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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 1062


Mr FITZGIBBON (8:16 PM) —I rise to support the condolence motion moved by the Prime Minister after the event of the loss of Sapper Jamie Ronald Larcombe. I note that members of both the government and the opposition have unsurprisingly been supporting the motion.

I did not know Sapper Larcombe, although it is possible that during my time as defence minister I may have met him. I met many members of the Navy, Army and Air Force during that time. But, notwithstanding not knowing Sapper Larcombe, I can be very, very confident of a number of things about him. The first is that he would have loved what he was doing, he would have been absolutely committed to what he was doing and he would have been proud of what he was doing. He would also have been undertaking his task without harbouring any doubt that what he was doing was important for his country and, of course, for our national security. It is important to note that Sapper Larcombe was, like all of our personnel who serve in Afghanistan, a volunteer. He was not conscripted to do what he was doing but a person who volunteered to serve the Army and to undertake the particular tasks he was undertaking in Afghanistan.

There is something else that I can be very confident about too, and I take some licence here because I have not spoken with his family, nor do I know his family. But I am very confident that, based on historical experience, Sapper Larcombe’s partner and family would have supported what he was doing. Sure, they may have been concerned from time to time about his choice of career but he would have gone to theatre with the full support of his family—a family who I am sure understood both what he was doing and why he wanted to do what he was doing.

We are doing important work in Afghanistan. There is no doubt that there is a direct link between our own national security and our work there. It is going to be tougher to maintain public support for our deployment the longer we are there and the more people we lose. But continue we must, until we are confident that the Afghan government is capable of taking care of its own security and therefore capable as a democracy of preventing Afghanistan once again becoming a breeding ground for those prepared to impose their fundamentalist reforms of Islamism on other people, with the terror events that flow from that.

I offer my very sincere sympathies to his partner, Rhiannon; his parents, Steven and Tricia; and, of course, his sisters, Ann-Marie, Emily and April. I am advised that the community of Kangaroo Island is a strong one. I know that both his family and the broader community will be feeling a great sense of loss at this time. Sapper Larcombe goes down in the annals of history as an Australian hero, having given his life for a good cause and for his country. For that reason we will not forget him.

Going back to the theme of why we are in Afghanistan: we need to remind ourselves that we should collectively ensure that his sacrifice was not in vain, that we continue Sapper Larcombe’s good work and, just as importantly, that we continue to give bipartisan support to those who served with him in Afghanistan and to those who will serve in Afghanistan until our work there is done.