Howard Statement On Tsunami Anniversary

It is one year since the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated areas of the sub-continent and South Asia.

Around a quarter of a million people lost their lives in one of the most deadly natural disasters of recent times.

This is the text of a media statement from the Prime Minister, John Howard.

FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE INDIAN OCEAN TSUNAMI

I invite all Australians to join me today in marking the first anniversary of the terrible events of Boxing Day last year, when the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami caused loss of life and property on an almost unimaginable scale. [Read more...]


Latham Statement Raises More Questions; Allows Time For Planning Transition To New Leader

The statement released this afternoon by Mark Latham resolves nothing and commits the Opposition Leader to nothing more than remaining leader for another thirteen days.

Mark Latham, Leader of the OppositionThe statement [see below] offers no commitment by Latham to remaining leader. It states ominously that “the news about my health has not been good.”

Latham expresses sympathy for the tsunami and bushfire victims. Over the past fortnight he has been criticised for his silence on the tsunami disaster.

He defends his stay at a holiday resort in Terrigal, NSW, and argues that the acting leaders of the ALP have expressed the appropriate sentiments over the past three weeks.

The media release is curious for what it doesn’t say. It is doubly curious for beginning with the health statement. It will do nothing more than fuel the leadership talk that began in earnest this week.

News reports today claimed that the shadow minister for Health, Julia Gillard, was making arrangements to cut short a visit to Vietnam and return to Australia. In the event of Latham’s resignation, it could be expected that his supporters would be opposed to former leader Kim Beazley (defeated by Latham on December 2, 2004 returning to the leadership he held between 1996-2001. They would also likely oppose the elevation of Kevin Rudd or Stephen Smith and could be expected to work to muster the caucus numbers for Gillard.

In this respect, Latham’s statement, whilst couched in terms of following his doctor’s advice and urging respect for his privacy, is designed to give his supporters time to plan for his departure.

There is a growing sentiment in media commentary and anonymous ALP sources that Latham’s leadership is now in terminal decline.

Television news reports tonight speculated on whether Latham’s pancreatitis is linked to a previous incidence of testicular cancer.

  • Listen to Deputy Opposition Leader Jenny Macklin comment on Latham’s statement.

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This is the text of a media statement from the Leader of the Opposition, Mark Latham.

The news about my health has not been good. I have been told to rest and not to work — advice I am trying to follow.

Over the past fortnight I have tried to take a total break, do a few simple things with my family and make the best recovery possible. Notwithstanding the obvious difficulties now, on the advice of my doctors and after consultation with colleagues, I will continue with this approach. I have spent this period with my family, including some time at Terrigal, where I was mostly confined to our unit.

Like all Australians I reacted with horror to the unfolding tragedy of the Asian tsunami. I feel great sympathy and grief for the victims. And I have nothing but admiration for the way the Commonwealth Government, the State Governments and the Australian people have responded. Australia’s response to the disaster has been magnificent.

The acting Labor Leaders, Jenny Macklin and Chris Evans, have expressed these sentiments on behalf of all our members, myself included.

So too, Labor expresses its grief and sympathy for the victims of the South Australian bushfires.

But in the circumstances I have been told to stay on leave and not return to work until my leave period ends on 26 January. I ask the media to respect my privacy and that of my family during this period.


Tsunami: John Howard Address to the Nation

Australia is playing a leading role in the one of the biggest humanitarian operations since World War II, according to the Prime Minister, John Howard, in his Address to the Nation tonight.

Howard’s address was broadcast at 7.30pm. In it he said “Australia, in its distinctive practical way, will remain in the forefront of helping those who have lost and suffered so much.” The emphasis on “practical” assistance is in keeping with Howard’s approach to issues such as Aboriginal affairs, preferring to downplay ideology whilst emphasising practical issues.

Howard said: “This catastrophe has brought the world closer together in a spirit of common humanity. It has been a brutal reminder of the force of nature but also of the inspiring capacity of mankind to ease the suffering of others in their hour of need.”

  • Listen to John Howard’s Address to the Nation.

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This is the transcript of the Address to the Nation by the Prime Minister, John Howard.

Good evening.

Tonight I want to report to you about Australia’s response to the Asian tsunami disaster which has decimated the lives of so many people across the nations of our region.

More than 150,000 people have been killed, while millions more are injured or homeless. Whole communities have been washed away. And we are in a race against time to prevent further deaths from water-borne diseases such as cholera.

