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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 99


Mrs VALE (1:27 PM) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the new Speaker on his well deserved appointment to high office, and I would be grateful if you would convey my congratulations to him. I endorse all the words of support and encouragement that have been spoken in this House and I know he will mark the historic office of Speaker with his personal qualities of integrity, principle and commitment.

Today is 11 November and it is a very special day for all Australians. It is a profoundly moving occasion for me to be here in this parliament of our nation on this day, 11 November 1998, to reply to the Governor-General. This is the day of remembrance, a day of so many memories. The freedoms which we have taken for granted during ordinary days of the year appear more precious to us here today, for it is fitting that the price paid for our freedom, for our liberty and for our democratic government should be remembered and raised in this place. Is there any other place in our nation which could better reflect our shining liberty and proud fraternity? Is there any other place where we could better remember the terrible cost?

Last Sunday my husband Bob and I attended a moving remembrance memorial service of the Southern Metropolitan District Council of RSL subbranches which was arranged by the honourable secretary, Mike Paris. Hosted by the Miranda RSL subbranch, the commemoration address was given by Mr Jack Hawtin, who had volunteered for the Navy in World War II when he was only a young 17-year-old. Jack sailed on the assault ship HMAS Kanimbla and by the time the war was over he was a veteran of seven invasions. Like many others present, I was very impressed with Jack's commemoration address and, with his kind permission, I repeat it here in this place:

Australia has achieved so much since becoming a nation in 1901 and has suffered enormous casualties in fighting for our country and helping to defend other nations from being over-run by invading armies.

In World War I our glorious youth answered the call to defend King and Empire. With a population of under four million, 331,000 Australians served overseas, with two thirds becoming casualties. In the Gallipoli campaign we left behind 7594 dead and 19,500 were wounded.

Will we ever forget place names like Anzac Cove, Sari Bair, Shrapnel Gully and Lone Pine.

Today we pause to remember.

In France and Belgium, our five divisions were used in many famous battles such as Fromelles, Amiens, Mouquet Farm, Pozieres, Ypres, Passchendaele, Villers-Bretonneux and the Hindenburg Line. They left behind 34,000 identified graves and 20,000 unidentified graves. British General Sir Ian Hamilton is quoted as saying in 1918—"Before the War, who had ever heard of the ANZACs? Hereafter, who will ever forget?"

The AIF had the greatest number of casualties per man on the field of all the Allied Armies, 64.98 %

They travelled the furthest, were away the longest, they were the only volunteer force, they came from a newer land and were a younger race than any who entered that awful arena.

Forty percent of all Australians aged between eighteen and forty five had enlisted in the AIF.

Today, we pause to remember.

Let us recall with pride that more than 500,000 people served overseas in our armed forces in World War II out of a population of seven million. Thirty thousand service people did not return. Most were buried in foreign fields and our naval dead lie beneath the seven seas.

Prime Minister John Curtin in 1944 said `I hope that for generations to come, people will honour the deeds of these men and women and remember that freedom is a condition that has to be fought and paid for and that we kept our freedom at huge cost.'

Today, we pause to remember.

Australia sent four divisions of the AIF overseas during the early years of World War II. They served with great distinction in the Middle East and Malaya. They followed in the footsteps of their fathers, completing their training in Egypt and participating in many campaigns. Famous names come to mind, such as Bardia, Tobruk, Greece, Crete and El Alamein.

When Japan entered the war, our Army was quickly expanded and by 1944, twelve divisions were either active or in training and were heavily engaged along with the US Army divisions in stopping and defeating the enemy in Papua New Guinea and many other Pacific Islands. Names such as Malaya, Milne Bay, Kokoda, Buna, Sattleburg, Wewak and Borneo will forever live in Australian history.

Today, we pause to remember.

Our Glorious Royal Australian Air Force was in the thick of things right from the beginning with squadrons operating in Britain, the Middle East and later in Italy. RAAF fighter and bomber squadrons worked closely with our troops in many engagements in Middle East campaigns. In the Pacific our fighter squadrons bravely defended our forward bases and our bombers and transports were making names for themselves, participating in every action, working closely with our Army and Navy. Famous names come to mind like the Battle of Britain, the Western Desert, Darwin, the Bismarck Sea and Milne Bay to name but a few.

