There will be an ongoing appeal each month for the next year. It raised almost $10,000 from collections and $5,000 from masses. Local pharmacies Hagley Osmond and Chemworld and Karen Carter Soul Pattinson's have been accepting donations for the orphans appeal. Local cotton growers have donated tarpaulins, ropes and tents and many other items to the value of $750,000.
This is a great example of how in adversity communities pull together and the true community spirit comes through. This is a tragedy beyond comprehension and hopefully something that we will never see again. But, inevitably, with no human control over nature, we will be putting our hands in our pockets for other things. I urge people to look at this as a long-term project. Do not think that because you have donated it is now all over and everything moves on. The people and the countries affected will need support for many years to come. Residents of my local area can feel very proud of their efforts so far to help in what will be remembered as the single greatest tragedy in world history. But, as I said, the efforts need to be continued. I would encourage everybody to dig deep for a long time.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN
(Willoughby) [8.26 p.m.]: All members of this place put enormous value on a single human life. But when that value is multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of people who have perished in the tsunami, it demonstrates the extent of the catastrophe that occurred on Boxing Day. The enormity of the catastrophe, which is still continuing, is not comprehensible. The loss of human life, family structure, social structure and livelihood and the continuing disease and injuries and psychological impact are beyond our imagination. As previous speakers on both sides of the House have already indicated, we are all proud of the enormous contribution that Australians have made in helping our fellow human beings, our neighbours.
I am extremely proud of the enormous contribution that members of the Willoughby electorate have made. The Chatswood Rotary club collected money at the Chatswood interchange, the railway station and Chatswood Chase, and raised in excess of $18,000. I was pleased to participate in that collection. Similarly, Northbridge Rotary club raised thousands of dollars collecting outside Northbridge Plaza. Many other Rotary clubs throughout the electorate, the North Shore and throughout the State have made an enormous contribution. It is fitting that tomorrow is the centenary of Rotary. It is comforting to know that over the century Rotary has always assisted wherever there has been need or tragedy. The tsunami disaster was no exception.
I record my gratitude to the residents of Paradise Avenue, Roseville, and a couple who turned their backyard into a makeshift collection depot in particular. Their neighbours, friends and many locals donated crates of supplies. An organisation called DAT Skip Bins kindly, at no cost to the couple, assisted in transportation of certain equipment and materials. The residents of Paradise Avenue, Roseville, collected in particular camping equipment, clothes, medicine, bedding, and nappies to send to Sri Lanka. My staff and I were very pleased to make a small contribution by providing nappies. On Sunday 16 January churches of all denominations in the Willoughby electorate, under the auspices of Willoughby City Council in the Willoughby Town Hall, held a memorial service. It was extremely special because it brought together different denominations, religions and nationalities.
Prayers were held in Indonesian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan. It was a wonderful opportunity for the Willoughby community to come together and pay respects to those who perished and those who are still trying to come to terms with the enormity of the disaster in the areas where the tsunami struck. Many families in Australia and around the world have lost loved ones and still have loved ones missing. More recently, on Wednesday 16 February, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund tsunami celebrity cricket match was held at Chatswood oval. I am pleased to say that that event raised over $100,000, which is an enormous effort.
Jamitha Pathirana wanted to do something for Sri Lankan victims. His idea grew into a very successful event. Local businesses participated and generously donated to the cause. For example, Vodafone donated $10,000, News Ltd donated $30,000 in kind, and Optus donated $10,000. Many celebrities donated sporting and art items for auction. Many residents supported the event and donated on the day. The Chatswood Chamber of Commerce was involved in the collection effort. That one cricket match, which was an outstanding success, raised $100,000, which is a wonderful achievement. Last week the Chatswood Chamber of Commerce held a fund-raising lunch. The speaker at the lunch was Father Chris Riley. It was inspirational hearing him speak about what his organisation had done to help children in devastated areas. It was encouraging to hear about the amount of rebuilding that is going on to address the emotional needs of children.
It would be tragic if any of us lost a close relative or friend, but if we lost our entire family or social network it would take us a long time to recover. Most people would never recover but it would take others a long time to start making a positive contribution to society. It was encouraging to hear Father Chris Riley speak about what Youth Off the Streets has been doing, especially in Aceh. I note, as have many members, the contribution of the honourable member for Bankstown who worked closely with Father Riley in Aceh. The local Red Cross in Willoughby and Chatswood and many local schoolchildren have made an enormous effort. It was encouraging to walk past Mowbray Road and see schoolchildren setting up stalls and selling lemonade in order to make a contribution. That demonstrates the level of generosity of Australians to dig deep and assist other human beings.