This has been one of the greatest natural disasters in modern history. At this stage the final number of Australians who, tragically, have been killed or injured remains unclear. We are working as fast as possible with the identification of victims and to ascertain the whereabouts of those Australians originally reported as missing.

I know that the thoughts and prayers of you all are with those who have lost loved ones or endure the terrible agony of waiting for further news.

The response of the world community – and not least Australia – to this heartbreaking tragedy has been swift and generous.

Along with other governments, international agencies and non-government bodies, Australians are now playing a leading role in one of the biggest humanitarian aid operations since World War II.

I express the thanks of the nation to the many Australians working night and day to provide relief to victims. I especially thank the men and women of the Australian Defence Force, officers of the Australian Federal Police and their State colleagues, medical workers, staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and many other Australian Government departments and agencies who have come together in a great national effort.

This crisis has seen the Australian Public Service working at its dedicated and professional best.

Thanks also are due to the large number of Australians working for non-government relief organisations, often as volunteers.

The Government’s initial response was to provide emergency aid of $60 million and to send medical relief teams and defence personnel into badly affected areas, particularly Indonesia but also the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

A tragedy of this magnitude, however, requires a long-term commitment of resources if shattered communities are to be rebuilt and survivors provided with some hope for the future.

The loss of life and destruction in Indonesia, our nearest neighbour, has been truly staggering. At least 110,000 people have lost their lives in Aceh alone.

The recovery challenge facing this developing country is immense.

The Government has therefore decided to commit $1 billion over five years in both grants and highly-concessional loans to assist the Government and people of Indonesia in the mammoth task of recovery and rebuilding.

This will be the largest individual aid package in Australia’s history.

Under a plan to be called the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development, this $1 billion amount will go directly to areas of need through programs that must be approved by the Australian Government, in conjunction with the Government of Indonesia.

This process will ensure that resources go where they are most needed.

As well as being the right response to an immediate humanitarian crisis, this Partnership is an historic step in Australian-Indonesian relations.

Australians were the first foreigners on the ground in Indonesia after the disaster – a fact gratefully acknowledged by President Yudhoyono during our recent meeting in Jakarta. We will stay as long as we are needed.

Our nation will continue to help other affected countries. For example, Australian police officers are playing a leading role in identifying victims in Thailand and arrangements are in hand to send school teachers to the Maldives and scientific experts to help in repairing the damage to that country’s coral reef system.

The spontaneous outpouring of generosity from individual Australians in the last two weeks should be a source of pride to us all. Well in excess of $100 million has been pledged by individuals and companies in a great expression of the decency and good heart of the people of our nation.

The events of last Boxing Day and their aftermath have brought tragic loss and grief to many Australians. We have all been touched in different ways. Next Sunday, the 16th of January, will be a national day of mourning and reflection for the victims of the tsunami. I ask all Australians to mark this occasion in the way they think fit.

This catastrophe has brought the world closer together in a spirit of common humanity. It has been a brutal reminder of the force of nature but also of the inspiring capacity of mankind to ease the suffering of others in their hour of need.

Australia, in its distinctive practical way, will remain in the forefront of helping those who have lost and suffered so much.

Good night.


A National Day Of Mourning And Reflection

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has designated Sunday January 16 as a National Day of Mourning and Reflection for the victims of the earthquakes and tsunamis that devastated areas of South and South East Asia on December 26.

There is no precedent for a day of mourning in Australia, although it is common in many other countries.

The statement released by Howard is careful to allow for different faiths to mark the occasion on their normal days of prayer, as well as catering for the non-religious “who choose to observe this day of mourning in other ways”.

The introduction of the concept of a day of mourning is in keeping with a general trend by the Howard government to emphasise religious and moral values underpinning its political positions.

This is the text of a media release from the Prime Minister, John Howard.

A NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING AND REFLECTION

I invite all Australians to observe, in their own chosen ways, Sunday 16 January 2005 as a National Day of Mourning and Reflection for the victims of the devastating earthquakes and resulting tsunamis in South and South East Asia on 26 December 2004.

All Australians are overwhelmed by the appalling tragedy that has claimed so many lives, not only of Australians but the citizens of our close neighbours and of many other nations.

Many Australians will attend religious services on this day and I encourage leaders of all denominations and faiths to include a reference to this tragic event and to those left bereaved and otherwise affected by this terrible natural disaster.

Respecting the fact that Sunday is not a day of religious observance for all faiths in this country, some may prefer to mark this occasion on their normal day of prayer.

