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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8490

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (PerthMinister for Defence and Deputy Leader of the House) (14:07): I rise to associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, both in expressing condolences to the family and friends and mates of Sergeant Blaine Diddams and also in expressing support for our mission in Afghanistan. Sergeant Diddams was killed during an engagement with insurgents in Afghanistan on 2 July this year. His death was our first fatality this year, our 33rd overall in Afghanistan. Again, his death was not only a terrible blow to an Australian family, but also a terrible blow to our nation.

Sergeant Diddams enlisted in the Army in 1990, and he joined the Special Air Services Regiment, the SAS, in 1995. He was a patrol commander at Special Operations Task Group and, as both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have said, he was on his seventh tour to Afghanistan since 2001. Sergeant Diddams's death has been deeply felt by the SAS Regiment in Swanbourne. As members from Western Australia in particular would know, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the member for Curtin, is the regiment's local member and she attended the funeral as the local member. The SAS is highly regarded in Swanbourne and in Western Australia. The shudder that went through the Swanbourne and Perth communities was not unexpected given the regard with which the SAS is held. It was an honour to attend Sergeant Diddams's funeral with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the National Party, representing the Leader of the Opposition, and the member for Curtin.

This is the 16th fatality in our Special Operations Task Group, which includes members of the SAS, the Commando Regiment at Holsworthy and the Incident Response Regiment. I had the opportunity of reflecting upon this earlier today in an unrelated meeting with General Gilmore, the commander of our Special Operations Task Group. As the Prime Minister has indicated, our objective in Afghanistan is to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. As the transition process affirmed in Lisbon and in Chicago makes clear, we will not be in Afghanistan forever, but we do want to ensure that the Afghan National Security Forces are in a position to accept responsibility for security.

Sergeant Diddams was a devoted family man and a dedicated professional soldier. He was a dedicated member of the SAS and very, very highly regarded by the SAS family and the broader Army. Our condolences are with his wife, Toni-Ann; his children, Elle-Lou and Henry; his parents, Peter and Cate; his wider family; his friends; and his mates. Lest we forget.