For the people of south-eastern Queensland the approaching first anniversary of the disastrous floods will vividly recall an array of memories, from the deeply personal of those who suffered most to the great experience of community collaboration as energetic volunteers came to the help of people whose homes were flooded and possessions ruined.
The disasters in Christchurch and Japan were to follow, their horrendous images stirring us to be thankful that whatever we suffer in Australia by way of such rages of nature, we are let off comparatively lightly.
As we celebrate Christmas, in the wake of more storm devastation in the southern Philippines, we are being stirred most by the appalling loss of life of asylum-seekers in yet another boat disaster en route to Australia. And this just a year after the wreck that took 50 lives on the rocky shore of Christmas Island.
It will take even longer to ascertain just how many have recently drowned, but there is no doubt that immediate action must be taken by the Australian Government in a concerted bi-partisan effort to ensure that there are no more such tragedies. Desperate people must be saved from the trade of the people-smugglers and their rickety boats attempting to cross the open seas. A humane system of offshore processing of people seeking asylum would be the most effective deterrent, and put into practice our Australian values of fairness and compassion for those in genuine need of a new homeland.
In a few days we’ll be enjoying our Christmas celebrations with family and friends with an abundance of food and drink and gifts to share. I hope we’ll also take a moment to count our blessings and think how we can share them. We wish our leaders and political representatives a happy Christmas also. The summer break, however, should not stand in the way of their exercising the power we have given them to legislate across the lines of party divides for a fast and effective offshore solution to a desperate human need.
A blessed and happy Christmas to all!