Today, we pause to remember.

Our Navy took the fight to the enemy from day one. Our cruisers and destroyers served with great distinction in the Middle East suffering heavy losses in ships and personnel.

At one stage in the Pacific, our cruiser force of six ships was reduced to one, with three being sunk and two suffering battle damage. Australians will never forget the loss of the HMAS Sydney and the total loss of her ship's company of 645 men, the greatest loss of any one unit of any service in World War II.

Naval battle honours dearly achieved, included those in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, the Java Sea, Guadalcanal and the Leyte Gulf.

Today, we pause to remember.

Many people called the Korean War `The Forgotten War' but ask any veteran who fought there and he will tell you how Australian soldiers fought against an awesome enemy and how the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment was awarded a US Presidential Citation for stopping a vastly superior enemy force at the Battle of Kapiong.

He also well remembers place names like Pakchon, the Hook, Hill 355, Little Gibraltar, Maryang San and the Han River. Our RAAF squadrons were first into the battle flying over 19,000 sorties in total.

Five of our Navy ships took part in the Yellow Sea gun line and several of our ships took casualties from enemy gunfire while bombarding coastal artillery. Our aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney will be remembered for her airstrikes, losing nine of her aircraft and their crews to ground fire.

Today, we pause to remember.

The professionalism of Australian troops in Vietnam was noticed by other forces. Our casualties were an indication of many front line actions. Vietnam veterans were exposed to a new horror—Agent Orange, and many are still suffering today.

Our Vietnam veterans will remember place names such as Long Phuoc, Long Tan, Hao Long and Bribie Operation to mention a few.

Our Air Force and our Navy played their part.

So, on this Remembrance Sunday—the 80th Anniversary—we give thanks to God for giving us the privilege to hold this service without fear of persecution. We acknowledge the part played by thousands of Australian Service People in all wars since Federation and we pay homage to over 100,000 men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice and gave their lives so that we can live in freedom in this beautiful Australia.

Listening to Jack Hawtin mention the long list of the now familiar foreign placenames, where successive generations of young Australians lay forever in those faraway fields, brought many memories back to all of us as we stood gathered under a threatening sky last Sunday.

On a personal level, my grandfather Donald Peter Dempsey was one of the many young volunteers in the first Great War. He came from Newcastle and was with the 18th Battalion. He died in the mud in Belgium in 1918. My mother was nearly three at the time and, like so many Australian children after all the wars, grew up without the love and protection of her father.

Five of my great-uncles volunteered in that war. Of the two who did come home, my treasured great-uncle William Edward Jones returned full of shrapnel and his younger brother John Jones, regimental number 2370, had the Military Medal in his kitbag. Great-uncle Johnny had been a stretcher-bearer. Neither of my great-uncles ever spoke of the war, but neither of them ever married, nor had families of their own: that was a hidden cost of shattered lives. Today, we pause to remember.

As a living connection with this terrible war, there is an old soldier in my electorate of Hughes by the name of Mick Hollingsworth, who was a mounted trooper with the 8th and the 12th Light Horse. He was at the charge of Beersheba. He was 100 years old last year. I understand he is in Canberra today for the memorial service.

From memories of World War II, I want to especially mention here one very special constituent by the name of Wallace Edmund Southwick, regimental number NX54413. Wally served with the 2nd 20th Battalion and the 2nd 10th Army General Hospital. I remember the first time I saw him. He was sitting in my waiting area in the electorate office. I noticed even then there was something very special about him; a certain dignity. When we spoke, he reminded me that the Prime Minister was that very day visiting Hellfire Pass. He spoke very quietly and with great purpose as he told me his story. Somehow he had survived Cholera Hill and Hellfire Pass. His health had never been good since and he had come to tell me that he was proud that the Prime Minister was there and that Hellfire Pass was to be made a memorial to his mates. He wanted me to know. He would have loved to have been there with the Prime Minister, but he had no complaint about the fact that he was not one of the old diggers chosen to go. He was pleased that some could go back and hopefully lay some old ghosts. He just wanted me to know that he had been there. I found his visit profoundly moving. He had a certain noble presence, a sense of great humanity and an awesome humility. Others also see something special in Wally Southwick and all his mates down at the Heathcote Services Club, especially mates like Paul Baker and Wayne Davies and Mike Paris, are very proud that they know him.

