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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 12985


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:00): On indulgence, the House will now be aware that this is a very special day for our nation. This morning I, along with a number of members of parliament, including the Leader of the Opposition, attended Government House to witness the award of a Victoria Cross to Corporal Daniel Keighran. In Afghanistan, Australia has seen moments of great sorrow and great courage. On 24 August 2010, in a single engagement we saw both. That day, our troops were patrolling with soldiers of the 4th Brigade Afghan National Army at the village of Derapet in Uruzgan province. Our patrol was attacked from three separate locations at once by a numerically superior enemy. It was vital that Australian and Afghan forces could direct their fire accurately against these enemy positions. Corporal Keighran and another member of the patrol moved to an exposed ridge line to identify the enemy and to direct our fire. Corporal Keighran then deliberately drew enemy fire, pushing forward over the ridge line to identify targets for our gunners and he exposed himself to enemy fire again when he came back to the crest to direct the fire of our light armoured vehicles. He helped turn the fight in our favour.

The fighting brought an Australian casualty. Corporal Keighran risked his life, drew enemy fire away from the team treating his Australian mate and then helped clear the landing zone for his mate's evacuation—that was Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. 24 August 2010 was a day of sorrow. Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was killed on that day. We remember him. And it was a day of honour. Corporal Daniel Keighran earned the Victoria Cross. We honour him and we honour the four other Australians who have been decorated for their acts on that day.

Some Australians in Afghanistan have performed truly astonishing acts of individual courage and they will be remembered for ever—Corporal Mark Donaldson VC, Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC and now Corporal Daniel Keighran VC. Today we pay tribute to their exceptional and extreme acts in the presence of the enemy. Today we should also pay tribute to the quiet courage of every Australian who deploys. Whether they are the ground crew who serve the airfield at Tarin Kot, the workshop supervisors who train the Afghans and manage our equipment, the headquarters staff who plan transition, the development advisers who walk the villages of the south to help the Afghan people, the devotion to their duty is incredible. Their presence among us is one of the privileges of our generation. We are lucky to have them all and we should be proud they are Australians.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!