Thursday 1 June 2006


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, as the member for Rosevears, I cannot speak early in this new Parliament without mentioning the events that unfolded on and after Anzac Day 2006 at Beaconsfield in the heart of my electorate. We have all read and watched hundreds of reports of the Beaconsfield accident and I do not want to go over any of that now. But I do want to note the way the community of Beaconsfield and the wider community responded to the drama involving the death of Larry Knight and the plight of Brant Webb and Todd Russell. I also want to pay tribute to the rescue team and the other experts who saw that those two men escaped safely and who helped them readjust, not only to daylight but to an incredible publicity barrage that greeted them early that morning when they emerged from the shaft and thereafter. Seldom has a news story so dominated the media and our thoughts, to such an extent that Beaconsfield has become a household word and is well known beyond Australia, as are the names of mine manager, Matthew Gill, Mayor Barry Easther, and the AWU's Bill Shorten. Recently, in fact, when I attended events in Victoria and New South Wales, associated with World Lupus Day, I was introduced as the Legislative Councillor for Beaconsfield and that was fine by me.

The community of Beaconsfield itself is a small one but of course it spreads well outside the town. So I ask the question, what makes a community? Some say there has to be a post office and a pub. Some communities start to die if they lose their school. Beaconsfield has a good mix of shops, three pubs and a vibrant primary school which has now demonstrated that it is near the heart of the community. You may have seen the television image of Brant and Todd arriving by ambulance to a well-prepared and efficient Launceston General Hospital which had been readying itself for several hours before they arrived at 7 a.m. For a while the LGH became the focus of the Beaconsfield story. That morning its CEO, Stephen Ayre, took part in dozens of live media interviews around the world. Beaconsfield people would see the LGH, their nearest major medical facility, as an extension of their community. So it is hard to draw boundaries around the community.

The point I am trying to make is that Tasmania - the whole of Tasmania - is a community. Look at how a community was affected 10 years ago by the horrible events at Port Arthur. Those events did not just hit the community of the Tasman Peninsula, they hit all of us, excruciatingly. Beaconsfield was, of course, vastly different. But the events of Beaconsfield made us realise that we are part of a wide community, although we are particularly proud of the community of Beaconsfield itself. I think you can draw the community boundaries for yourselves. To my mind, a reasonable initial boundary is the Tasmanian coastline. Beaconsfield this year and Port Arthur in 1996 taught us that we belong to a community in which no man is an island. What happens to any man, woman or child on an island affects us all. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for all Tasmanians. It did at Beaconsfield and it did at Port Arthur.

If I may quote from the Governor's speech on Tuesday:

'Tasmanians have a very strong sense of regional difference and common identity. Tasmanian people share a real sense of belonging. We are caring and friendly people, who have a relaxed way of life, a safe social environment … and a quality of life that is the envy of the nation. We have a web of close rural and regional communities that sustains the Tasmanian … identity. That is what makes us stronger. Tasmanians have the most collaborative communities in the nation - communities that rally together in times of need.'

Mr President, I think that the best thing that has come out of the 2006 Beaconsfield accident, apart from the survival of Todd Russell and Brant Webb, is that it has reminded us about our Tasmanian community and I hope has strengthened the sense of community in all of us.