For those Australians who choose to observe this day of mourning in other ways, activities already planned for Sunday should go ahead perhaps with the inclusion of a suitable dedication or act of remembrance.

On this day I ask that Australians observe a minute’s silence at 11.59 am Australian Eastern Daylight Time, marking the time at which the devastating earthquake which preceded the tsunamis struck. I am sure that television and radio services will mark this moment of silence in an appropriate way.

As a simple tribute to those who have died or who are injured or missing I encourage the wearing of a piece of wattle or similar native flora during the day as a quiet personal gesture of remembrance and reflection.

On Sunday 16 January the Australian National Flag will be flown all day at half-mast on all Commonwealth buildings throughout Australia and at our missions overseas. I encourage others to follow suit.

We are saddened beyond words by the loss of so many lives, particularly young ones. Our hearts and our condolences go out to Australians and those of other nations left grieving and especially those who wait for confirmation of news about their loved ones.

Let us all in our chosen ways find time on Sunday 16 January to mourn the tragic loss of so many and offer our prayers and hope for those still missing or recovering from this event.


HMAS Kanimbla Sets Sail For Banda Aceh

The Defence Minister, Senator Robert Hill, has met with the Australian Defence Force contingent who will sail on board HMAS Kanimbla, taking relief aid to the Banda Aceh region of Sumatra, in Indonesia.

The crew of the Kanimbla will take the number of Australian Defence Force personnel to over 860 in the Indonesian region.

This is the text of a media release from the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill.

DEFENCE MINISTER VISITS HMAS KANIMBLA IN DARWIN

HMAS KanimblaDefence Minister Robert Hill today met with men and women from the Australian Defence Force contingent who will set sail on board HMAS Kanimbla this evening, taking much needed relief aid for the people of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Senator Hill said the number of Australian Defence Force personnel now in the Indonesian region had grown to over 460, and this number will increase by another 400 once the Kanimbla arrives at Banda Aceh.

“The Government is continually reviewing the ADF contribution to make sure it provides the most appropriate level of assistance to the people of Sumatra,” Senator Hill said.

“ADF operations staff continue to meet with their Indonesian, Singaporean and United States counterparts to make sure that military relief efforts are fully coordinated and delivered to where the needs are greatest”.

“ADF personnel are doing an outstanding job in delivering much-needed humanitarian assistance”.

“The arrival of the Kanimbla with her crew of 250 sailors and an engineer detachment of 150 soldiers with heavy plant equipment will further strengthen our relief efforts”.

“We already have Army engineers in Banda Aceh examining the area, identifying and prioritising the reconstruction requirements. The ADF engineering effort is likely to focus on repairing port facilities, clearing debris, and constructing camps and accommodation for displaced people.”

Along with much needed relief aid, HMAS Kanimbla will carry the following personnel and assets:

  • 250 Sailors;
  • Two Sea King helicopters;
  • Two landing craft (LCM8’s) capable of carrying 54 tons of cargo each and delivering supplies directly ashore without the use of wharf facilities;
  • an engineer detachment of 150 personnel;
  • Ten 4WD Unimog Trucks;
  • Six Mack trucks;
  • Four bulldozers;
  • Three front end loaders;
  • Twelve Land Rovers; and
  • Various other construction supplies.

Facts About HMAS Kanimbla

HMAS Kanimbla ships badgeThe HMAS Kanimbla was originally built for the United States Navy and acquired by the Royal Australian Navy in 1994. The ship has undergone extensive modifications for its new role as helicopter capable amphibious transport.

Its primary roles are to transport, lodge ashore and support an Army contingent of 450 troops, their vehicles and equipment. Kanimbla is fitted with helicopter hangers capable of supporting up to four Army Blackhawk or three of the larger Navy Seaking helicopters. Two helicopters can operate simultaneously from the aft flight deck, while a third can operate from the flight deck located forward of the bridge.

Two Army LCM8 landing craft can also be carried on the forward flight deck to provide ship to shore transport. They are lifted on and off by a 70 tonned crane. Accessed through a stern door, 810 square metres of storage space is available on the vehicle deck for Army vehicles and other large items of equipment.

For Army and Navy exercises the ship has additional operations and planning rooms that provide for both an Amphibious Group Commander and a Landing Force Commander. A comprehensive and modern array of communications equipment is fitted to support these joint operations.

Kanimbla is fitted with the largest and most comprehensive medical facilities in the fleet.

Source: Royal Australian Navy