One other old digger from World War II, Jim Hunt, regimental number NX20760, is from Moorebank in my electorate. Jim was only 18 when he signed up in 1940 and he was with the 9th Division, 2nd 17th Battalion and was at Tobruk, El Alamein in the Middle East and later in New Guinea. He remembers that when he and his young mates were waiting for the fighting to start in this foreign place called Tobruk—and this does seem surprisingly human in times like this—he and his mates worried if they could live up to the legends of the ANZACs. `We really worried if we would be good enough,' he said. Yet we all know today that these youngsters ended up making a legend of their own and became known as the Rats of Tobruk.

Even the so-called forgotten war, the Korean War, brings home memories in my electorate of Hughes. The renowned 3rd Royal Australian Regiment is based in the Holsworthy defence area located in my electorate and it was the men of the 3 RAR who fought in one of the most significant victories of the Korean War.

I would like to remind this House of the Battle of Maryang San, which occurred in October 1951 and which our official war historian, Professor Robert O'Neill, described as `one of the most impressive victories ever achieved by any Australian battalion, probably the greatest single feat of the Australian Army during the Korean War'. This battle was described by Lieutenant-General Coates when he wrote:

The scale of manoeuvre of 3 RAR during the action packed six days of the battle, by night, in fog, across rugged terrain and for much of the time under artillery and mortar fire, can only challenge contemporary Australian infantrymen to strive for similar levels of excellence. The display of endurance, courage and aggression during the battle are timeless benchmarks for offensive operations.

The officer in command during the offensive was General Sir Frances Hassett. He has said that, `Maryang San was fought with great skill and gallantry and that, although it was our biggest battalion battle since World War II, it has been the least publicised. The battle comprised a series of brilliant company and platoon attacks in which the 3 RAR secured the approaches, captured Maryan Sang and then mounted the defence against immediate counterattack by the Chinese.' During this battle, the men of the valorous Third Royal Australian Regiment lost 120 of their mates at Maryang San. Today, we pause to remember them.

Like so many other members here today, I have many veterans of Vietnam in my electorate. Many of them still struggle with the memories of that terrible war and the realities of returning to live in the land of freedom where few have shared the terrors. Their welcome home eventually came, but it came many years too late for some. As young men, they answered the call of their country, as did their fathers and their grandfathers before them. They were not welcomed home as they were promised by the ANZAC tradition. It is time we remembered their sacrifice because many of them are still privately suffering.

We should never forget that our veterans in Vietnam were also the victims of this war. They deserve our affection and our respect. I have met many Vietnam veterans working in many of our RSL sub-branches and many community organisations. Many are still committed to helping their mates. They are men like Paul Baker, regimental No. 39039, and Mike Paris, regimental No. 217158, from the Heathcote Services Club, who saw service at Nui Dat and Vung Tau. Ray Wyse, regimental No. 2784683, of Miranda who saw service at Vung Tao and Saigon and his mate Ron Shaw, regimental No. 2785005, who was also at the Battle of Long Binh and Nui Dat. Today we pause to remember.

On this 80th anniversary of Remembrance Day we join Jack Hawtin and all at the Miranda RSL sub-branch remembrance service and give thanks to God for giving us the privilege to hold this parliament in freedom and liberty. We salute the many thousands of Australian servicemen and servicewomen who in all the wars since Federation have paid the supreme sacrifice and who have given their lives so that we can live in freedom in our Great South Land, this Australia.

I would like to close with Jack Hawtin's reminder of an old, old song. Today, when we look at our Australian flag, we should pause and we should remember:

its only an old piece of bunting

its only an old coloured rag

but many have died for its honour

and shed their life's blood for our flag

(Time expired)