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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10478

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (10:39): I too, sadly, rise to speak about the recent tragic loss of life in Afghanistan. It was referred to in the media by the defence minister, the CDF and the Prime Minister as our darkest day since Vietnam. Lance Corporal Milosevic, Sapper James Thomas Martin and Private Robert Poate were three Australian soldiers born in very different parts of Australia—in Penrith, in Perth and in Canberra. They were soldiers at different stages of their military careers and of their own lives. Two of them were young men on their first deployment while the other was an older father of two making his second deployment overseas.

On such occasions, it is hard to know what are the correct words to use for such a speech. I do not know what the right words are but I do know on such occasions saying nothing is obviously the wrong thing to do. So I am particularly keen to say something to commemorate these three soldiers, particularly as a Queenslander, since they were based in Queensland. I am not sure who my audience is, whether it is the families and friends of Lance Corporal Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Pate listening now or whether it will be Sarah and Kate Milosevic perhaps listening in 20 years time or reading in 20 years time the words said about their father.

Obviously, it is an important time to be speaking. We recently celebrated the 11th anniversary of the September 11 tragedy in the United States and we are coming up to the 10-year anniversary of the Bali bombings. We do know that our soldiers, our sailors and our airmen put themselves in harm's way so that Australians can sleep safer in their beds at night. I know occasionally when there are deaths overseas of our soldiers, sailors and airmen that some people will ask questions about the validity of such campaigns. I was in Pakistan only two weeks ago—we did not go to Afghanistan because of the danger over there. When people talk about how we should not be in such campaigns, I do know that we need our soldiers, sailors and airmen to be there because, as we saw after the Bali bombing, such terror can be exported around the world and can be right on our doorstep or even inside our house perhaps.

Lance Corporal Milosevic, known as Rick to his family and Milo to his comrades, was deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment Task Group, and was from the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, Queensland Mounted Infantry, based in Brisbane, Queensland, at Enoggera. This was formerly called the West Moreton Regiment, which was around in the 1800s. When the Commonwealth was formed and we were at war immediately in South Africa, the regiment gained battle honours and again in World War I, World War II and beyond. I note that link with the West Moreton Regiment as the member for Moreton.

Lance Corporal Milosevic was born in Penrith, New South Wales, in 1972. He enlisted in the Army in 2008 as a 36-year-old. He had a long and interesting career before then but it says something about the ticker of the man who, as a 36-year-old, went through Kapooka, where they would have done him no favours whatsoever because of his age. So he must have had a fair bit of ticker to want to join up as a 36-year-old. Even though for me 36 seems quite young I am sure he would have been surrounded by 18- and 19-year-olds who would have been keen to show up the older figure. Since he came through with flying colours, I think he must have had real ticker as a man. He was posted as a cavalryman to the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, Queensland Mounted Infantry, in Brisbane in 2009 on completion of his basic training and initial deployment training. His potential was quickly identified and he achieved outstanding course results in a short period of time, being promoted to Lance Corporal in 2011 and becoming a light armoured vehicle crew commander. Lance Corporal Milosevic was a highly qualified soldier with a strong future. He was a much liked and respected member of the regiment—a typical Aussie bloke, friendly, funny and very down to earth. I understand his leadership and professional abilities stood out in the unit and also on operations.

I also note that he was very successful on the rugby field. I should stress I do not know Lance Corporal Milosevic and I would hate to be defaming him but I have assumed, from looking at his photos, that he played in the forwards. I say this as a hooker. I would hate to find out that he was actually in the backs. He looked like one of those people who do all the hard work on the rugby field in the forwards. I have met some decent people who have played in the backs but, obviously, I do not ever fully trust them!

Lance Corporal Milosevic has been awarded the following honours and awards: the Australian Active Service Medal with Clasps IRAQ 2003 and ICAT, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, the NATO Non Article 5 Medal with Clasp ISAF, the Army Combat Badge and the Return from Active Service Badge. I understand he was also a very devoted family man, and his family must have understood his desire to join the military at a mature age. So to Lance Corporal Milosevic's wife, Kelly, his daughters, Sarah and Kate, his mother, Heather, his brother, Milan, and sister, Danica, and all of his friends and family I express my deepest condolences during this time of loss.

Sapper James Thomas Martin was on his first operational deployment as part of 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Task Group. He was a sapper from the Brisbane based 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment. I know Enoggera Army barracks well. I worked next door to them for six years. I hope that during the time he spent in Brisbane he enjoyed our wonderful Queensland weather and the food and the good times available there. I hope he had some great times while he was based in Queensland. He was born in Perth, Western Australia in 1991, barely 21 years ago. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army on 24 January 2011 and completed his recruit training at the 1st Recruit Training Battalion in Wagga Wagga in April 2011, where he was allocated to the Corps of Royal Australian Engineers. In May 2011, Sapper Martin attended the School of Military Engineering in Sydney and began his Initial Employment Training as a combat engineer. On completion of his combat engineer course in August 2011, he was posted to the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment in Brisbane. On his arrival at the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, Sapper Martin became a member of the 7th Combat Engineer Squadron. He completed a number of additional courses including Combat Engineer High Threat Search, Communications and Weapon courses. Along with the rest of his squadron, Sapper Martin's force was concentrated in Townsville with 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in early 2012, in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan. Sapper Martin was an intellectual soldier who was a quick learner and adapted well to the Army environment. This was a man dedicated to serving his country. Even when his mates were thinking of withdrawing from training, he said, 'I won't give up this opportunity for anything,' and he did not.

