Transcript of remarks at luncheon for Australian Embassy officials and their families, Tokyo
Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013
Release Date: 22/04/2011
Release Type: Interview
Transcript ID: 17803
PM: Thank you very much to Murray for the invitation to be here and to join you and I'm really here just to say a very big thank you to you, for everything that you've done over the past few weeks since the 11th March.
It's hard for us back in Australia to get a real vision of what is it that you lived through and worked through, but to try and give you one little insight into the way that we've seen the work that you've been doing - we have in Parliament House in Canberra something we call the situation room, which we go to to talk about emergencies.
Now when it was first constructed I did worry that perhaps someone that watched too many episodes of West Wing and just wanted to have a situation room so periodically they could announce ‘we've got to go to the situation room'.
But I was wrong, the room is actually a room of great functionality and it enables us to have video conferences with people around the world and to bring them together for discussions. And during one of the discussions we had shortly after the earthquake and tsunami, we had Murray on the screen and we're involved in an intense discussion and then we look up and realise that Murray appears to be shaking and then without saying anything he leans down and put the helmet on and at that point we said ‘Murray are you alright, I mean is there anything you should be doing, we should be doing, what's going on?'. He goes ‘look, it's just an aftershock, I'll just stay here and keep working through', rather than run out of the room screaming which I would have thought was any bodies natural inclination.
And I tell you that story because I think in one moment it captured for all of us the kind of stoicism and dedication to duty that each of you was showing during this period. Now I know some of you bravely went to Sendai and saw some of the worst things you'll ever see in your life and you did that above and beyond the call of duty to help your fellow Australians.
I know that a number of you went near the Fukushima reactor, once again above and beyond the call of duty to help your fellow Australians and I know that each of you here worked extraordinary hours to keep the Embassy going 27-7 so you could provide the best of advice and the best of your care and concern for Australians who were relying on you at that time and I genuinely want to thank you for that work it is deeply, deeply appreciated by me, by the Government and I think by the Australians you helped and their families and friends.
And I know that on top of that, we've asked you to organise a Prime Ministerial visit. Now normally when I travel and look at the Embassy staff they are in a state of exhaustion just from having organised the Prime Ministerial visit, let alone organising a Prime Ministerial visit on top of everything that you've lived through to date, so I do want to thank you for going that extra yard as well.
I know in some ways it's been a very difficult time to ask you to turn around and organise a visit, but in terms of the relationship between our two countries, it's been the best time for me to come and to be able to say to the Japanese Government, to the Prime Minister, to the Emperor, to the people of Japan, that the thoughts of all Australians are with them as they work their way through and recover from this huge natural disaster and we're very confident that they're going to do that.
So, thank you to you for everything that you've lived through and the efforts that you've put in, we got a very small taste of that last night when we experienced our own aftershock and with all of the naivety of newcomers Tim and I were saying to each other ‘do you think we have to go and sit under a table now, or can we just stay where we are?'. We did stay where we were and we knew that it was only something very small compared with the number of aftershocks you've lived through, the concerns that you've lived through about services in Tokyo, about the best way to support your families at this time.
So, thank you very much for all of that and today is a way of saying thank you and just getting to spend a bit of time with you. So, you've been great representatives of Australia, you've really done us proud. Thanks for that.