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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9758

Mr SNOWDON (LingiariMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health) (16:00): Today I rise to offer my deepest sympathy to the friends and family of Private Matthew Lambert. My thoughts go out to his spouse, his parents and family, his fellow soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and his mates in the Army.

As you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Private Lambert was killed during operations in Afghanistan on 22 August 2011. He is sadly the 29th member of the Australian Defence Force who has been killed in action in Afghanistan and the eighth operational death this year. His death comes just six weeks after that of Sergeant Todd Langley and will be a reminder for those families of the other 28 Australians who have fallen in the Afghan conflict. I say to them: we have not forgotten your sacrifice.

Matthew was killed while supporting a mentored patrol in the vicinity of Qadam Shalay, Khas Oruzgan, some 85 kilometres north-east of Tarin Kowt. He suffered fatal wounds when a suspected improvised explosive device, IED, detonated. The incident occurred near a patrol base in Khas Oruzgan in the north-east of Oruzgan province. Private Lambert was initially treated at the scene and then aeromedically evacuated to the Role 2 Medical Facility at Tarin Kowt where he subsequently died of his wounds.

In conducting the patrol, Private Lambert was contributing to our overall mission in Afghanistan training the Afghan National Army and the Afghan national and local police in Oruzgan province to put them in a position to take responsibility for security in 2014. Even on sad days like today, I do not believe it is in our national security interests to walk away from our mission in Afghanistan. We must continue.

Oruzgan province is a long way from Kogarah in New South Wales where Private Lambert was born in 1985, so he was a very young man. Private Lambert enlisted in the 9th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment in August 2005. He then transferred to the Australian Regular Army in February 2007 and then was posted to 2RAR in Townsville. He was a very well-respected soldier who excelled at any task he was assigned and was looking forward to serving his country in Afghanistan. Commander of 3rd Brigade, Brigadier Stuart Smith, said:

Matthew was widely respected for his professionalism and commitment to duty, and his death has been felt deeply within our army family .

He was a decorated soldier. He had been awarded the following honours and awards: the Australian Active Service Medal with clasp International Coalition Against Terrorism; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal; the Australian Service Medal with clasp Timor-Leste; the Australian Defence Medal; and the Timor-Leste Solidarity Medal. During Private Lambert's service in the Australian Army, he deployed in the following operations: Operation Astute, Timor-Leste, June 2009 until November 2009; and Operation Slipper in Afghanistan from June 2011 until August 2011.

For those of us who work in this place, we need to understand what it is to wear the uniform of the Australian Army—indeed, any of our Army, Navy or Air Force uniforms. These brave men and women who wear these uniforms do great deeds for us, and when you wear that uniform, as we in this place do not, you stand the possibility of being killed in the service of your nation. Those men and women who wear this uniform sacrifice a great deal for us. I know that their families sacrifice for us as well, and we owe them a debt that we can never repay. Private Lambert was returned to Australia from Afghanistan on 29 August and was farewelled by family and friends at a private funeral. I offer my prayers and support to Private Lambert's family and his mates, those in the Defence Force and in the broader community.

I know that the 3rd Brigade is focused on providing the best possible support to Matthew's family as they cope with their tragic loss and to Private Lambert's mates so they continue their vital work on deployment. I can assure them that we will never forget the service and sacrifice of this outstanding young man, and I know that Australians will always remember Matthew's contribution and that his death has not been in vain.

Sadly, there are too many occasions now when we in this place have condolence motions for those who have sacrificed on our behalf and as I said earlier, it is very difficult for us in here to understand the implications of wearing the Australian uniform, of putting yourself in harm's way at the direction of your country. We in this place wear a special responsibility because ultimately it is us, the government of this country, that tells its Defence Force what to do. We engaged in this war in Afghanistan, they are engaged on our behalf, they wear the sacrifices that are being made, they wear the threats as a result of wearing this magnificent Australian uniform. We say goodbye to Matthew Lambert. Lest we forget.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): I understand that it is the wish of honourable members to signify, at this stage, their respect and sympathy by rising in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the committee.

Mr HUSIC: I move:

That further proceedings be conducted in the House.

Question agreed to.