I am incredibly proud of the contribution made by residents in the Willoughby electorate to the relief effort. All members of Parliament and all members of the community are cognisant of the fact that the tsunami has gone but that the rebuilding will take years, perhaps generations. The challenge that remains is for us to think of other constructive ways to assist the relief effort. I place on the record my condolences to all those in Australia who lost loved ones, family members and friends, or who still have family members and friends missing. It is a difficult time for them. The support of the community is a small consolation, a small way in which to assist them in their time of grief. I am proud of residents in the Willoughby electorate and I encourage everyone to think of ways in which to increase their contribution. I acknowledge the exemplary leadership demonstrated by the Prime Minister in making his outstanding $1 billion contribution to affected areas.
Mr RICHARD TORBAY
(Northern Tablelands) [8.34 p.m.]: Like all other honourable members, I am pleased to contribute to the debate on this condolence motion. It is appropriate on the first sitting day this year to debate a condolence motion led by the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition. Like many other members, I sat watching the devastation of the tsunami unfold on the television—a disaster that many of us had difficulty comprehending. Each news report heralded more and more devastation. Members of my family who were watching the disaster unfold asked me how many lives had been lost. I would say, "It is 20,000 or 30,000 since the last news report." That figure quickly escalated to 100,000 and beyond. It jolted communities around the world to respond. Australia responded magnificently to this disaster.
We can only imagine what people went through as a result of the tsunami. We continually hear stories of heartbreak, hurt, loneliness and desperation. We also hear courageous stories of help and support and the odd story of somebody who survived when all hope was lost. Those stories keep everyone motivated and they provide inspiration. Other speakers have alluded to the fact that communities in Australia responded overwhelmingly, which made us all proud. Many members have commented on how proud they are of the people in their electorates. Many communities in the Northern Tablelands electorate are not on the top of the list of rich communities. Compared with other electorates, they are not wealthy communities by any stretch of the imagination.
I am not trying to downgrade the contribution of any other member; I wish only to highlight how people responded at every level. Many events and fund-raising activities were held. In Tenterfield, the birthplace of the nation, a community collection raised $30,000—a fantastic contribution. The Red Cross, councils, service clubs, church groups and many other organisations rallied to assist. In Glen Innes and Deepwater, branches of the Red Cross raised $8,000. I am talking about small communities compared to many that have been mentioned today. Lions, Rotary and other community organisations and individuals contributed many thousands of dollars. The University of New England in Armidale has many international students who hail from affected areas. Those students organised activities and contributed many thousands of dollars to the relief effort.
Armidale-Dumaresq Council raised $10,000, and an additional $6,000 to $9,000 has been donated by many community organisations towards specific projects. Schools and branches of the Red Cross have played a large part in the relief effort. Staff and volunteers from Australian New Frontiers Pty Ltd, a company in Armidale and New England trading as ANF Agritours, which has been mentioned before in this House, held a ball that raised $16,000. The community rallied to support this event and many other donations and contributions were made. Branches of the Red Cross at Uralla and Guyra and the Lions Club all worked hard to raise much-needed relief funds. Inverell High School Student Representative Council raised $1,200. School students asked what they could do to contribute to relief efforts.
and radio station 2NZ organised and supported many activities. The Rotary Club at Inverell raised $8,500. A rugby dinner raised $1,000 and all sorts of community groups supported many events and activities. Like other honourable members, I have had a number of people from my electorate say to me, "We will go over there and contribute our skills. We want to see what we can do to help." Many people from my electorate and from around Australia contributed their skills. I am proud of the fact that people from my electorate travelled to the region to help the reconstruction effort.
It was massive devastation and, as previous speakers have said, rebuilding will take a very long time. But I am not going to call on people to continue to contribute, as other speakers have done. Because of the way in which Australians have responded, that does not need to be said. I have no doubt that what is foremost in the minds of the majority of Australians at the moment is how long it will take to rebuild many of these communities and how to provide the support, love and care that is necessary over and above the bricks and mortar after such devastation. I am confident that Australians will continue to respond to this tragedy.
Mr STEVEN PRINGLE
(Hawkesbury) [8.40 p.m.]: Like everyone else in this place I have been haunted by images of the suffering wrought on our neighbours. Indeed, the sheer scale of the devastation is something that I will be reminded of for years to come and I know that everyone else in the Hawkesbury feels the same way. But as the media attention dissipates slowly over the coming weeks and months, our major responsibility will be to make sure we maintain strong support for this region, and that we provide the skills and expertise necessary to rebuild each of these countries.
The Hawkesbury electorate, as is the case with many others, has come together as a community with a quite extraordinary sense of purpose and passion to make sure that we provide the maximum possible level of assistance to our very worthy and needy neighbours. There are, of course, far too many organisations to individually mention all of them and the great support for the tsunami disaster appeals in a wide variety of contexts. But last weekend sums up much of the Hawkesbury spirit.
Honourable members will be aware of the recent devastating storms, with strong winds and rain, trees across roads, roads being blocked in general and blackouts and power failures across many electorates. But despite that we recently held a major event in the Hawkesbury, at Loxley on the Hill. The Sri Lankan and Hawkesbury Village Community Committee had a luncheon. The committee's motto, "People to People", seems to make a lot of sense and to exemplify what all members of this House and all Australians have been trying to achieve.
