Condolences - Australian Natural Disasters Report from Main Committee

Australian Natural Disasters
Report from Main Committee
Debate resumed

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (1.23 pm)—Events often sweep us up so quickly we fail to appreciate the enormity of them at that particular point in time. It is only later, when we have the opportunity to assess what has occurred, that we are truly staggered by the impact of the events.

I often reflect with constituents in the electorate that the amount of water that travelled through Queensland would have covered an area the size of France and Germany combined. When you look at the intensity of Cyclone Yasi, it was the same as that of Hurricane Katrina. Can you imagine these two events having an impact elsewhere? It would have rocked the attention of the world.

In this case we had two major events affecting one state in one month, so I say again that the enormity of the events of the last month have been staggering.

We stand now to console the grieving. We have solemn regard for the great sacrifice of self. We recognise the service of others and we join in a collective journey on a long path of recovery for Queensland.

Many were impacted this week by the Prime Minister’s words of Tuesday in marking our condolence. Reading her speech, in particular, has made an equal impact. I wish to quote her words:

Healing great pain requires both coming together as human beings and lonely moments of quiet reflection.

This is where we stand together as members today.

Across the country Australia has been moved by these events, and we match the enormity of these events with our own generosity and the generosity of the Australian people.

I am proud to see the way that residents in the Chifley electorate and across western Sydney have bound together to assist those in great need. This weekend alone, for example, there were a number of events.

The Mount Druitt Rotary Club, led by Lindsay Trevitt; and the Mount Druitt Standard, our local newspaper, with its editor, Steve Darcy, held a fundraising barbeque on Saturday. It was a very hot day, but the event was designed to catch the donations and generosity of the people in Mount Druitt.

The Filipino community came together as one at an event called ‘Shine’ in Bowman Hall in Blacktown to raise funds for the Premier’s relief effort. Later that day the Pakistan Association of Australia, chaired by Iftikhar Rana, held a special fundraising dinner as well, again designed to generate funds for our friends in Queensland.

All through the weekend, through those three events alone more than $30,000 was generated for the Premier’s relief fund. It is truly a great symbol of the effort and commitment to help those people in need, and it reflects greatly on people’s willingness to do so much to help others in great need.

I also wish to make particular mention of people within the Public Service within the electorate of Chifley, with particular regard to Mount Druitt Centrelink. A number of members of Mount Druitt Centrelink went very quickly to Queensland to assist in the overall effort of aiding people in need. I congratulate them and commend them. I also commend the people of the Mount Druitt area who have understood that taking quite a number of people out of the office at Centrelink will impact them in the short term. They appreciate that this is being done to help Queenslanders coping with truly terrible events. I would like in the debate on this motion to recognise their efforts.

The nation’s heart truly ached on a number of occasions through the last few weeks, but none more so than hearing the story of Jordan Rice. Such sacrifice— we cannot begin to imagine the strength within that young boy. To be able to do what he did impacted so many people and demonstrates the power of love and kinship. The impact of that event rippled across the world.

I wish to draw to the attention of the House that this week the foreign minister of Bosnia visited Australia and was hosted by the government. He brought with him a special package. That was a series of letters that had been written by schoolchildren in Sarajevo of Bosnia-Herzegovina who had been so moved by the events of Queensland. They had taken the time individually to write and wished to pass their thoughts, their feelings and their condolences on to the family of Jordan. I was exceptionally moved by that. The Bosnian foreign minister handed that package to Foreign Minister Rudd, who is going to be delivering this to Mr Macfarlane as the responsible federal member to pass on to the family.

I do not believe it would be appropriate to read those messages at any great length here, because I think that they will want to convey those sentiments. I just want to make reference to one statement which I think, regardless of language and regardless of background, we would all truly be moved by. It reads as follows:

I hope that you will find comfort in the pride of having him for a son, the small boy who lived as a great man.

That statement was from one child to another across oceans, demonstrating the depth of human emotion and the bonds of kinship we feel regardless of country and regardless of distance. It is a truly moving sentiment and I wish to thank the Bosnian foreign minister, Sven Alkalaj, for delivering those letters to us.

I also want to extend my regard and deep thoughts for parliamentary colleagues from both sides of the chamber who have dealt with exceptionally difficult circumstances, not only in their electorates but also with their own families, having themselves as representatives of their communities worked tirelessly to assist those who required help and support, and just being there in many cases as a presence to deliver strength to people who were looking for some sort of help. They do that in a way—and I think it is important to note this in the chamber—that puts their own regard aside. They make sacrifice as individuals themselves to help out, and I wish to extend to them an acknowledgement of what they are doing in very trying times.

I have spoken to the member for Blair on a number of occasions, and he has been telling me of the impact on his electorate. Through the course of that he mentioned to me, being a Queenslander and being attached to sport—I think it is genetically imprinted in Queenslanders to have that deep love of sport—that the Ipswich Basketball Stadium had been devastated by the floods. He told me that five metres of water had swept through and ruined that stadium. It will cost about $800,000 to fix.

I had occasion on Friday night to catch up with the chief executive of Basketball Australia, Mr Larry Sengstock, who is an NBL living legend and was part of the ferocious Brisbane Bullets. He has also made a great contribution to Australian basketball with the Boomers.

He is a Maryborough boy, and he was telling me that there are a number of events in Queensland where Basketball Australia and representatives of the game are intending to help out wherever they can to raise funds. I mentioned to him about Ipswich and said that I hoped that he could help out. I am told by the member for Blair that basketball runs second to rugby league in terms of popularity within Ipswich and it would be a great deed if they were able to chip in and help out in an area where sport can help bring people together in a very powerful way. Hopefully they will be able to do something in the short term to assist.

I wish to leave my remarks at that but pass on deepest regards from the residents of Chifley, who are in their own way, along with residents across in the electorate of Greenway, trying to do whatever they can to raise needed funds to help our friends in Queensland get back on their feet and become the great state that it is again.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley

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