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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17268

Ms JULIE BISHOP (9:05 PM) —The Military Cross was originally awarded to junior officers and warrant officers of the Australian Army, for distinguished services in action. Its application was extended to all ranks in 1993 with the discontinuation of its counterpart for enlisted men, the Military Medal.

Australians feature prominently among recipients of the Military Cross. Between Federation and the cessation of hostilities in Vietnam, Australians were awarded 2,930 Military Crosses. Thus it was, in late February 1970, during Operation Hamersley in Vietnam, that then Major Michael Jeffery of the 8th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment displayed, as the citation termed it, `courage and professional competence' as his unit tangled with the North Vietnamese army—action for which he was awarded the Military Cross.

Such leadership, strength and courage as displayed on the battlefield would seem enough for one person's lifetime, yet Michael Jeffery has since had three decades of great responsibility, proficiency and service—both to his nation and to his home state of Western Australia. While his pre-Vietnam assignments included Malaya, Borneo and Papua New Guinea, after Vietnam he went on to the command of the Special Air Service—headquartered in Swanbourne in my seat of Curtin—then leadership of the national counter-terrorism coordination authority, and then the position of Deputy Chief of General Staff.

It is with the greatest enthusiasm, then, that Western Australians—and, indeed, Australians from across the country—have greeted the news that Major General Jeffery will take up the position of the 24th Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Governor-General designate is a proud son of the west, although he now calls Canberra home, and I have been privileged to know him and his delightful wife, Marlena, particularly during his seven years as our state governor. During his governorship, he hosted a studies forum which took the form of a regular dinner meeting at Government House. Organised by Murdoch University, the participants included academics, politicians, businesspeople, historians, lawyers, judges—all manner of decision makers in Western Australian society. I attended most, if not all, of these dinner meetings. Michael Jeffery not only was a gracious host but took an active role in promoting the flow of ideas and debate on a wide range of topical issues. He seemed in his element when engaging with others in intellectually challenging discussions.

During his appointment as state governor, Michael Jeffery was twice Administrator of the Commonwealth in the absence of the Governor-General. He carried out those duties with dignity and style. His 1999 speeches at the dedication service for the field of remembrance and the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial are long remembered and remain poignant accounts of service and sacrifice in the defence of our nation. Those speeches also give an indication of the intellect and foresight of the general and his abiding interest in matters of national security. At St John's Church he noted:

“We nearly lost [the Second World War] because of unpreparedness and apathy and perhaps that is a lesson we really need to heed as we face the excitement, challenges and uncertainties of the 21st century.”

The same prescience was evident in the attention that he drew to the problem of people-smuggling in August 2000 in the address that launched his collection of gubernatorial speeches and in his chairmanship of the Centre for International Strategic Analysis, a strategic think tank based in Claremont in my electorate and now known as Future Directions International.

His advocacy of reinforced security for the pipelines and facilities of the resource-rich north-west of Western Australia remains steadfast, and the issues he has raised continue to demand attention, especially given the new global threat of terrorism. That is not to say that the general's public interests extend only to national security and international affairs. As governor of Western Australia he took a forthright stand on the need to, as the West Australian newspaper put it on the occasion of his retirement:

... preserve families and the proper upbringing of children in them.

His thoughts and comments were reflections of the thoughts and values of the community that he served so well. If on the rare occasion those comments were perceived by a minority to be politically incorrect then all that perception highlighted was the common cause which he made with ordinary Western Australians and the accessibility that he brought to the vice-regal office. Those values were in turn reflections of a lifetime of concern for the disadvantaged, beginning with his own childhood in Wiluna, and his regard for our nation's remotest communities.

Michael Jeffery will be just the second Western Australian in our nation's history to hold the office of Governor-General. It is to the credit of our state that it has produced men of such character as Michael Jeffery and Sir Paul Hasluck, Governor-General from 1969 to 1974 after two decades as the member for Curtin in this place. I congratulate Major General Jeffery and I wish him and his wife, Marlena, the very best in the high office that awaits him.