The event, organised by Paul Maher, who is the proprietor of Loxley on the Hill, generated—wait for it—a huge $35,000 in aid for the tsunami appeals. Much of the credit for this particular event goes to David Mason, a man who has previously been mentioned in this place in the Hawkesbury Harvest context. He is an agronomist and someone who is passionate about agriculture. Back in the 1980s he spent 3½ years in Sri Lanka helping to bring Australian expertise to local villages. The area where he spent time was one of the major areas hit by the tsunami disaster and he felt strongly enough to get out there and to support the people of that region.
There is a very strong Sri Lankan community in the Hawkesbury district and the event at Loxley on the Hill was so popular that they had to turn away people in droves. The event managers worked very closely with Apex, but the aim of the exercise is to build a long-term and lasting relationship with the tsunami-affected areas or Sri Lanka, and to provide for an orphanage with long-term funding from Hawkesbury connections within the Sri Lankan and Australian communities. This will not be a one-off event. It will be one of many functions to be held over the coming years, which will provide ongoing assistance and support for that part of Sri Lanka.
A second event was also held on the same weekend, this time at Wilberforce, by Mary and Joe Galea. On Boxing Day, with the tsunami disaster the subject of continual news updates, a group of Australians, neighbours in their street, were deeply affected by the events they had seen broadcast on television. This group of friends decided that they would get together and make a major contribution to the appeal. The Galeas made available their very large barn. A huge barn dance was organised for the weekend with hundreds of people attending and a massive level of community involvement.
As is invariably the case, the Lions and Rotary clubs throughout New South Wales, and indeed throughout Australia, had been at the forefront in providing assistance and support to the damaged areas. I want to briefly mention some of those involved: the Kellyville Lions, under John Foster and Wayne Kedwood, provided a particularly strong level of leadership. Hills Rural Lions, under John Ebert and Joyce Proglio, has also been actively involved in raising funds. In this instance it was raising funds through a concert for tsunami victims.
I also want to talk about future events that have been planned. This weekend the Hawkesbury Tsunami Rebuild Concert will be held. It has involved a whole range of players and I pay tribute to mayoress Bronwyn Bassett, who has been one of the leading lights in this particular event. One of the innovative ideas is that a message board will be located at this weekend's concert to allow local residents to post their messages of encouragement and support to the tsunami victims.
In attendance of course will be the RAAF Band, which is so important to the Hawkesbury area, and the RAAF at Richmond will be actively involved. Honourable members may be aware that our RAAF contingent was mobilised very early after the disaster struck and has been continually involved in the relief operations since that time. Liz Holtham has also been actively involved in organising this concert. The Rural Fire Service, Hawkesbury Race Club, the Hawkesbury
, Penrith Press and the Hawkesbury
have all provided encouragement and support.
The Salvation Army, which is active in many parts of the Hawkesbury district, has provided not only support but a storage depot for much of the food and clothing that has been contributed to the appeal. In that context I also acknowledge the efforts of Nick Berman, the Mayor of Hornsby shire, who is part Sri Lankan. He has managed to galvanise many Sri Lankan Australians in support of the appeal. Before I conclude my contribution there is one person who deserves a great deal of credit for the Australian response to the tsunami disaster and that is our own Prime Minister. The leadership that he has provided has been second to none.
We have all seen, and have etched on our brains, the images of our Prime Minister with the Indonesian Prime Minister, and the depth of warmth that was clearly evident between those two. We can be justifiably proud of our Prime Minister, our armed forces and the many community groups that have so strongly supported our neighbours. I look forward to working with them over the coming months and years. We certainly cannot forget the needs of these people, which will take years to satisfy.
Mr GRAHAM WEST
(Campbelltown—Parliamentary Secretary) [8.47 p.m.]: Like most people I was on holiday on Boxing Day and remember waking to news of the tragedy that had devastated our near neighbours. I think I felt numb. It was reported that 30,000 people had lost their lives. The figures made no sense. It was hard to accept that such a tragedy could have occurred. But as the days passed and the reports came of the rising death toll, the enormity of the situation became apparent to everyone. Initially there was a sense of helplessness. What could we do in such a circumstance?
The stories emerged of people who had risked their lives to hold onto the hand of a friend and those who went to help in a shelter or hospital. We heard about Australians stepping forward en masse; we heard about agencies putting plans in place and extending the hand of friendship to our neighbours, especially in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but also in Thailand and India. It was the cause of an enormous amount of pride to think that Australians were willing to extend a hand to our neighbours, but also willing to dig deep into their pockets and assist where they could with fundraising. Wherever one went, to the cricket or to the local park, there were people collecting donations for the tsunami victims. People were giving generously and not asking for receipts. They just wanted to give a hand to their neighbours.
