Death of Steve Irwin
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [2.45 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the condolence motion, which states:
1. That this House notes the untimely and tragic death of Steve Irwin and extends its condolences to his wife, Terri, and his children, Bindi and Bob.
2. That this House recognises the positive contribution Steve Irwin made to conservation and to Australia's image worldwide.
3. That this House acknowledges that Steve Irwin's life mission was to educate people about the natural world and to convince them that many beautiful creatures were not as dangerous as generally perceived.
4. That this House acknowledges that Steve Irwin was the greatest ambassador for the animal world that the world has ever had.
Obviously I support all the sentiments expressed in that condolence motion. Steve Irwin was exceptional in his role as ambassador for the animal world. He was also a great ambassador for Australia and certainly upheld our reputation wherever he went. One of the amazing aspects following his tragic and unexpected death was the number of expressions of sympathy and condolence from all around the world. That is quite unusual for an Australian. It is usual for a prominent Australian to be recognised by Australians, but Steve Irwin was an Australian ambassador to the world. Condolences and expressions of sympathy have come from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Asia and Europe. That proves what an outstanding individual Steve Irwin was.
I note that Steve Irwin's tragic and unexpected death resulted from the barb of a giant stingray piercing his heart. In reading about similar deaths I have discovered that it is a common cause. Today the media reported a similar case in which the individual survived. One would wonder whether stingrays have an ability to identify heart beats in the human body and target that critical place with its barb. That is what happened to Steve Irwin.
Steve Irwin was truly an Australian battler. Steve's family came from Melbourne and then moved to Queensland. As a child, Steve worked with his father on the family reptile tourist park in Queensland. The television programs I have watched acknowledge that Steve caught a crocodile in a river at his father's suggestion when he was only nine years old. Steve jumped out of the boat and wrestled with a young crocodile, and Steve's father pulled him and the crocodile into the boat. Steve had almost drowned; he was having trouble breathing because the crocodile had forced him under the water.
From childhood and into adulthood Steve Irwin was a passionate and fearless individual with an outstanding ability to relate to animals. Contrary to Germaine Greer's untimely and unnecessary criticisms, Steve loved animals and he fulfilled his mission as an environmentalist by creating an independent charity known as Wildlife Warriors Worldwide. As a wildlife warrior Steve encouraged children to become members of that foundation, which I hope will continue in his memory. Steve established the successful Australia Zoo from a smaller zoo that was originally commenced by his father. The word "Crikey" became Steve's trademark—a typical Aussie term that is still being used in Australia today. It might not be as well known by the younger generation but people of my generation know that it is a commonly used phrase.
Background material on Steve's wife, Terri, shows that she actively supports the church in the community and attends church with her children. Steve was a supporter of family life—something he demonstrated right up until last week, when he participated in wildlife activities with his children. An avid campaigner for the conservation of animals, Steve participated in a Federal Government quarantine campaign to protect Australia's native animals and primary industry from exotic overseas diseases. Steve was the real crocodile hunter, not the Paul Hogan phoney. As an actor Paul Hogan played the role of a crocodile hunter, but Steve Irwin was the genuine article. I extend my condolences to Terri, Bindi, Bob and Steve's father, who I am sure is greatly distressed at his son's unexpected death. I also extend condolences to all other members of Steve's family.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [2.52 p.m.]: On behalf of the Australian Democrats I extend condolences to Steve Irwin's family. Steve was a great conservationist and a charismatic figure who drew the attention of the public to the importance of our fauna and flora. I extend my sympathy to his family and friends worldwide.
The Hon. Dr PETER WONG [2.53 p.m.]: On behalf of the Unity Party I extend my condolences to the family of Steve Irwin and wish them all the best.
The Hon. HENRY TSANG (Parliamentary Secretary) [2.53 p.m.]: Members of the Government and I join other honourable members in supporting this condolence motion. I, like all Australians, was shocked and saddened to learn of Steve Irwin's tragic death. Given his love for animals and his never-ending enthusiasm to grab and cajole them, the news of the manner of his death would have surprised many of us. Perhaps it should not have, but it did. Steve Irwin's impact on Australian society was enormous. It is only with his sad passing that we realise the depth of feeling there was for him.
Widely seen as a wild, exuberant character, Steve Irwin's charm and passion for the animal world and the environment was undeniable. He loved animals and made us pay attention to their world through his television programs. His television world was more than entertainment; he made people, especially children, take note of the animal world in a way that they otherwise would not have. Honourable members who saw Andrew Denton's Enough Rope interview with Irwin would have been amazed by his positive outlook, his zest for life, and his genuine commitment to the environment. It was interesting that he freely admitted he saw his very successful commercial endeavours as a means of achieving his other passion—the conservation of the natural habitat of animals.
Much has been said about Irwin's appeal to tourists. To many he came to signify what Australia was about—a land populated by dangerous creatures, with enough Aussies to tackle them in everyday life in a way that would scare the living daylights out of most sensible people. I do not know any Australians like that, but that does not really matter. After all, it is part of our psyche to laugh at ourselves, but not at the expense of others. I extend condolences to the members of Steve's family and I respect their right to refuse a State funeral. Steve's family believes, after all, that he was just an ordinary Aussie bloke.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [2.55 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members for their contributions to the debate on Steve Irwin's condolence motion and for extending condolences to Steve's family. I am sure the legacy of Steve Irwin will transcend our lifetimes. I refer to another motion of which I gave notice yesterday, which reads:
That this House condemns the antisocial comments made by the radical left-wing feminist Germaine Greer in the United Kingdom Guardian newspaper where she wrote that "the animal world has finally taken its revenge on Steve Irwin".
