Page 2207 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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Mr Douglas Wood

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (6.19): I stand to celebrate a couple of issues here. I would like to see the house celebrate the release of Douglas Wood and I would like to celebrate the successful operation by the Canberra family of Malcolm and Ruth Wood. Here we celebrate the dignity under extreme pressure of Douglas Wood and also the wonderful performance by this family who, with great dignity, managed an incredibly difficult affair. The Woods are impressive people. My wife and I had the honour to meet them during Douglas Wood’s 47-day ordeal. The Wood family demonstrated a wonderful Australian tradition—unfortunately seen less and less often these days—of dignity in adversity and a composed response to a frightening challenge.

Other Canberrans also need to be acknowledged for their fine but demanding work in the tightrope challenge of rescuing Douglas Wood. They include DFAT, ADF and AFP personnel deployed as part of the emergency response team and those living and working here in Canberra supporting them. These sorts of operations are manpower intensive. They are emotionally draining on all, and these people are to be congratulated for fighting to bring home one of our own.

There is another group of Canberrans, perhaps little known, and they are the members of the Islamic community who facilitated a line of communication between Malcolm Wood and various Islamic leaders here in Australia as well as with Iraqi authorities and the Federation of Islamic Councils and, separately, with Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilaly. I see there is some criticism in the press about Hilaly but let us for a moment acknowledge the very effective role of the mufti, putting aside the unfortunate confusion over who did exactly what regarding the events on the day of release. Importantly, the mufti worked hard to at least keep the issue alive and to keep Douglas Wood alive. I think, by engaging as he did with Sunni leaders in Baghdad and in Ramadi, he kept the issue alive, and that was extremely important.

Then of course there is Douglas Wood himself. Judging by the character of his brothers, and from what I have learned about Doug, he seems to be an impressive and honourable bloke. His sense of humour in the immediate aftermath of what was clearly a sustained, horrible and death-defying experience is not contrived. That is the way he is I think. While I was very impressed with the media throughout the ordeal—they behaved fairly responsibly—regrettably, in the last couple of days, some of them have been a bit churlish. To say that Douglas Wood does not deserve to get some sort of compensation through media outlets for the terrible experience he has had, I think, is just unacceptable. And also for some people in the media to pressure Doug Wood or to ask Doug why he should not be repaying the Australian government for the rescue mission is again a pretty low act.

We are not talking about a man who is seeking to profit from crime nor are we talking about a man who defied all the best advice of the Australian government to recklessly go where others do not go and then have to be rescued. He was not one of the human shields, for example, who defied DFAT advice about going into Baghdad and then got themselves into trouble. He is not in that category. I think when people get to know this guy and what he actually did they will know that he was not simply there as an engineer and a businessman to earn money, but that he was actually quite keen about adding to the

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