We do not often see that level of co-operation. However, I think we will see it again in the future as we have built good relationships with our neighbours. The extent of the devastation was brought home to me on 16 January at a simple service conducted by Campbelltown City Council and mayor Brenton Banfield at the Bali memorial in Campbelltown. We sat under the sun by the wattles that had been planted for Bali and prepared to plant new trees to commemorate the victims of the tsunami. The mayor pointed out that it was thought at that stage that 150,000 people or thereabouts had been lost. That is the entire population of the city of Campbelltown. It would be like families, friends and everything one knows being destroyed. The toll is such now that it is the equivalent of the entire population of Macarthur.
It is hard for us, as individuals, to imagine the pain and suffering that people must be experiencing. But I am pleased to see that the Australian agencies and the Australian people have been there to ease that suffering and are working with our neighbours. Today I had the pleasure of meeting with Alan March from AusAID, who is co-ordinating many of the tsunami relief efforts. At the meeting—as though further evidence of the enormity of the tragedy were needed—he explained that about 260 kilometres of coastline in Indonesia have been destroyed. In many places if they were to build schools there would be no students to fill them. If they were to build houses there would be no-one to live in them. If they were to build hospitals there would be no-one to care for in them. Sections of road are simply engulfed by the sea.
But Mr March also spoke of the generosity of the Australian people and the co-operative nature of aid with our neighbours. Australia is seeking to do nothing other than help where our neighbours and friends want us to in ways they want us to. This is a mature approach and is about being a friend for the long haul. I commend the Government on its actions in this regard. I also congratulate the Australian people—especially the people of Campbelltown, who have given to many causes, including the mayoral fund—on their commitment to helping our neighbours. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been affected directly by the tsunami.
Mr GREG APLIN
(Albury) [8.52 p.m.]: Like others around the nation, the residents of the Albury electorate were overwhelmed by the shocking events of 26 December 2004. The devastation to life and property became more and more evident as the days went by and graphic media coverage was presented from so many different nations on the rim of the Indian Ocean. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people have been forever traumatised and altered by the tsunami—nature's waves of terror. We extend our condolences to the relatives of victims and include in our prayers all those who suffered and are rebuilding their communities.
The message that went out to people in the border region of New South Wales was, "You can help". It was a message that galvanised individuals and communities to take action, to join together for a common cause, to raise funds and to offer assistance to the survivors of this disaster. A Border Tsunami Appeal was launched—a joint effort of the Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Club, Albury and Wodonga councils, the business community and the border's media companies. The aim was to get the two border communities to work together in a united fundraising effort that would harness the outpouring of compassion. The one-month appeal was overseen by the Red Cross and resulted in more than $100,000 from a total of $550,000 donated to the Red Cross Murray-Riverina region. Donations to other aid agencies such as World Vision and Oxfam Community Aid Abroad for their tsunami relief work took the region's contribution to more than $1 million.
One project that allowed people to come together was a community walk on 16 January—the day we all joined Australia's national day of mourning for the tsunami victims. The Gardens to Gateway walk was a major fundraising event, which saw people walk from Albury's Botanic Gardens and from Wodonga's Sumsion Gardens to Gateway Island on the causeway between the two cities. It was a day of early rain and cooler temperatures but men, women and children from both cities undertook the walk to contribute to the appeal and to join in a community barbecue. I was involved in the day and led the crowd through the formalities before we joined the nation in the minute's silence.
While some walkers could tell of friends or relatives who had a connection with the disaster, for most it was an opportunity to express their sorrow at the massive loss of life and to help in some small way the efforts to rebuild those towns and villages of the countries affected. Pastor Jonathon Stark spoke to the walkers of the need to stand together to help others. He said that we are reminded that our lives are pretty fragile and that the huge loss of life makes us realise that we must live our lives to the full. It was an important message, and it was taken to heart.
There was a constant stream of activity to help raise money—garage sales, golf days, a cricket match between real estate agents and solicitors, donations of food to the walk and the proceeds of takings from a day's trade. The Commercial Club had already placed ClubsNSW donations tins throughout the club but raised a further $8,000 by donating bar sales, and a local group, Azure Blue, produced a compact disk called
, which is raising funds for the relief effort. Church organisations and children contributed in their own way and at every fundraising event in the community the tins were out and the request was the same: Help those in Asia who need us now.
The local Rotary clubs all donated significant sums, the Sri Lankan community organised events to assist their nation, and doctors and volunteers visited the stricken countries to help. The airline Regional Express embarked on a fundraising campaign and offered one of its aircraft and crew for aid relief, and of course the schools all became involved at the start of the academic year. On a personal level, my eldest son played in the opening song of the national Reach Out relief concert telecast from the steps of the Opera House. The various appeals throughout Australia brought us all together in a remarkable display of unity and compassion, and I pay tribute to the organisers and donors and all those who gave so generously to assist the victims. I pray that over time our individual and our country's role will help ease the legacy of this terrible tragedy. I join the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in supporting this motion of condolence.
