Senate debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021


Cyclone Yasa

5:45 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very pleased to rise during this adjournment debate and speak to a positive news story and to advise how pleased I was that earlier today I had the opportunity to move a motion which was agreed to unanimously by all of the senators in this place. I would like to read that motion and provide some comments. The motion read:

That the Senate—

(a) pays tribute to members of the Australian Fijian community and Australian service organisations who have raised money to assist Fiji to recover from Cyclone Yasa, including:

  (i) the Brisbane Fijian Uniting Church at Annerley who have assisted to raise funds to rebuild the Lekutu Secondary School,

  (ii) Fijian Senior Citizens Association of Queensland Inc and Sunnybank United Multicultural Association of Queensland who raised funds for the Rotary Club of Labasa to assist rebuilding efforts,

  (iii) Archerfield Rotary Club who raised funds for rebuilding in Labasa and provided a shipping container of medical supplies for Labasa Hospital, and

  (iv) MacGregor Lions Club who raised funds to assist in rebuilding efforts; and

(b) thanks members of the Australian Defence Force, including members of the RAAF and the crew of HMAS Adelaide, for their outstanding efforts to deliver humanitarian relief on behalf of the Australian people in the best traditions of the Australian Defence Force.

I was so pleased to spend an afternoon with my friends, including elders of the Australian-Fijian community, at the Brisbane Fijian Uniting Church at Annerley. That church community, that congregation, raised money, almost $4,000 in the course of that afternoon, to help rebuild Lekutu Secondary School. The church has been working directly with the school to buy it four desktop computers, printers and photocopiers which, as we sit here today, are allowing teachers to continue their work at that secondary school. I should also note how pleased I was and how honoured I was when the Fijian elders invited me to participate in their kava ceremony. That meant a great deal to me and I do humbly thank them for the honour they bestowed on me. Can I say to them: I have made representations to a number of ministers with respect to the shortage of kava in the country and note the significance of kava to their traditional ceremonies.

I commend the Fiji Senior Citizens Association. I've spoken about this wonderful association before and about the great work that it does to help so many people in the community, including through hosting citizenship ceremonies. They raised $4,210, which was donated to their friends at the Rotary Club of Labasa. They are now looking to fundraise to help a town called Viti Levu after floods decimated that town. As was mentioned in the motion, the MacGregor Lions Club and the Archerfield Rotary club, which does so much good work, also assisted. I must disclose that I'm an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Archerfield, and I commend them for all the great work they do.

Finally, I want to reflect on the fact that Senator Carr presented a report on behalf of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee which talked about national identity. It seems to me that part of our national identity is that, in times of need, we reach out to our international neighbours and friends, including those in the Pacific. At the same time, we should reflect on the fact that members of the Fijian defence force came to assist us in Australia in our time of need during that horrendous bushfire season of 2019 and 2020.

I think that is part of our national identity. We are a country that reaches out to assist those in our region. We do it as a government and we do it through our community service organisations, such as Rotary and Lions; and all of our wonderful multicultural communities, our diasporas, reach out through their communities to their places of origin, wherever they've come from, during their times of need. I think that is a crucial part of our national identity.