STATEMENTS ON INDULGENCE United States of America: Terrorist Attacks

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (10:37): This segment of time we have dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks is important, but not just for the sake of commemoration and not just to honour those who passed as a result of those truly awful and horrific acts. The people who have spoken here in this room and those who are yet to speak have a role to renew, reflect and reinforce our commitment to this nation as custodians of a broad range of responsibilities. Those responsibilities stem from a recognition of this great democracy, not just in word but in deed. That work began with the moving and thoughtful contributions by the Prime Minister and a particularly impressive reflection by the Leader of the Opposition the other day. It continued with contributions by colleagues who are in this room right now, the member for Cunningham and the member for Riverina. I also had the opportunity to listen to the contributions by the member for Fowler, the member for Kooyong, the member for Casey and the member for Eden-Monaro.

But my heart ached especially when I watched the member for Higgins as she recounted what she was going through, because many of us have people close to us who went through that as well. And there is another person, whom I will not name here today, but when she reads this she will know that my heart is with her when she recounts those she lost. Many people across our country felt that. Friends close to me felt it, and friends in this place felt it. Regardless of who we are and regardless of what we think, we are bound through our common humanity, as custodians of what is important in this place, to defend what we benefit from every day. There are friends in the US—and I have spent time in the US—and whenever Americans and Australians share the same space there is a genuine affinity between our peoples because there is a relaxed, almost instant, bond that is formed. For so many of us here, we did not know the people that died on that day, but we felt the pain of our friends in America, just as we feel the pain of people in other parts of the world who are expected to bear a heavy price as a result of truly awful acts. I think that what occurred in the US on that day is what happened to the people, for example, in Indonesia, including in Bali—Australians who lost their lives there, and Indonesians as well, in a country that has worked so hard with us to ensure that these types of brutal acts are not repeated.

I ask people to remember that the blood burnt into the remains of the World Trade Center was the blood of people of all nationalities and the blood of people who were young or old; people who were men or women; people who were fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers or children. They were Christian; they were Jewish; they were Muslim. My mind is burned with the image of those silhouettes passing in the final moments of the World Trade Center. I thought that those people had been denied the opportunity to return home to finish off rich lives.

Just as I do today, I felt back then that none of those people deserved to die in that way. Not one single person who died at the World Trade Center deserved to end their days in that way—not one. The people who committed those murderous acts claimed that religion drove them, but can I just say that that is not anything remotely related to the faith that I have or the faith that I share with millions of others. We were never brought up to feel that way or to be motivated in that way. So over that period of time, in these years that have followed, we have all been tested in our response to that brutal act— all of us; every single one of us. The test has been not just in a military sense and not just in a government sense; it has been a test of people and how we would react. In my mind—and I know this is something carried not only by me but by others—we cannot expect that hate matching with hate will produce anything good. We cannot expect good to be built off hate, and we cannot expect to be brought together and held together by tears that are bitter. We have to find something deeper within us to unite us as a nation.

There have been periods since then—and it is important that we reflect on this. Every time a terrorist act is committed in some part of the world, there are people of my faith who wonder what will happen next. As much as I think of the people that suffered as a result of September 11, I also think of the fear that runs through people's minds as a result of those moments when we all recoiled in horror at what had been done. So I come back to the point that we are all tested through this process. When we are tested through this process, I am proud of how our country has responded—again, not just in a physical sense but the way we have responded by saying that we will not let hate divide us and that we will walk together as a people, regardless of background, race or religion, to ensure that we protect and defend what we benefit from every single day. That is what I cherish. If I may use a word that seems so improper in this statement today, we do hold on to each other in a way that says we will deny those who seek to divide us through these vile acts. This is what is so important about today. This is what is so important about holding these statements in the way that we do, because as much as we are rivals here we are bound by a common desire to see good things done for this country that we love so much. That is why we cannot just have this as a moment to think about that important purpose. The way we conduct ourselves day in, day out, once this debate is concluded, is so important too. That is why I feel so strongly about this debate. It is because it is a touchstone for us all. It seeks for us to remember what has occurred and to be better for what has occurred.

To conclude, we ran our fingers over a scar today. We ran them over that scar to remember the hurt and to remember that we can be so much better. And we have a responsibility to be so much better. To those people who lost their lives through every act, but particularly the act that brought us here today in remembrance, my heart goes out to them all. Those families provide us with an example of something better to live for and an example for us, as custodians, to provide something better for those who follow us. I thank the House for the opportunity to make this statement.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): I thank the member for Chifley. I am very happy I was in the chair to hear that speech.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley

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