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Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Page: 13

Senator CONROY (Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate) (1:32 PM) —I move:

That the Senate records the occasion of national significance in the awarding of the Victoria Cross to Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG, on 23 January 2011.

The Victoria Cross for Australia is awarded to those who ‘in the presence of the enemy display the most conspicuous gallantry; a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice; or extreme devotion to duty’. On Sunday 23 January 2011 the Governor-General, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, invested Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, of the Special Air Service Regiment, with the Victoria Cross at Campbell Barracks in Western Australia.

Corporal Roberts-Smith’s citation award reads:

For the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril as Patrol Second-in-Command, Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.

On 11 June 2010, Corporal Roberts-Smith demonstrated extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry in action in the face of a very determined and aggressive enemy. With total disregard for his own safety, Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith initiated an assault against an elevated fortification consisting of three enemy machine gun positions and superior numbers of heavily armed insurgents. With members of his patrol pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he knowingly and willingly exposed his position in order to draw fire away from his team mates and enabled them to apply fire against the enemy. Fighting at ranges as close as 20 metres, he seized the advantage and, demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry and with total disregard for his own safety, Corporal Roberts-Smith stormed two enemy machine gun positions, killing both machine gun teams. His selfless actions in circumstances of great peril served to enable his patrol to break into the enemy’s defences and to regain the initiative, thereby resulting in a tactical victory against an enemy more than three times the size of the ground force.

Corporal Roberts-Smith enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 1996 and completed the Australian Special Air Service Regiment selection course in 2003. As a member of the regiment, he has been deployed on Operations Valiant, Slate, Slipper, Catalyst and Slipper II. In 2006, Corporal Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions in Afghanistan.

The VC for Australia was established in 1991 and has been awarded on only one previous occasion—to then Trooper Mark Donaldson in January 2009. Corporal Roberts-Smith is the 98th Australian VC recipient and joins Corporal Donaldson VC and Warrant Officer Class II Keith Payne VC OAM as the only living Australian recipients of the VC. This is august company indeed.

Earlier today the Senate mourned the loss of Corporal Richard Atkinson, the 22nd member of the Australian Defence Force to lose their life in Afghanistan in service to their nation. The danger that our forces confront every day in Afghanistan cannot be underestimated. Through his actions, Corporal Roberts-Smith has brought great honour upon himself, his family, the Australian Defence Force and our nation. On behalf of the government, I extend to him warm congratulations and the thanks of a grateful nation for his continuing service.