ABC Helicopter Crash (25/08/2011)

ABCcrash.jpgBefore entering parliament I had the great honour to be a union official, the National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union. One of the best groups of members I ever got to represent were the employees of the ABC. They were without doubt some of the most intelligent, committed and talented people I ever represented in my industrial capacity.

It was with great sadness that I and my colleagues at the CPSU learnt that long-term ABC journalist Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst had died in tragic circumstances. They were filming the flooding at Lake Eyre in Central Australia and the helicopter crashed in a remote location on the lake’s edge. Investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau only reached the scene on Friday night. We had hoped that it would not end in tragedy in that 12 or 14 hours after learning about the accident, but regrettably that was not the case.

Paul Lockyer was a distinguished international journalist who produced a truly remarkable body of work, and in statements in this place and elsewhere many people have paid tribute to that work. He had been a correspondent in Washington, Singapore and throughout Asia and had won a Logie award for best TV reporter. His work in recent years focused on regional and rural issues and his work on the Queensland floods this year won universal acclaim. I am quite certain that he will, tragically posthumously, receive further awards for that work. Not only that; it is clear from the outpouring of grief and regret from not only his colleagues at the ABC and in the Australian media community but also from the broader ABC family that Paul was highly valued as a good friend. The qualities that made him a good friend and a good mate shone through in his journalism and touched audiences everywhere across Australia. It is not easy to win trust let alone affection from people who are living in regional Australia, but it was clear from his reports from regional Australia that he was good with people and they in turn respected and trusted him with their stories.

At the time of the accident, Paul, John and Gary were filming for another acclaimed documentary for ABC Television on Lake Eyre. Paul Lockyer was one of the ABC’s most experienced journalists, with an award-winning career spanning more than 40 years locally and internationally.

Many speakers in this condolence motion have spoken about Gary Ticehurst, who was by all accounts one of the best amongst the media pilots. I never met him personally, but I know of him by fame and reputation. On more than one occasion during that infamous Sydney to Hobart race he put his life at risk to ensure the safety of the crews on stricken yachts hit by storms. He was famous within the profession and it is fitting that his work is paid tribute in this debate.

Brisbane based cameraman John Bean worked for the ABC for 20 years across a diverse range of programs, in news and entertainment, including international assignments. In my time representing workers at the ABC we used to represent the people who were behind the camera and the people who did not generally get the fame that the journalists and others did. They were famous and well-respected amongst their colleagues but generally little known amongst the Australian public. It is tragic and perhaps ironic that it takes a tragedy such as this to make the Australian community stand up and recognise the wonderful value of their work; they come out from behind the camera and become visible to us.

These men were not only dedicated media professionals; they were also husbands, fathers, sons and uncles. I know this is a terribly difficult time for their families. I take this opportunity and join with all of my parliamentary colleagues to extend my personal sympathy to their families and friends and to the entire ABC community, who I know are missing them dearly.

ABC Helicopter Crash - Statements on Indulgence - Federal Parliament

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