House debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Ukraine Air Disaster

9:09 pm

Photo of Gary GrayGary Gray (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak in this adjournment but, in fact, to speak in condolence for the downing of MH17. Many comforting words have been spoken and countless selfless deeds performed since the downing of MH17. On that day the world stopped for we lost so much that was good: Australia lost doctors who worked with refugees, teachers who worked with Indigenous Australians, educators of children with disability, scientists, volunteers who helped to protect our communities, volunteers for charities, business innovators, pillars of local churches, pillars of communities, young people filled with passion and life, and grandparents full of wisdom. And we lost children.

Within hours of this tragic event, hundreds of Australian government personnel had been mobilised. We thank the Australian Federal Police. We thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Perth staff, consular staff and staff at The Hague. We thank the staff from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. We thank the military for their work. We thank the Ambassador to the United Nations and the Security Council, Gary Quinlan; his representative in New York, Philippa King; the Australian Ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley; the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove; and Malaysia Airlines staff and the government of Malaysia. We also thank Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston for his efforts in coordinating the logistics and leading the Australian presence in the Ukraine. The Prime Minister has worked hard; he has been tireless. We all thank him for his efforts. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, has been tireless, and we thank her. In this condolence speech, I would also like to convey the thoughts of Lindy, the surviving partner of Nick, who died in that crash. Lindy is personally deeply indebted to the foreign minister for the personal contact which the foreign minister has maintained with her.

Many moving words have been shared in the memory of those who were lost, but perhaps the most beautiful words were those of Anthony Maslin and his wife, Marite Norris—parents of Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin, aged 12, 10 and eight. They said:

No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for our children, for Mo, for Evie, for Otis. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for Grandad Nick. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for each other.

Nick Norris was returning to Australia with his beautiful grandchildren Mo, Evie and Otis. Nick and his wife, Lindy Norris, recently settled in Rockingham, part of my electorate. I never met Nick, but we visited the same coffee shop, so I know that he liked good coffee, good food and good company. Nick was also a keen yachtie—a member of the South of Perth Yacht Club, where my son Toby sails a minnow. Nick worked as a valued member of the staff of Murdoch University from 1991 to 2006, and Lindy, his wife, remains on the staff after more than 20 years.

Two days ago I spoke with Chief Justice French, a great and distinguished Western Australian, and he told me this wonderful story about Nick. At the mid-1960s University of Western Australia student guild election, Nick stood as a candidate. He was required to furnish a manifesto—his own election platform. Nick provided a simple box containing the letters of the alphabet and the following words: 'These letters, when suitably rearranged, spell all of my policies and ideas.' Nick was not elected. I know I would have liked Nick. His daughter and son-in-law show such depth of humanity, and Nick showed such commitment and humour that we cannot but feel we all would have liked Nick.

Five other Western Australians perished aboard MH17. They were Edel Mahady, Dafne Neiveen, Yvonne Ryder, Arjen Ryder and Fatima Dyczynsk. My love, care and thoughts are with all the families who are suffering unspeakable grief. Should I be able to be of any help to these families in any matter, it would be my honour.


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