Mar 27, 2014

Condolences for flight MH370 – Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:48): Rarely in my lifetime has the world seen a greater mystery than that surrounding the fate of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which was last heard from on 8 March, nearly three weeks ago. Those three weeks have been harrowing and bewildering, not least for the families of the 227 passengers. I can scarcely imagine the trauma these family members have suffered as they waited for news about the fate of the aircraft. It is indeed with a heavy heart that I make my contribution today and offer my sincere condolences to the families of all those passengers and crew. They will live with the dreadful finality of this incident for the rest of their days. It is fitting that this parliament acknowledge this loss.

I have heard directly from my constituents who, like just about everyone on the globe, have been shaken by this tragedy. On their behalf, I offer condolences to the families of all the victims, particularly the families of the Australians on board—Rodney and Mary Burrows, Bob and Cathy Lawton, Yuan Li, Naijun Gu and Perth based New Zealander Paul Weeks. The people of the inner west of Sydney are thinking of you, just as I am sure every citizen of this nation shares your sense of sadness and loss.

In this era of affordable air travel, increasing disposable incomes and generally high aviation safety standards, it is easy to forget that flying in an aeroplane involves risks, just as there are also risks in driving a car or taking a train ride. But people still eagerly fly, because aviation opens the world to us. It allows us to do things once unimaginable. Not long ago, air travel was out of the financial reach of many Australians. Air travel is in fact five times more affordable today than it was 20 years ago. I was in my 20s before I went on my first plane trip, which was from Sydney to Canberra as a ministerial adviser. My family did not have a car; our preferred mode of transport was the bus. It is a very different world today whereby people cross this nation to go to football games and to meet with each other.

The increasing affordability of air travel with the arrival of low-cost carriers has also driven increased success in this sector. Over all of my time watching federal parliament, both sides of politics have displayed maturity and goodwill in working together to maintain the highest standard of aviation safety. As the minister responsible for six years, I knew that this would not be a subject of partisan debate and I have undertaken a reciprocal obligation in how I handle my work as shadow transport minister at the moment.

Our airlines also constantly strive to lift our already excellent safety standards, and that is something that we can be proud of. But, no matter how much we dedicate ourselves to aviation safety, no matter how much airlines invest in safer aircraft and no matter how many satellites we can use to track aircraft, we will never completely eliminate the possibility of accidents. Today, as we think about the victims of MH370 and their families, we should rededicate ourselves to doing all we can to reduce that risk.

Today, I also want to pay tribute to our defence forces and the great people, who I know well, at the Australian Maritime Safety Authority who are leading this search. These are people we call on in difficult times and they never ever let us down. Similarly, as we have watched the difficult challenges facing the governments of Malaysia, China and more than 20 other nations, both inside and outside our region, we should remember our shared humanity. There are many aspects of global affairs that cause division among the nations of the world. During this extraordinary incident a positive aspect has been the way that countries have worked together. Seeing airlines from not just our own country but also China assisting the search from Pearce air base in Western Australia is very positive.

But nothing can bring back the victims of this dreadful incident, and investigators will no doubt spend months trying to piece together the events surrounding the loss of MH370. I hope that over time they will ascertain the facts of what occurred. I am confident that, if they learn anything from this tragedy, their lessons will be applied to the never-ending battle to improve safety in our skies. Once again, I express my condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy.