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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7533


Mr LYONS (Bass) (19:36): I rise to recognise the contribution that the Royal Australian Navy has made to our defence since its inception 100 years ago. The Navy has seen tremendous expansion from its beginnings as a small coastal defence force to a navy capable of defending Australia's maritime interests and contributing to regional defence. This year, 10 July will mark the centenary of King George V's approval of Australia's request to have the prefix 'Royal' attached to the Navy's title. This approval marked a significant step towards Australia's post-Federation independence from colonial rule, and reflected the growing responsibility and maturity of the national navy at a time of increasing international tensions. Indeed, it was less than a year before the outbreak of World War I when the flagship HMAS Australia led a force of cruisers and destroyers into Sydney Harbour for the first time. In 1914, the fleet was completed with the arrival of Australia's first submarines. The Royal Australian Navy played an important role throughout the First World War in defeating and deterring enemy forces, and protecting Australia's ports and shipping and trade routes.

During the Second World War, service men and women of the Royal Australian Navy took part in almost every major naval battle in World War II. A major turning point of World War II was the Battle of the Coral Sea. It was the first time in World War II that the Japanese experienced failure in a major operation, and the battle stopped the Japanese seaborne invasion of Port Moresby. However, the price of an eventual allied victory was high. The HMAS Sydney and one of two light cruisers were lost in battle. The Sydney famously sank an Italian cruiser in the Battle of Cape Spada earlier in the war. The ship was later involved in a battle with the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran and was lost at sea with all 645 crew members aboard. Those men and women were among the over 2,000 Royal Australian Navy personnel who lost their lives during World War II. Since the end of that war, men and women of the Navy have served with courage and discipline through some six decades of military action and peacekeeping duties.

Just as the Royal Australian Navy has played an integral part in the defence and protection of this country, it has, similarly, been just as important in shaping our national identity. Although the wartime stories may not be as well known as the Anzac legend, they are equally devastating and inspiring to hear. Often, the virtues of daring, mateship and courage under fire feature in these tales. I was especially thrilled to hear that, in the centenary year, the awarding of the Victoria Cross to Ordinary Seaman Edward 'Teddy' Sheeanand Leading Cook Francis Bassett Emms is currently being considered by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal. It is with pride and honour that I am able to join my Tasmanian Labor colleague the member for Braddon who has, since 2001, sought the recognition of the courageous deeds and sacrifice of these brave young Tasmanians, and I know, from the member for Braddon's large file here, the amount of research he has done. We are all hoping that in the centenary year Teddy and Francis will receive this great honour. Teddy's act of courage is one of wartime's great gallantry stories. Teddy was serving on the Armidale and was ordered to undertake the resupply and evacuation of Japanese occupied Timor. The Japanese attacked the Armidale, which was hit by two aircraft launched torpedoes. The ship began to sink. Although wounded, rather than abandon ship Teddy strapped himself to the cannon and began to engage the attacking aircraft. He shot down two planes, and his crewmates recall seeing the tracer rising from beneath the surface as he was dragged underwater.

I look forward to the findings of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal and hope that the service and sacrifice of both Teddy and Francis can be formally recognised through the honour of receiving a Victoria Cross. The actions of these brave young men epitomise the virtues of the Royal Australian Navy which are being celebrated as we commemorate 100 years of service to this nation. Once again, I would like to acknowledge the Royal Australian Navy in this centenary year of service and sacrifice to our nation, and I congratulate the member for Braddon for the years of work he has put into supporting these two applications.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.