Page 3696 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 23 August 2011

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I would like to reflect very briefly on why this has happened. I am not claiming great expertise on African development issues, but clearly the issue is that there is not enough food for the people there in Africa, and they cannot afford to buy what food is there. According to this article, the price of food has increased by 240 per cent in central Somalia in the past year—240 per cent. That puts anything in Australia to shame.

Part of the reason is, obviously, speculation. Part of the reason is, obviously, local. There is clearly a breakdown of law and order, and there has been a breakdown in law and order for a very long time. Somalia has had no effective central government, I understand, for the last two decades, which makes any sort of relief action or normal agriculture a lot harder. There are also, of course, the major issues, which the Greens keep banging on about, in terms of climate change. There is a major drought happening in Somalia. That has been the short-term thing that has happened. It may well be influenced by climate change. And there are other issues, such as the dreaded peak oil, the cost of fertilisers and the cost of agricultural inputs.

I would just like to say that this is a horrible situation, and it is one that we should all reflect on in our considerations as legislators and also as people who may be able to in some small way help the situation there and save a life.

Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (5.04): One of my earliest invitations as an MLA was to attend a commemoration luncheon for the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society. Truth telling is important to Indigenous people. Truth telling is also central to the story of the Montevideo Maru. I am indebted for my knowledge of this story to Hank Nelson and his very detailed history Prisoners of war: Australians under Nippon.

Rabaul in 1942 was the headquarters of the Australian administration of the Territory of New Guinea. On 22 January 1942 a very large Japanese invasion overwhelmed the Australian Light Force. The Japanese gathered over 1,000 prisoners of war and civilian internees in Rabaul and about 400 of the Light Force escaped. On 22 June 1942 the civilian and military presence in Rabaul, except the officers and nurses, were loaded on the Montevideo Maru.

Off Luzon in the Philippines, early on the morning of 1 July, she was torpedoed by the US submarine, Sturgeon. Not one of the 845 prisoners of war or the 208 civilians survived. This was Australia’s greatest tragedy at sea. Nearly 20 per cent of all Australian prisoners of war who died did so at sea, and Hank Nelson concludes that this was the cost of the warring nations failing to agree to give free passage to transports carrying prisoners and of the persistence of the Japanese in shifting captives when they were completely unable to protect their shipping.

More than anything, the relatives and friends of those who died in and around Rabaul, in the New Guinea islands and on the Montevideo Maru, whether they perished in the armed forces or as civilians caught in the maelstrom of war, seek some form of tangible, official recognition. These young men gave their lives to fight for their

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