Mr MALCOLM KERR
(Cronulla) [8.56 p.m.]: As was said earlier, catastrophe on such a scale is almost incomprehensible. It is easier to relate what happened to particular people and the community response. Today we have heard from members representing electorates throughout the State about their communities' response to the disaster and the human suffering. Volunteers offered their services in a variety of ways in an effort to ease the suffering in the aftermath of this catastrophe. I will relate the experiences of two individuals in my electorate and their response to those events. Les and Dianne Boardman went to Thailand for a holiday and, just a few minutes into the first full day of their stay, were anxious to hit the famed Phuket blue water. Les Boardman watched as the tide on Patong Beach receded suddenly, like a giant drawing breath, leaving about 200 metres of exposed sand. Mr Boardman puzzled as to what this might mean. It was only when he saw the boats racing to shore—boats of all sizes, motors going full bore—that he realised what was happening.
Les and his wife, Dianne, turned and ran for their lives. They got about 20 or 30 metres, heading up the soft sand to the beach road. Then, as Dianne dived under a parked car, the water hit them. The wave carried Les about five metres up to the first-floor level, where he grabbed a post. Through a fluke of physics, the water also lifted the car from above Dianne and tossed her up, beside her husband. They were both able to scramble through a first-floor window to relative safety, where they watched as giant waves rolled in for the next 90 minutes. They were then taken to hospital.
I was at Caringbah Rotary Club when Les and Dianne Boardman described their ordeal and the aftermath of it. They were certainly full of praise for the Australian Government, its representatives and Qantas, for what was done for the victims. They were also full of praise for the Thai people and their efforts in assisting the Australians who had been affected, and tourists generally. Upon their arrival back in Australia the Boardmans were to the forefront in establishing relief efforts. Under the heading "Shire, St George rush to raise cash for tsunami relief" the
St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
It may be one of the biggest challenges ever, but true to form the people of St George and Sutherland Shire have rallied to support victims of the tsunami disaster.
In an area that is no stranger to disasters such as bushfires or the Bali bombings, the ongoing generosity and support of businesses, residents, councils, clubs and community groups is overwhelming.
Everyone is keen to do their bit with the enormous donations and fundraising projects underway.
A Sutherland Shire Tsunami Appeal set up by survivors Les and Dianne Boardman of Cronulla and radio announcer Glenn Wheeler, has received massive support.
For starters, Cronulla restaurants Stonefish, Bella Costa, Café Monz, Oceanna and Opah will donate all the profits from lunch and dinner on January 13 to victims overseas.
Mr Wheeler said people would be able to dine and make a difference.
"They can go and have lunch or dinner and know every dollar will be donated," Mr Wheeler said.
"The restaurants are going to give their entire takings from lunch and dinner."
There were many contributions from clubs and sporting organisations in the St George and Sutherland shire. Sutherland Shire Council was one of the first to donate $100,000 to World Vision. The relief effort goes on. The people of the Sutherland shire are still making donations to ensure that relief is available to the people who have been affected by the tsunami. In an article appearing in the
magazine British journalist Paul Johnson, an author and journalist and friend of Prime Minister Tony Blair, wrote:
[This disaster] is a timely reminder of the fragility of our existence in this world, the ease with which life on a sunny holiday beach can be snuffed out in a few torrential seconds, and the awesome power with which nature still wields, and will always wield, in a world where science and engineering make such boastful strides in subduing her.
He went on to say:
… such events make us think about our transience and death, and our own preparedness for our extinction and the life to come.
Fortunately, such events also make us realise the best of human nature and the generosity and selflessness our fellow citizens are capable of.
Mr WAYNE MERTON
(Baulkham Hills) [9.03 p.m.]: At a news conference in Sydney on 27 December 2004 the Prime Minister, John Howard, said:
I express on behalf of all of the Australian people my deepest sympathy and great profound condolences to the people and the governments of so many countries in our region. The Australian people feel the greatest sympathy for our friends in the region. We'll do everything we can as a regional neighbour and regional friend to assist the countries that have been so badly affected.
That was our Prime Minister's response to a disaster of the magnitude this world has never seen before and, hopefully, will not see again. To date some 300,000 lives have been lost, and unfortunately the death toll continues to rise. By an act of nature the whole world changed. Devastation, tragedy and despair were inflicted upon so many nations that people suddenly wondered what was happening. They asked, "Why did this happen?" Of course, people constantly fear that such a disaster could happen again. As disastrous as it may be, tragedy often generates responses from people who, although they may not be directly involved, feel compelled to lend a hand to others they would otherwise probably not have had an association with. The whole world, including Australia, was galvanised to assist the victims of this tragedy. Australia has certainly played its part. The Prime Minister's commitment to do everything we can as a regional neighbour and regional friend to assist the countries that have been so badly affected has been honoured, with Australia being, I understand, at this stage the largest donor to the relief effort in the South-East Asian countries affected.
