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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 9009


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:01): I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the death on the morning of 22 August of Private Matthew Lambert during combat operations in Afghanistan, place on record its appreciation of his service to his country and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Around eight o'clock yesterday morning Australian time Private Matthew Lambert was killed in Afghanistan. As General Hurley said yesterday, Private Lambert's colleagues described him as a man who excelled at any task he was assigned and as a soldier who was proud to serve his country. Matthew was a sniper, a tough specialist in mind and in body, one of the most skilled soldiers in one of the most skilled armies in the world. While many Australians were starting their ordinary working week yesterday morning, finishing their breakfasts and getting the kids off to school—some already well into the day's commute—this young Australian was risking everything for us.

Matthew was on foot with elements of the Afghan National Army and other coalition forces in Afghanistan conducting a night-time reconnaissance patrol. What is believed to be an improvised explosive device detonated. It seriously wounded a comrade from the International Security Assistance Force. Matthew's mates performed first aid on the spot. He was transferred to Tarin Kowt and treated there, but it was not enough. He died from his wounds in the Tarin Kowt Hospital.

Matthew went to Afghanistan for the first time in June. He will be home soon. Our minds are full with thoughts of other people today—above all with thoughts for Matthew Lambert's spouse, parents and family. They have lost Matthew, a 26-year-old man. They have given our country what they loved above all things. We also think of his unit, 2RAR. They have suffered their first fatality in Afghanistan. We think of the Townsville community. They know these soldiers well and they know their families well.

Our minds are also with 28 other Australian families today. I want to say something to them now. There was a lot of attention on you on the day the news of your loved one's death was announced. There was a lot of attention on you on the day that their body returned home. There was a lot of attention on you on the day that your loved one was buried. We respect your privacy and we know that you need to get on with your lives, as hard as that may be, but we have not stopped thinking about you. I have not stopped thinking about you; Australians do not forget.

I want to say something to our nation as well. Transition has begun in areas of Afghanistan. The kind of mentoring work Private Lambert was performing is the kind of work which will allow Afghan-led responsibility for security arrangements in Oruzgan province to transfer by the end of 2014. Members of our Mentoring Task Forces are doing very difficult and very dangerous work and through that work they are developing an effective and capable Afghan National Army. We need that work to be done so there is security in Afghanistan after transition is complete. We need security in Afghanistan after transition is complete so that Afghanistan will not again become a safe haven for international terrorism. We do need that work done, as dangerous as it is.

These Mentoring Task Force soldiers like Private Matthew Lambert are patiently, carefully and with superb professionalism building a capable Afghan military force. It is difficult work, dangerous work—we saw that this week—but work that must be done. We are on track to transition. It is a hard track, a hard road, and that is why we send hard men to walk it for us. We will deny terrorists a safe haven there. With our ally the United States as part of the international community we have a clear goal, a defined mission and a time line of the end of 2014. I cannot say that this will be the parliament's last condolence for a lost soldier in Afghanistan but I can say we will see this mission through.