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Thursday, 19 March 2009
Page: 3291

Mr TURNBULL (Leader of the Opposition) (2:06 PM) —I second the motion. It is hard to imagine an experience more heart-wrenching or more poignant than that of a father who must leave a newborn child to go to war. We in the opposition join in profound sadness with the Prime Minister and the nation as we offer our deepest condolences for the loss in Afghanistan of Corporal Mathew Hopkins. The thoughts and prayers of all Australians are with his loved ones, especially his wife, Victoria; his parents, Bronwyn and Ricky; his brother, Corey; and his baby son, Alex. This tiny boy was cradled in his father’s arms for only a few precious days before Corporal Hopkins returned to duty in Afghanistan. It is a tragedy beyond words.

As a nation we are reminded frequently of the dangers our forces face in Afghanistan every day. As a nation we are immensely proud of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force for their service and their sacrifice. As a nation we know there can be no greater grief than news that a 21-year-old soldier, so respected by his comrades in arms and with so much ahead of him in life, will not be coming home to his young family. Our duty, our debt, to Corporal Hopkins for the years to come is to ensure that his wife and son have all the love and support that they deserve. Our duty is to honour the memory of this brave young man who went to Afghanistan in our name, in our uniform, serving under our flag. Our duty is to ensure that as Matt Hopkins’s little boy grows up and embarks on a life of his own, he will always know that his father served nobly and courageously in the cause of making the world a safer place.

We have been privileged in these difficult days to hear moving tributes to Corporal Hopkins from two proud and stoic women, his mother and his young wife. From them we have heard that Matt Hopkins was a proud Queenslander, a proud son of the sunshine state, a Brisbane boy with a passionate fervour for the Maroons and the Broncos. He was also a passionate and patriotic Australian. From a young age, all he wanted to do was to join the Army and serve his country. He signed up as soon as he had finished his studies at Kenmore High. In Afghanistan he served with the 7th Battalion as a member of the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force, and his mates called him ‘Hoppy’. His mission was to help train and support members of Afghanistan’s security forces to secure and defend themselves against Taliban extremists. That was Corporal Hopkins’s job, and he carried it out professionally and courageously in the most difficult conditions against the most dangerous of enemies. On Monday, they came under fire from a group of Taliban insurgents while they were on patrol with Afghan colleagues north of Tarin Kowt. The patrol returned the fire. We lost Matt Hopkins during this intense exchange of gunfire.

Corporal Hopkins is the ninth Australian to be killed in Afghanistan since 2002. We are forever indebted for his sacrifice. He will be remembered as a father of whom any son would be proud. In years to come, Alex, I hope you will read these words that your mum is hearing today. And, when you do, you will know that all of us here assembled, representing the entire nation—your nation—to honour your father’s courage and to thank him for his service. We say to you, Alex Hopkins, across the years, that no son could have a finer example of strength and honour, courage and sacrifice, than the example your father has given to you, his baby son, and to all of us Australians.

Question agreed to, honourable members standing in their places.