Bill's Speeches

STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: BOURKE STREET TRAGEDY - CANBERRA - TUESDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2017

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I thank the Prime Minister for his words. 

Friday the 20th of January was - in so many respects – a typical Melbourne day. 

It began with an unexpected shower, quickly giving way to sunshine. 

The Australian Open was on, my home town was packed with tourists, shoppers and workers. 

And then that day was shattered. 

I’ve lived in Melbourne nearly all of my 49 years. 

Bourke Street Mall is a place that every Melburnian, every Victorian and probably every Australian knows. 

We’ve caught the 86 and 96 along the mall, we can picture the mall with our eyes closed. 

I’ve visited the Myer Christmas windows as a child - and taken my own children to see them.  

Perhaps that’s why this tragedy has affected so many of us, so strongly.

Unlike some of the tragedies and disasters which confront the human condition, this one wasn't somewhere else.  

It was one which could have affected any of us - as we have all been there.  

On the Sunday, like the Prime Minister, the Premier, the Mayor, like thousands of Victorians, I visited the GPO and laid some flowers out the front.  

It was later in the afternoon, I was in a supermarket in Essendon in my electorate when a strong burly bloke came up to me and he summed up the feelings written on so many faces and written on so many cards.  

He simply said about Bourke Street "What is the world coming to?"  

Mr Speaker 

What is the world coming to, when this can happen.  

This was not an act of political or religious terrorism - it was a crime of senseless violence.  

The victims were chosen by cruel circumstance. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

  • Matthew Si, a son, husband to Melinda and a father.  
  • Jess Mudie, daughter and twin sister to Emily.  
  • Bhavita Patel, a daughter and sister.  
  • A 25-year-old visitor from Japan whose family have asked for privacy in their grief.  

And two children: 

  • Talia Hakin aged 10, a week away from starting Grade 5.  
  • Zachary Bryant who was just three months old.  

It had been said before in the English language that a wife who loses her husband is a widow. 

A husband who loses his wife is a widower. 

Children who lose their parents are orphans. 

But there is no word for a parent who loses a child.  

The unfillable hole of pain, that whole-body shock of "why my family?"  

It is too much for a single word.  

Those of us who do not know cannot imagine. Those who do, can never explain.  

Yet in their tributes, the families have not spoken of how their loved ones died but how they lived.  

The brilliant student, the much admired colleague, the caring father, the 'bad ass' sister, the beautiful baby. 

And these families, with all their losses and pain, have thanked their fellow Australians for their kindness and compassion.  

Such grace in grief is truly remarkable.  

Mr Speaker 

Like the Prime Minister, many people who were on the scene that day have spoken movingly of the kindness amidst the chaos.  

At the vigil in Federation Square that I attended, a young man named Henry Dow told the story of Lou, a taxi driver, who in shirt and tie, took calm command of all around him.  

In a world where we have seen too much iPhone footage of violence on the street, too many helicopter angles of attacks on the innocent, it would have been entirely understandable for Melburnians to flee the scene in that moment of fear.  

But the footage only shows our people, our fellow Australians, running towards the danger.  

Administering CPR, comforting the wounded - even as there were still shots ringing out.

They did what I think we hope we all would when confronted by the same set of circumstances, but perhaps we wonder in our hearts if we would be as brave as these fellow Australians.  

They saw strangers in trouble and did not see them and did not think of them as strangers.  

Ordinary people who were extraordinary. This goes for the police too, the emergency services personnel, the trauma hospital teams desperately trying to keep people alive.  

Mr Speaker 

The most important job of every government is the safety of our people.  

I know that bail laws are different in every state. What Australians in every state cannot understand is that when offenders have done horrific things, when the red lights should be flashing, they are out, they are on bail.  

Bourke Street has gone deep into the consciousness of Australians.  

It stirs the same emotions as the murder of Teresa Bradford in Queensland and all the others, in particular women, killed by violent partners at large in the community. 

At every level of government, we need to get better at identifying the warning signs and using every measure to keep people safe. 

Today, the parliament salutes the courage of our citizens. 

We honour the care that our people show for one another, even in the hardest times, especially in the hardest of times.  

We embrace those in mourning and those in pain.  

We pay our respects to those stolen from us. 

May they rest in eternal peace.

ENDS


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