Page 1319 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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someone special to carry out the work that many of our defence personnel are currently undertaking. Too often our defence personnel are criticised in their overseas endeavours but in fact there is no greater calling than that of the hand of the humanitarian. A real passion and purpose was firing in each crew member, and they died pursuing their greatest feat. These young people were serving Australia. They were administering much needed aid to the devastated communities of Indonesia, something quickly recognised by the President of Indonesia, who is currently visiting Canberra, and who has announced he will be awarding his country’s medal of honour both to the deceased and to the surviving defence personnel involved in this tragic accident.

Let me also counsel against what I see emerging in the media and that is this preoccupation about sheeting home blame at this time. Whether it was the age of the helicopter, or mechanical or electrical failure, or human error—all of which might emerge as possible factors in the crash of this aircraft—there are three inquiries into this tragedy planned, and we should wait until those inquiries have completed their work and announced their conclusion before we rush to passing hasty judgment. I think it is ill-advised to make assumptions on factors that cause accidents of this nature and it is naive for many commentators to rush into judgment. This quest to find someone or something to blame should be a secondary consideration this week, as we reflect on this loss of life and the contributions made by these young Australians.

Australia’s defence forces, and the individuals within it, play a vital role in strengthening the Indonesian relationship. The events of East Timor, not only in recent years but as long ago as 1975, have at times challenged that relationship but indeed the speedy, generous and professional approach taken by Australia and our defence forces in the wake of the tsunami tragedy on Boxing Day, and the more recent earthquake in Indonesia, highlight the multifaceted role that can be played by the men and women of Australia’s defence forces.

I support the condolence motion and extend my personal sympathies to the families and friends of those killed, with special regard for those whose home was Canberra and those whom they have left behind.

MR PRATT (Brindabella): Mr Speaker, I stand to commemorate and remember the nine Australian defence force personnel who recently died on the island of Nias. This terrible tragedy reminds this Assembly of the dangers that our servicemen and women face in wartime, in difficult peacekeeping operations and in dangerous humanitarian operations.

Let us also remember the Black Hawk tragedy in North Queensland which killed 18 3rd Brigade and SAS soldiers. Let us remember the Iroquois helicopter collisions in South Australia in the 1980s—a tragedy that killed a dozen parachute battalion soldiers at one fell swoop. Let us remember the deaths of the four seamen on HMAS Westralia in recent times and let us remember the many other individuals who have died in training accidents, and in day-to-day operations of the ADF as it goes about its job protecting this country’s interests and preparing to protect this country’s interests.

Mr Speaker, it is very important that this Assembly fully understands the dangers that our men and women face and that we must unequivocally support them regardless of where they are deployed, including in areas which some of us may disagree with—for example, Iraq. It is very important that, as MLAs, we demonstrate leadership to the

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