Page 357 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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support and relief. We should note the contributions of Qantas and Virgin Blue in providing relief flights. Many agencies of the Australian government in Canberra, such as Centrelink and Customs, DOTARS and Austrade, as well as ACT agencies, assisted with more than 84,000 calls regarding families and loved ones. There was collaboration also with police agencies at federal, state and territory level, and between Immigration and Foreign Affairs to confirm the safety of over 14,300 Australians who reported to the hotline. Although tragic, it is remarkable that the death toll amongst our own citizens was low given the numbers that were on holiday in the region.

Early financial contributions in the order of $60 million in emergency relief were provided by AusAID. These were not in relation to financing arrangements or anything. There was $33 million in immediate relief to Indonesia, a further $14 million for Sri Lanka and the Maldives and $12 million for relief programs and in support of appeals from many non-government organisations. I understand that 30 of the AusAID staff from here were deployed to Aceh and Sri Lanka to monitor the humanitarian response and to ensure funds reached the intended beneficiaries—a very important issue that has received a deal of attention. I understand also that many of the locally engaged people amongst the AusAID staff worked through even though their own families were affected. In one case, one employee of AusAID lost 50 family members in Sri Lanka.

Australia’s defence agencies have been playing an important role. I had the opportunity recently to speak briefly with the chief of our air force on this matter. In Aceh it has been working closely with its Indonesian counterparts supplying clean water, medical services, engineering resources and logistical support to relief agencies. We all know from the experience of the Bali bombings that properly identifying victims is essential. In Phuket, where so many Australians were affected, Australia has played a leading role with Thailand on disaster victim identification. It is grim, complex but essential work which our federal, state and ACT police, working with Thai and international partners, carry out in a most effective manner under most difficult circumstances.

It is important for affected families to know that governments are doing everything possible to expedite the process while ensuring it is done properly. This country has won world acclaim for taking a long-term view of assistance. That assistance has focused on reconstruction and development in Indonesia. As has been pointed out, we are contributing over $1 billion in a five-year period to this partnership, bringing our total commitment to Indonesia over five years to $1.8 billion.

This tragedy touched everybody. The experience is one we will never forget. In our own lives we look at different aspects. Over that period I was asked by the leader of my party to represent him at the event held here by the Indonesian Ambassador. I know all members opposite, federal parliamentary representatives and many others from the Canberra community reflected on the terrible loss of life in those days following the tragedy. I have an abiding memory of a Sky news story of a father with his deceased child. He had a vacant look, and it was a terrible scene that I will not forget.

On New Years Eve, I complimented the Acting Chief Minister for the ACT’s contribution of $500,000, It was a generous and well-appreciated contribution. As I indicated at the time, I am sorry the media did not give that the attention it warranted, but all Canberrans would be very comfortable with that level of generosity on their behalf. People at all levels have been making contributions. Even my own student

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