Reaction to that statement in web site blogs—
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: Point of order: A couple of hundred items are listed on the notice paper. The Hon. Charlie Lynn is now discussing a motion that we are not debating at the moment.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack: What is the standing order?
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Greg Donnelly): Order!
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: Mr Deputy-President, the standing orders provide that the honourable member must stick to the motion he has moved when replying to debate on the motion. The honourable member should not debate any of the 200 or so motions that are on the notice paper.
The Hon. Don Harwin: To the point of order: I understand that the Hon. Jan Burnswoods, for good reason, was not able to be in the Chamber for the debate before lunch. If she had been in the Chamber, she would have known that this matter was raised in debate. The Hon. Charlie Lynn, the mover of the motion, is now speaking in reply to debate on that motion. If that issue came up during debate, he is entitled to address it when replying to the debate.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Greg Donnelly): Order! The matter before the Chair is Private Members' Business item No. 153 outside the Order of Precedence. True it is that other members in their contributions made reference to another item of business; however, those were only passing references. For the remainder of his contribution the Hon. Charlie Lynn should confine his remarks to the item of business before the House.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: I can understand the concerns of the Hon. Jan Burnswoods, as I have no doubt that she is linked to the armpits with Germaine Greer. In summing up, I refer to an article in today's newspaper by John Birmingham, who wrote about the diatribe against Steve Irwin under the heading, "Greer's feral attack reflects an elitist conceit". I can understand the concerns of the Hon. Jan Burnswoods, as that is a direct attack on what she stands for and what she represents, which is in the minority.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: Point of order: Mr Deputy-Speaker, you gave a ruling and the honourable member is deliberately ignoring that ruling. In fact, he is worsening his original offence. I ask you to instruct him to speak to the motion he moved, to which he is replying.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Greg Donnelly): Order! I ruled previously that the matter being debated is Private Members' Business item No. 153 outside the Order of Precedence. I remind the Hon. Charlie Lynn that he is replying to the contributions of other members to this debate and in doing so he should direct his remarks to the item of business that is before the Chair.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: I referred quite extensively in my earlier contribution to messages posted on the blogs web site regarding the feedback on, and reactions to, Steve Irwin's untimely death. In today's edition of the Australian John Birmingham writes that the crocodile hunter:
… knew that he was doing more for the planet than any number of self-styled green activists or sympathisers.
Germaine Greer pulled on her redundant fright mask and charged into print to bitchslap and rake at the dead father of two for his arrogance, his stupidity and his wanton cruelty to those poor dumb beasts ill-equipped by evolution to make a fast enough getaway when they heard the approaching thunder of Irwin's boots.
Professing her deep connection to all the dangerous thingies wrestled into submission by her erstwhile countryman, Greer championed the parrot that had once bitten him and scolded his millions of fans: "Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress."
For the childless former Celebrity Big Brother contestant, the distress of Irwin's family was nothing when measured against the rightful vengeance of the animal world. Less a harridan than a poorly sketched caricature of a harridan, she would be easy to dismiss as some unwashed and wretched bag lady who had somehow stumbled on to the opinion pages of The Guardian, were it not for the fact this feral hag does actually speak for a significant minority.
Although, to be fair, she probably wouldn't like to think of herself as having anything to do with those three guys—
they were mentioned earlier in the article—
… as they were grown men rather than hairless boys, and thus deserving only of her contempt rather than any creepy sexual consideration.
In one poisonous discharge of bile, Greer has condensed the ill feelings of a whole class of Australian sophisticates who found Irwin's cartoon imagery uncomfortable and even humiliating, given his global exposure. Why, oh why, when we are now so very grown up and important, did the world have to fall for this ocker buffoon's man-child routine? And to think of what Barrie Kosky could have done with an hour a day on Animal Planet! Oh the humanity.
Irwin was very much aware of the mixed feelings the inner urban elite had for him, but if it hurt his feelings he never let it show.
He is well known for enormous sums of money he spent on conservation, but he was also a heavy donator to cultural institutions such as the Queensland Museum.
In the end he knew that he was doing more for the planet than any number of self-styled green activists or sympathisers. Yes, he was a showman, but when he had your attention by slamming a headlock on some recalcitrant man-eater, he wouldn't let you go until you understood just how close to annihilation was so much of the world's wildlife.
Greer and her ilk took umbrage at the fact that Irwin was a fan of John Howard and had even been invited to the Lodge to meet George W. Bush on the insistence of the US President.
But a few words from the Crocodile Hunter to the most powerful man in the world could have done more to change the Bush administration's environmental policy than any number of rants by a barking maddie such as Greer.
We should have sent Irwin to the Crawford ranch instead of Howard. He could have crash-tackled Dubya to the ground and held him there.
"So you gonna ratify Kyoto or what, mate? Orright! You little beauty!" We are all much poorer for his passing.
That is what Steve Irwin represented. I know that I reflect the sympathies of the majority of members in this House when I pass on our condolences to Steve Irwin's family, and damn that radical, left-wing, hairy arm-pitted feminist who sought to get some publicity by sullying his reputation. It was a sad and sorry day for the left-wingers and the terrorist sympathisers. They hate anything to do with Australia, and they cannot understand what it is to be Australian—and I feel sorry for them.
Motion agreed to.