A relief effort involves the entire nation, and by necessity it involves communities. I am pleased and proud to announce tonight that the Baulkham Hills area, which I am privileged to represent, certainly played its part in assisting the victims of the tsunami disaster. I acknowledge the many acts of kindness and the concern and commitment expressed by Baulkham Hills community groups, including professional people, medical personnel, members of service clubs such as the Lions Club and Rotary, State Emergency Services [SES] volunteers, and individual community members, who galvanised their efforts to put forward a massive relief effort.
For example, Baulkham Hills State Emergency Services volunteer Mrs Chris Cleary, who was bedridden following a case of viral meningitis, still wanted to help the victims of the recent tsunami. After seeing a televised appeal for help from the Sri Lankan Association of New South Wales, Mrs Cleary rang spokesperson Aubrey Joachim and promised him, "Whatever help you need, just let us know and we'll be there!" Mr Joachim was on the phone the next day asking for volunteers to help load a 40-foot shipping container full of water, non-perishable foodstuffs, clothing and medicines to go to help the stricken communities of Sri Lanka. Mrs Cleary and her SES volunteer husband Graham promptly organised two teams of SES members, who travelled to Wetherill Park to assist the Sri Lankan community by loading the containers, which were donated by Costa Transport. Mr Joachim said:
Our volunteers filled a four-wheel drive and our ute with their own donations for the disaster victims and then drove out to Wetherill Park to help pack it all for shipping.
Mr Joachim said he was indebted to the SES for their help. He went on to say:
I'm impressed with the discipline and support shown by the emergency services like the SES. They're so reliable. Give them a time and they'll be there.
That was just one effort. On 18 January 2005 a fundraising dinner was held at Adil's Indian Cuisine restaurant in Castle Towers. All staff from the restaurant volunteered their services on the night. It was a very successful night and a great community fundraising effort. Paul McKenzie, a local real estate agent and valuer, was involved as one of the organisers of the event. Many other people who are not known to me were also involved, but I know they worked extremely hard in organising the event. More than $12,000 was raised, to be distributed to the Indian Prime Minister's emergency relief fund for the tsunami disaster and World Vision. On the night it was agreed that 10 per cent of the funds raised would go to the South Australian bushfire disaster fund.
The world has many nations and many groups, and disasters happen at different times. The tsunami tragedy happened in South-East Asia. Shortly thereafter, on a far lesser scale but equally serious, sad and concerning, was the South Australian bushfire disaster, so the community group assisted that appeal as well. John Ebbott, a well-known community worker in the Baulkam Hills area who is also involved with Crestwood Lions, organised a Remember and Rebuild Concert at Castle Hill Showground on 29 January. Funds raised went to Lions Club International to assist with rebuilding the lives of tsunami victims. The Hills for Hope Concert was also held on the same day at The Hills Centre. I was unable to attend, but my Federal colleague Alan Cadman wrote:
Mike Conway, Gavin Robertson and anybody who was involved in this concert needs huge praise.
It was an amazing display of world class Australian talent, including Kevin Johnson, Glen Shorrock, Mental as Anything, Six & Out and many others. I enjoyed every minute of it. Greg Page was great.
That concert raised approximately $65,000 for the appeal. Many activities occurred in the Baulkham Hills area and they are ongoing. The Sri Lankan people have a depot at the Dural Salvation Army where articles are donated and then sent to assist those in need. Two survivors of the tsunami lived in the Baulkham Hills electorate. Rebecca Giles was in Thailand on a holiday with her boyfriend, Damien Rivkin, son of stockbroker Rene Rivkin, when the tsunami occurred. According to earlier reports, they sought refuge in a bungalow when the tsunami hit. The sheer velocity of the waves destroyed the bungalow. The couple fought to stay alive in the raging waters before they were swept to safe ground and were taken to Khabi hospital before transferring to Bangkok, where Rebecca underwent surgery.
Another story concerned the Rost family from Castle Hill, who were at Phuket on Boxing Day when the waves struck. The Rost family, who managed to run to their third floor hotel room, told how they saw six-month old Melina Heppell from Perth being swept out of her father's arms. Mrs Rost said of the Perth family, "He and his wife were running up the hill and he grabbed on to a telegraph pole to stop being swept away and the baby slipped from his arms." I am indebted to Keasha Naidoo, an excellent reporter from the
Hills Shire Times
for those accounts.
The people from the Baulkham Hills area were greatly concerned and came forward, got involved and committed themselves to raise funds for this important appeal. My office spoke to Mrs Chris Cleary, whose efforts I referred to earlier in relation to the State Emergency Services [SES]. She said she was watching television when mention was made that clothing was needed. She scribbled down the phone number that was behind the reporter on the screen, which turned out to be the Kingsgrove Sports Club. She contacted the club and she and her husband Graham co-ordinated teams from the SES who twice a week went to Wetherill Park to hand load items that were sent to the Lions Club in Colombo. This lady had suffered viral meningitis and, typical of many volunteers, made an effort—there are many stories like hers throughout the nation. People went the extra mile to assist the countries in crisis, a crisis inflicted by nature and one that could occur anywhere in the world.
