Mr Melhem: I rise to speak on the recent tragedy and the horror inflicted on the people of Lebanon.

As a member of the Lebanese community in Victoria and a member of the Andrews Labor government, I send my condolences and express my sympathies to all those who have been affected by the Beirut port explosion on 5 August 2020.

This senseless tragedy for the people of Beirut has reverberated across the world. It has had a far-reaching impact on the global Lebanese community including for relatives here in Melbourne.

To date, more than 200 people have lost their lives and 6000 are wounded, with a further 200 000 either homeless or in homes disturbed by the blast.

The incredible loss of life and the hardship now facing hundreds of thousands of people could and should have been prevented.

This disastrous tragedy represents a total failure on the part of those entrusted to serve the people of Lebanon.

Within the Lebanese government secrecy, corruption and negligence are rife, and we are now seeing the tragic human cost. The government, including the Parliament and the President, have been either unwilling or unable to fix the economic and humanitarian crises besetting the country and their callous indifference is costing lives.

On the streets, protestors are calling for change. Calling for much-needed accountability and justice. They are being met with tear gas and rubber bullets, not compassion and understanding.

The people have been demanding change for months now and they deserve to be heard. It is time the government listened to the will of the majority. The people of Lebanon deserve a fresh start: an accountable, united government; disarmament of all non-government forces; and the chance to build a better life for their children.

I stand in solidarity with their struggle and I share their hope.

I wish to thank those who have generously contributed to the Lebanese Red Cross and other organisations that are tangibly helping those affected by this disaster. I wish to also commend the Andrews Labor government’s symbolic show of solidarity in the lighting of Victorian landmarks in the colours of the Lebanese flag.

Finally, I send my support to all those in Beirut. I keep you in my thoughts and hope for a safe and swift recovery for the city and its people.