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Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Page: 5270


Mr RAGUSE (7:22 PM) —It is interesting to hear the member for Herbert’s comments on the return of soldiers from Iraq. In fact, I have done a similar meet and greet, and it was very much a great opportunity to pay tribute to and thank those men and women who have served our nation and to see the excitement of their families after their return from their long absence—and I take the point of the flowers; that was a very great gesture.

I speak tonight in support of the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008. This bill recognises the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat, which is another election commitment honoured by the Rudd government. The purpose of this bill is also to provide a mechanism that will enable a memorial which is located outside the Australian Capital Territory and meets specified criteria to be recognised as a military memorial of national significance. This means that many military memorials will be recognised and that Australia’s visible military history can be assured. The Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, committed himself in June 2007 to recognising the Ballarat memorial if Labor won government. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs stated on 19 March 2008:

The Australian Government will soon be able to deliver on its election commitment to recognise the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat as a memorial of national significance …

He said:

It is fitting that Ballarat’s Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial is the first memorial accorded national status under this … legislation.

The explanatory memorandum to the bill says:

The Bill will provide a mechanism to honour the Government’s election commitment to declare the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat, to be a national memorial. National memorials are recognised under the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 and are restricted to memorials within the Australian Capital Territory. This Bill will recognise the national significance of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial … and will enable, in the future, other memorials that meet specified criteria, to be recognised as a Military Memorial of National Significance.

I am hoping that this new legislation will ultimately do very well for electorates like mine. As I have said on many occasions, the electorate of Forde is quite a diverse electorate. We go from the high urban density in the northern end to the sprawling farmlands of the south, but within that, of course, sits the people who make up the community. We as a nation and as a community have given a certain level of respect, and pay tribute very regularly, to people who have served this country and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. So, for me and the electorate of Forde, there is so much significance.

Growing up in a family that had many military personnel, including decorated personnel, going back to just after the Boer War, I grew up with oral history to a large degree and with a lot of the memorabilia that come with that. My father tragically died 20 years ago—he was a World War II veteran—and the stories and the understanding that I had of his service and the actions that he took during and after the war, and certainly the way that he paid tribute to his comrades in the years following the war, are interesting. Interestingly enough, I realise now that a lot of people from his era—certainly those who went before him in earlier campaigns—are no longer with us, so it is very important that we find ways of ensuring that we can maintain an understanding of our past.

The electorate of Forde has a very rich military history. Many in the House would probably not be aware of just how rich that history is, although many would know the names that I am going to mention in this speech tonight. You might find it surprising, Mr Deputy Speaker, that during the Second World War 20,000 American soldiers from the US 32nd Infantry Division were based at Camp Cable. Camp Cable is located between the townships of Logan Village and Jimboomba. That is now quite a populous region of some 10,000 people. From 1942 to 1943 there were 20,000 American soldiers who resided there. If you compare that to the population today it is quite significant.

In July 1942 the American 129th and 120th Field Artillery Battalions of the 32nd Infantry Division left Adelaide for their new camp, which initially was called Camp Tamborine because it is adjacent to Tamborine Mountain and Tamborine Village. Most of the personnel were sent overland by train, but others were sent by liberty ships. In brief explanation, the liberty ships were cargo ships that the US built for the British and also used themselves—in this case, for moving troops. Three days after departure, off the New South Wales coast, one of the liberty ships was torpedoed on its journey from Adelaide to Brisbane by a Japanese submarine. We know from the Battle of the Coral Sea and other actions that there was a lot of Japanese and enemy activity in the region. The only death, luckily, was that of 25-year-old Sergeant Gerald O Cable, Service Company, 126th Infantry, from Michigan. When the 32nd moved into the new camp at Tamborine, they decided to call it Camp Cable after the late Gerald Cable. After the war a Department of Main Roads engineer, Mr FS Parkes, suggested that a cairn of remembrance be erected to remember the Americans who served at Camp Cable. Other than these small memorials, there are no longer any visible signs of Camp Cable except for this shrine, which was erected near the original main entrance to the camp. The plaque reads:

CAMP CABLE

THEY PASSED THIS WAY

1942-1944

In the area, if you look at some of the earlier drawings and paintings of some of the local artists, you see that they capture a lot of the activity of the American troops while they were there. There are another couple of memorials that make up this area of Camp Cable near the original entrance. One is dedicated to Robert Dannenberg, who trained at Camp Cable and later lost his life in December 1942 in New Guinea. Another small stone was erected to remember a mascot dog called Vicksburg from Vicksburg, Mississippi. The dog was killed in a road accident at Southport in 1944.

The US 155th Station Hospital was also located at Camp Cable. The camp was evacuated during the battle of the Coral Sea and was a staging point for a lot of the actions in North Queensland. The 155th Station Hospital at Camp Cable was built on some high ground above the Albert River. There was a dental ward, an operating theatre, a barber shop, a mess hall, a kitchen, a PX store, nurses quarters, a motor pool, a hot water boiler house, a steam boiler house, a tennis court, a recreation hall and a sewage treatment plant. We are talking about 1942 and 1943 and 20,000 men. As I said, there is just no evidence of this having been in the region other than these particular memorials. The camp was built by an Australian civilian group, possibly the Civil Construction Corps, who had their own self-contained camp area adjacent to the hospital. Going on from that, and adjacent further down the road, is an area very well known to many people, the township of Canungra. Canungra is the location of a large military establishment called the Kokoda Barracks.

Debate interrupted.