I support the condolence motion moved by the Premier. The people in these areas have been through a tremendous experience. Lives have been shattered and they will never be healed. By necessity, human nature encourages people to be survivors, and there were survivors of the tsunami. Many people have gone and will be missed forever, but those who are left will continue with the knowledge their friends and loved ones will not be forgotten. That cruel and sad act of nature on Boxing Day 2004 will never be forgotten. This Parliament should do everything it can. The honourable member for Lake Macquarie has organised a function that will help raise money for the tsunami relief. I thank you, Mr Speaker, for supporting it. This appeal must never be forgotten. Rebuilding those nations will not take place overnight—it will be a long, hard road. I know that the Australian people are not quitters. We are not in it for the short haul or the short term; we will stick by those people until the job is done.
Mr ANDREW TINK
(Epping) [9.15 p.m.]: I will speak briefly in support of this condolence motion. Like all other honourable members, I have been extremely impressed by the efforts of local groups and individuals to support people who have lost family and all they possess in that part of Asia that broadly faces the Indian Ocean. That extraordinary description shows the magnitude of this disaster—it has affected countries around the Indian Ocean. It is also sobering that with the possibility of seismic activity and earthquake activity in New Zealand, it is not out of question that the east coast of Australia could face a threat of similar proportions if the cards were to fall the wrong way. Indeed, some geologists who examine coastal rock formations, especially on the Central Coast, have come to the conclusion that given the placement of certain boulders in places where they could not be for any other reason we have suffered events such as this possibly millions of years ago. However, they have happened. Such a disaster could occur anywhere, and certainly in this country.
We are judged by how we help our neighbours. I am delighted that in the Epping electorate—as in every other electorate in the State—a considerable amount of help has been provided. As the honourable member for Baulkham Hills said, the focus of local aid depends on the focus of the local electorate. My electorate is characterised by, relatively speaking, a large number of Sri Lankans and Indians who have really led the charge. I put on record my thanks to Sharminie Niles, who organised a clothing appeal and opened her house and garage. She was swamped with donations within 24 hours. I visited her a couple of times and it seemed that every three hours another garage opened up the street to cope with the overflow. I understand that there were problems with shipping at the other end. The shipping priorities did not always dovetail with what was being donated, but the spirit of the donations was quite extraordinary.
I have no doubt that appropriate steps have been taken to store the donations and that they will be of great use down the track when some of the more primary needs of the victims have been attended to. They will then look to things such as clothing for all seasons. I refer to the efforts made by Rotary clubs in my electorate—Thornleigh, Pennant Hills, Beecroft, Epping and Eastwood—to raise large amounts of money. Their efforts have been outstanding and I am grateful to them. I am sure that churches in all electorates have made extraordinary efforts. In particular, I mention the Christian City Church, Carlingford, which has been supportive of Sharminie Niles. I also mention the great efforts being made by the Saesoon Presbyterian Church and the local Korean community.
Like many other councils around the State Ryde Council has been extremely active in setting up a tsunami fund. It has raised tens of thousands of dollars. Similar efforts have taken place at a local, national and government level. Those efforts show that Australia is a good neighbour. That is an important signal to send to our regional neighbours and friends. We are judged ultimately not only by what the Government does and contributes on behalf of all of us, but by what we are prepared to contribute ourselves. They are seen as two separate things that go together to make up the whole package or picture. The capacity and willingness of individuals and small community groups, in their tens of thousands right around the country, to organise fundraising, in addition to what the Government has given, is an indication of how deep and wide the grass roots support for the victims runs.
That is the most important signal of all to send to our friends and neighbours: we not only feel obliged to help but we are keen and happy to do so. That is a tremendous message to send out from this country. The tsunami is a great tragedy. I do not believe anyone in the House can possibly comprehend what happened. The honourable member for Bankstown, Tony Stewart is, in a way, an eyewitness after the fact. I listened to his speech this afternoon and I still find it very difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster. I am pleased to support this condolence motion.
Before I put the question I would also like to join the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and the many members who have spoken in the debate in extending profound sympathy to all Australians and to all our neighbours who suffered personal losses during the tragic 26 December Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. I wish the injured a speedy recovery. Shortly after the news of the tsunami I undertook to write, on behalf of the Parliament, to Madhusudan Ganapathi, the Consul General of India, Mr Suraphan Boonyamanop, the Royal Thai Consulate General, and Mr Wasantha Senanayake, the Acting Consul General of the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka. On 13 January I also visited the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia, Mr Wardana, to sign the condolence book on behalf of the Parliament, expressing sincere sympathy on behalf of all members for the terrible tragedy that had occurred. In his address today the Premier stated:
In the course of a day, the tsunami took more lives than the bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, the London blitz and Guernica combined.
