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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 6 Hansard (8 June) . .

Page.. 1879..

The language of war is often used in the war on drugs. There are exaggerated claims that the war is being won, but factual evidence puts the lie to it, showing that the war has already been lost. There is little concern for the victims of the war. They are considered to be collateral damage. It is no comfort to me whatsoever that my son was simply collateral damage, particularly when it could have been prevented. ... the people who die or are harmed are our family members and friends. The war on drugs is a war on our own people, our own family members and friends. It is time to recognise that the devastation caused by the war is not worth the price and new peace initiatives are required.

Members may recall that Brian's community work in drug law reform was recognised as part of the 2016 Australia Day awards, when he received a Medal of the Order of Australia. What members may not be aware of is that Brian and Marion McConnell lived for many decades in a Mr Fluffy house. In November 2014 Brian was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Brian fought hard against the disease, but had recently stopped treatment. He is now at peace and free of pain.

For Brian, the death of his son put a human face to the war on drugs, and now Brian has put a human face to the Mr Fluffy crisis for all of us. I salute Brian McConnell for a lifetime of compassion and activism. My condolences and thoughts are with his wife, Marion, his children, Josie and Daryl, and other loved ones at this difficult time.

Fiji fundraising dinner

MR COE (Ginninderra) (5.47): I would like to speak this evening about an event that I attended at the end of May organised by the Fiji Australia Association and the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT to raise funds to help rebuild Fiji following the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston. Ms Lawder also supported the cause through her attendance.

Cyclone Winston was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in Fiji and the South Pacific Basin in history. Striking Fiji at category 5 intensity on 20 February this year, Winston inflicted extensive damage on many islands and killed 44 people. Communications were temporarily lost with at least six islands, with some remaining isolated more than two or three days after the storm's passage. A total of 40,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and approximately 350,000 people—roughly 40 percent of Fiji's population—were significantly impacted by the storm.

The level of devastation caused by the cyclone is beyond imagination, and the images that we saw during the evening were truly extraordinary and certainly brought home the need for fundraising.

I was inspired by the way that the Fiji Australia Association and MARSS rallied to help make a difference for those impacted by the cyclone. Lady Cosgrove, as patron, and the Governor-General attended the dinner as guests of the chief executive officer, Ms Dewani Bakkum. Other attendees included the Fiji High Commissioner, the Argentinian ambassador, the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and numerous other dignitaries.

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