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Thursday, 18 August 2005
Page: 154

Mr HAYES (12:22 PM) —I congratulate the member for Page. I found his speech very interesting. It is a great privilege for me to stand before the parliament today to recognise this significant anniversary—the 60th anniversary of victory in the Pacific. World War II stirs up many images, and it certainly did so for the member for Page. People will recall seeing the grainy footage shot during the Second World War—of the harsh European winters, of the battles in the deserts of Africa and, in the Pacific, of the battles that took place, particularly the hand-to-hand combat, as was often the case, in the jungles of New Guinea.

This was a war that brought the battle eventually to our own backyard. The war in the Pacific will always be indelibly printed on the Australian psyche. It was the war that for the first time directly threatened mainland Australia. It was a war that so totally mobilised the men and women of this young nation and it was a war that had to be fought for our very survival. The war in the Pacific theatre was inspired by territorial greed and commenced with the infamous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

World War II in the Pacific also brings to mind a number of other events which I think it is appropriate that we recall. We recall the bombings of Darwin and Townsville, the submarine attack on Sydney Harbour and the close and often hand-to-hand fighting that took place in the jungles of New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Trail and, lest we not forget, at Milne Bay. It is worth recalling the words of a former Governor-General, Sir William Slim:

Australian troops had, at Milne Bay, inflicted on the Japanese their first undoubted defeat on land … Of all the Allies it was the Australians who first broke the … invincibility of the Japanese Army.

At this time it is appropriate to recall the enormous contributions made by and the camaraderie we enjoyed with the Americans, who stood alongside Australians in defending the Pacific. It is also appropriate that we remember the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, in recalling these events, we must also remember the large numbers of Australians who suffered the horrors of Japanese captivity, those who as prisoners of war were forced to work on the Burma-Thailand railway and those imprisoned in the infamous Changi prison camp. Above all, we remember the contributions of Australian soldiers: their courage, their bravery, their success in defending this nation so that we might have a future.

In recent weeks I have worked with the executive of the Ingleburn RSL Club and the RSL sub-branch in putting together their proposal for the Saluting Their Service grant. I am pleased to report that the grant was approved and the executive is now busy setting about constructing a lasting tribute to those people who served in all arms of our Defence Force, including the women’s services. The work of the RSL in improving and enhancing the already fitting monument to those people who served in the war is under way and continued after a very short pause last Sunday whilst we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Pacific. On Sunday, the people of Ingleburn turned out in very significant numbers—and we also had people come from surrounding suburbs—to pay their respects and to recognise the significance of this anniversary.

Returned servicemen from many conflicts, widows, schoolchildren, community representatives and interested residents turned out to attend a respectful ceremony to mark the anniversary, which included a proclamation from Campbelltown City Council granting special permission to march. As I moved through the crowd speaking to the veterans and widows, I came to understand more and more that this was a very special occasion, an occasion of very deep and abiding significance. I was also pleased to see so many schoolchildren as I walked around. From speaking to many of them, I could tell that they knew precisely why they were there. They spoke about what their great-grandfathers had done to secure their future in this country. They understood the sacrifices of that earlier generation of Australians. Everyone who spoke to me had a story of hardship during the war, but it was a hardship they all seemed pretty willing to suffer, safe in the knowledge that they were fighting for the cause of right.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the efforts of a number of people without whom this event at Ingleburn would not have been as successful. In particular, I would like to thank those involved in the Ingleburn RSL sub-branch: the President, Don Keefe; the Secretary, Bernard Connell; and the Vice-Presidents, Russell Carew and Tom Gilhome, together with executive members Chris Bush, Bill Roberts, Don Neilsen, Brian Gordon and Jim Bucknall and the trustee, Brian Smith and his wife, Pam, President of the Women’s Auxiliary. I know how much work went into making this anniversary a success in Ingleburn. Quite frankly, it was a labour of love for those people. I am also sure that replacing the existing fountain with a water feature with four cascading elements representing aspects of each of the services—(Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—Order! It being 12.30 pm the debate is adjourned. The honourable member for Werriwa will have the right to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.