I suppose those of us who have grown up with a concept of history have dwelt upon each of those great tragedies and had hoped, in no uncertain terms, that they would never ever be repeated, man-made or otherwise. Yet in one day we have seen all of those incidents combine into one great tragedy. It is impossible to comprehend the enormity of this tragedy. Today we have heard of the loss of 300,000 lives, possibly more. We have heard of the displacement of millions of people and the impact of the disaster upon millions of families. The impacts of the tsunami in terms of reconstruction and the restitution of the spirit will be felt for a long, long time. Those of us who recall the tragic events of four or five decades ago will no doubt realise that people will look back on this tragedy not only for decades but for many centuries into the future.
It is difficult to perceive the tragedy to individuals when one is talking about such large numbers. To me this was brought home while watching the news with my three children shortly after these tragic events occurred. Because of events in my own family I suppose we were all more than a little emotional at the time, but my eldest son, who is 22 years old and a star athlete, was watching the news and I could see the tears rolling down his face. I said to him, "Bede, are you okay, son?" He was speechless. He turned to me and he said, "Dad, this is just awful. These people are all dying". I felt the frustration in him and I also felt the frustration in myself in coming to terms with the magnitude of the disaster. As we watched together in silence, we were all united in wanting to do something. However, we were dumbstruck about how what we as individuals could do to help these people.
Today we have heard a lot about how millions of people have responded in many different ways. We have heard members of Parliament from the length and breadth of this State pay tribute to their communities for the unique way in which individuals and groups have responded. Some responded by offering money, some by offering whatever meagre possessions they have. Some, like Tony Stewart and Jack, the husband of the honourable member for Burrinjuck, got on planes and went over there and helped, as many others did. That response was great to see and I echo the comments that have been made by the honourable member for Epping, who said that in many ways people needed to respond and did so in whatever way they could, whether it was large or minor.
Today we heard also how the Federal Government responded in a very generous way, as of course Australia should and would need to respond, being a neighbour with a great heart, concerned for those within our regions. We have also heard the Premier indicate, as other speakers did, about how our emergency services contributed their skills superbly in a professional way. We express our gratitude to those who have so generously contributed their time, effort, money and meagre possessions to relieve the suffering of those affected by the tsunami, even though in many cases people may not have been aware of precisely how much difference their small contribution may make.
Like all members here, in recent times I have attended many functions and I will attend many more. I note that there is one here in this Parliament on Thursday afternoon to raise funds to help the people who have been affected by the tsunami. I suppose we will be attending similar functions for a long, long time. We are all faced with the challenge of trying to make a difference. Some of us, like the Prime Minister, the Government and the emergency personnel of New South Wales and other States are able to make a big difference. Others, like the biblical widow's mite, may make a small difference, but it all helps to reassure those in our region who have been affected by this tragedy that Australians care, that we are people with a heart, but, even more importantly, we are people with an Australian heart.
Let us remind ourselves that this is not the be-all and end-all of this matter, because the tragedy is continuing and consistent. I recently attended a function organised by the Philippine Community Council of New South Wales. The council had organised a concert to raise funds for the tsunami. I was absolute dumbstruck to learn there that, in addition to what had occurred in the countries that I have mentioned—Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and, of course, Indonesia—just before the tsunami struck a series of typhoons and floods in the Philippines had killed more than a thousand people and left homeless many tens of thousands of others. They received little recognition; they did not feature in the news. But the very strong Filipino community in my electorate and throughout the western area of Sydney who have relatives in that area felt very passionately about the fact that many of their people were lost in those typhoons and floods and that many had had their homes destroyed.
The Philippine Community Council had undertaken a fundraising campaign called "Gawad Kalinga Luzon" and wanted people to donate to it. Many of us went along to the concert organised by the Philippine Community Council on 13 February at the Bowman Hall in Blacktown and donated to the tsunami appeal. But we also learnt of another tragedy that had slipped by, and is slipping by, very much unnoticed by the world at large. Yet more than a thousand people had been killed in that great tragedy, which occurred towards the end of November and early December 2004. I suppose that demonstrates that we all need to be vigilant. We all need to be aware that there are people out there who are suffering. We need to be aware that in this country there are recently arrived migrants, and some who have arrived not so recently, who have in their homelands friends and relatives whose homes have been devastated by the great natural disasters that have occurred in recent times.
Australia and Australians, one on one, have donated with great generosity and with an open heart to the plight of our neighbours—fellow human beings, fellow individuals. It is appropriate that we should do so. However, in passing this condolence motion today, let us not only look back upon the tragedy that happened and reflect on the great generosity of those who responded to it, but equally let us be aware of the great tasks that still lie ahead.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 9.34 p.m. until Wednesday 23 February 2005 at 10.00 a.m.
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