Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I thank the Prime Minister for his heartfelt words.
I join with him in reflecting on the tragedy of Sunday night.
Since the news of this horrific event broke, the outpouring of our national grief has been palpable:
Our heartbreak for those who lost their lives.
Our heartache for the families and friends whose lives will be forever altered by this disaster.
Our heartfelt hopes for those injured to make a speedy recovery.
The profound national sadness which surrounds this terrible event comes from a deep human empathy.
A wedding day – as the Prime Minister rightly points out – is one of the most joyous occasions we know.
The happiness of this wedding day has been eclipsed by a dreadful, dreadful event.
Life’s terrible moments are all the more tragic when they sit adjacent to life’s most beautiful moments.
We empathise with those affected all the more – for so many of us have been passengers on a bus journeying home from a wonderful wedding.
We can picture how those aboard that fateful bus would have been fondly reminiscing about the evening’s festivities:
The stories. The speeches. The music. The dancing. The smiles of the bride and groom.
What all those involved are going through – what they will have to endure – is simply awful.
As news of this disaster spread around the nation, I’m sure that, for so many Australians, their phone calls with family would have felt even more precious.
Their embraces with loved ones would have been a little tighter.
Their time together with those dearest to them would have been all that more special.
This tragedy reinforces to all of us to never take our precious relationships for granted.
To value the moments we have with families and with friends.
To always cherish those closest to us.
Because life can be unpredictably cruel.
I echo the Prime Minister’s thanks to our first responders whose courage and composure is nothing short of heroic.
We often comment following a tragedy of this nature, in this Parliament, about the fact that the first responders run into harm’s way, when the instinct of most Australians would be to run from it.
Australians have heard the audio of the ambulance officer calling for help in a calm and measured way.
A reflection of his training, and not really giving rise to the pressure that he was under and those around him were feeling.
I want thank all those in our hospitals and healthcare system who will support those affected over the coming days, months, and years.
In moments such as these, our expression of thoughts, prayers and hopes to those affected can feel powerless.
But on the contrary, there is power in those sentiments.
Because they show those affected, directly and indirectly, that we care for you.
We are here for you.
It’s our promise to you that you will never have to travel the road of tragedy alone.
We bind ourselves to you in this duty driven by the empathy and love we have for you as fellow citizens.
Whenever and wherever you need strength and support, you will find it unconditionally.
We send our heartfelt sense of grief for all of those in the Hunter Region at the moment – as the Prime Minister pointed out – who are doing it particularly tough.
Those at the wedding venue. Those who were involved in photographs. Those who were involved in preparations for other weddings over the course of that weekend.
Make sure that we promise as a country to provide support to those in their darkest hour.