Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8829

Mr FITZGIBBON (HunterChief Government Whip) (11:26): I join with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Defence, indeed, the member for Pearce and all those who have made or will make a contribution to this condolence motion in extending my sympathies and condolences to the family of Sergeant Blaine Flower Diddams. We have now lost 34 Australians in Afghanistan—one serving with the UK forces, who gave his life in the period when I was defence minister—and it is 34 too many. We are, and will be, forever grateful for what Sergeant Diddams and those who fell before him have done in our uniform, in the name and in the interests of our country.

I still remain a firm believer in the Afghanistan mission. We are there for the right reasons and we are making real progress. The mission is not without its critics and, given the history of Afghanistan, the complexity of the campaign and the difficult challenges of the campaign, we are making a real difference. We are making a real difference on the security front, the governance front, building capacity in the justice system, building a police force as well as an Afghan National Army. We continue to build schools, bridges, roads, hospitals and things that make living in Afghanistan better and we are, of course, building a democracy, generally speaking, in that country. The work is far from complete. It will be a long time before we can claim that what we set out to achieve in Afghanistan is complete, but what is complete is the initial mission to ensure that Afghanistan no longer provides a safe haven and training ground for terrorists to perpetrate their acts of terror around the globe on all people living in our community of nations including, of course, Australians.

Sergeant Diddams, like every member of the ADF I have met, was obviously a committed person, obviously a very courageous person. As a member of the Special Operations Task Force, he was highly trained and very, very capable, a soldier with a lot of experience in the ADF and a person who had effectively given his life—not just literally but before the loss of his life—to the Australian Defence Force. We need to be very sure in this place that the life of Sergeant Diddams and those who have fallen before him have not been given in vain. We owe it to them and their families to continue the mission, to see the mission through and to complete all the objectives we set down for ourselves, not just when we first went into Afghanistan but those broader ambitions like capacity building that we embraced some time thereafter.

Again, my condolences go Blaine's widow, Toni-Ann; his daughter, Elle-Lou; his son, Henry; his parents, Peter and Cate; his siblings, Christian, Luke, Nikki and Sian; and all those who served closely with Sergeant Diddams throughout the course of his time serving the Australian Defence Force. We in this country owe him a great debt and today, in this place, we bestow upon him a great honour and say, 'Thank you, Sergeant Diddams, for your service.'