He was respected by his mates and was considered a loyal friend and comrade. A musically talented individual, he often played his bass guitar for his mates. For anyone that knows the music industry, and I say this as a former bass player, the bass player is just the guy that works in the background with not all the flair of an elite singer—leaving aside Paul McCartney or Sting or Steve Kolbe, from The Church, or even Mark King from Level 42, all those lead singer bass players—so normally the bass player does the hard work although not like a drummer, which is a different sort of person altogether. The bass player does the solid work and keeps the music bumping along. So I am glad to hear that he played his bass for his mates. Like many Western Australians, he was also a follower of Aussie Rules. Sapper Martin has been awarded the following honours and awards: the Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp ICAT, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, the NATO Non Article 5 Medal with Clasp ISAF, and the Army Combat Badge. He is survived by his mother, Suzanne Thomas, his younger brother and sister Angus and Holly, and his grandparents Lucille and Ralph Thomas. We will never take his sacrifice and his comrades' sacrifice for granted and we will never allow ourselves to forget what people like Sapper Martin have done for our nation.

I now move on to Private Robert Poate, who was a member of the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Task Group and was also from 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment based in Brisbane, Queensland, at Enoggera. Private Poate was born in Canberra, in 1988, the bicentennial year. He enlisted in the Army in 2009. On completion of his basic and initial employment training, he was posted as a rifleman to 6RAR. Private Poate was a highly qualified soldier, having completed specialist training as a protected mobility vehicle driver in 2010 and protected mobility vehicle commander in 2011. Knowing that he was going to Afghanistan, they would have been important skills to have.

Private Poate was known for having outstanding leadership potential, which led to him completing a promotion course for corporal in 2011. He will be fondly remembered by his brothers by choice in 6RAR as a larrikin and an incredibly professional soldier—that mix that we often hear about Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen. Private Poate had a reputation for creating mischief without getting caught—such a very Australian tradition. He was very proud of his family; he was proud of his military service; and he was also proud of his Canberra origins, as so many people from the ACT are. He was known for his ranga hair, which he so often defended as being strawberry blonde. While I am not so sure that our Prime Minister Gillard would ever try to defend her hair as being strawberry blonde, apparently that is what Private Poate did, and all power to him.

Private Poate was awarded the following honours and awards: Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp ICAT, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Australian Defence Medal, NATO Non Article 5 Medal with Clasp ISAF, and the Infantry Combat Badge. Private Poate is survived by his parents, Hugh and Janny, and his sister Nicola. To you, your friends, your extended family, the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry), the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, and the 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, may I express my deepest sympathies on behalf of myself and all the people of Moreton that I represent. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Unfortunately there is nothing new about war, but in Australia we are fortunate that most of the wars have been fought far from our shores, World War II aside. However, it is such events as these that have occurred in Afghanistan that remind us and bring home the horrors and tragedies of war and the importance of our armed forces. The 11th anniversary of September 11 is a poignant reminder of the daily challenges that Australian soldiers face in their hard but necessary work on behalf of all Australians.

I know that the words of a politician who has not met these three brave soldiers would be only small comfort, but, as I said, not saying anything would not be appropriate. On such occasions there are more skilful wordsmiths than me, so I turn to the words of a poet. I turn to the words of Paul Kelly, one of Australia's greatest singer-songwriters. I was going to quote from one of his songs called No you, which might be appropriate. The final verse says:

I do not lack good companions

To pick a man up when he's down

We go to the track on Saturdays

Spread our money 'round

I go up and down

And every single sound says

No you! No you! No you! No you!

No you, no you, no you!

But it was not as hopeful as I would like it to have been, so I turn instead to a poem by Paul Kelly that might offer some comfort. It is called Smoke under the bridgeand it is about companionship. It says:

All day long I've been walking

And mostly to myself I've been talking

The lonesome night is too quickly falling

In this unfriendly town

It's cold when the sun goes down

So I'll head for the river and look for smoke under the bridge

I'll keep on moving 'til I find smoke under the bridge

A little shelter, a friendly fire under the bridge

Once I had a place I could call my own

Now wherever I lay my head is home

Ran into some trouble back on down the road

They didn't like the look of me

Someone took a hook at me

I'll keep my eyes open for smoke under the bridge

Keep on hoping for smoke under the bridge

A warm fire, some company under the bridge

I'll keep on looking for smoke under the bridge

Keep on walking to smoke under the bridge

A little shelter, a friendly fire, some company under the bridge

I'll keep walking

Regarding the three soldiers we are commemorating today, Milosevic, Martin and Poate, I say lest we forget.