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Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Page: 793


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) (12:30 PM) —by leave—I move:-

That the Senate record its deep sorrow at the death, on 19 February 2011, of Sapper Jamie Ronald Larcombe while on combat operations in Afghanistan, places on record its appreciation of his service to our country and tenders its profound sympathy to his family and friends in their bereavement.

Jamie Ronald Larcombe was born in 1989 in Kingscote, South Australia. He attended Parndana Area School, played football for Western Districts and was a local fire brigade volunteer. His life ambition was to serve his country. In 2008 he joined the Australian Army. Having successfully completed his recruit and combat engineer basic training in that year, he was posted to the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment based in Darwin. In 2009, Sapper Larcombe was deployed to Indonesia as part of the humanitarian Operation Padang Assist. In October last year he was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Slipper.

On 19 February this year, while serving as a combat engineer with Mentoring Task Force 2, Sapper Larcombe was killed in action during an engagement with insurgents in the Mirabad Valley region of Oruzgan province. He was mortally wounded when his patrol was subject to a coordinated attack, which employed both machine gun and small-arms fire. Sapper Larcombe had just marked his third anniversary of Army life.

The commanding officer of Mentoring Task Force 2, Lieutenant Colonel Darren Huxley, says Jamie Larcombe was ‘a trusted sapper’, a ‘comrade in arms’ and a ‘mate’. During a service for Sapper Larcombe at Multinational Base Tarin Kowt, Lieutenant Colonel Huxley paid tribute in these terms:

Mateship is what defines the best in an Aussie Digger and Jamie was amongst our best. Jamie was a volunteer for his country, as we all here are. He knew the risks of his chosen profession and he accepted them. He shared the danger and austerity, but mostly, I am sure, he was driven by his desire to protect and support his mates. Jamie Larcombe is now part of our nation’s history and his name will echo in Anzac Day toasts long after all of us have gone.

At the conclusion of the memorial service, more than 2,000 soldiers from six nations stood side by side to pay their final respects to Sapper Larcombe. It was a fitting tribute to a fine Australian.

Sapper Larcombe was loved by his family and respected by his peers. He died doing what he wanted to do: serving his country as a combat engineer in the Australian Army. Sapper Larcombe’s life ambition was to serve and he will forever be remembered for his service. The pain of his loss will not be lessened by any words we speak in this chamber today, but we do want to acknowledge his contribution and sacrifice, and pay our respect. I hope his partner, his parents and his sisters take some comfort from the esteem in which his memory is held and will forever be held.

I also acknowledge that an Afghan national, who was engaged as an interpreter, died in the same insurgent attack that killed Sapper Larcombe. Those interpreters and other support personnel are vital to our operations and to our troops. We offer our condolences to his family and regret his death enormously.

Unfortunately, this parliament on too many occasions in recent times has had to acknowledge the passing of an Australian solder. Sapper Larcombe is the 23rd Australian solider and the fifth Australian combat engineer to die in Afghanistan. Combat engineers are soldiers who build bridges and roads, clear landmines, and locate and disarm roadside bombs. They have paid a high price for their service in this conflict.

Three weeks ago, the Senate extended its condolences on the death of Corporal Richard Atkinson. Corporal Atkinson was a member of the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, also killed in action in Afghanistan. I extend my condolences to members of the regiment as they carry on with their dangerous mission in Afghanistan. I thank all our serving men and women in Afghanistan for the work they are doing in our name.

The government acknowledges that Australia’s participation in the International Security Assistance Force effort in Afghanistan has extracted a significant toll. The loss of life and the trauma of injury associated with this conflict is a lasting reminder of the dangers our Defence Force personnel confront each day. All of us in the parliament acknowledge the great responsibility we have when we support the commitment of Australian troops overseas and we certainly take that responsibility very seriously, and feel very much the loss or injury of Australian personnel. I know that a couple of senators have sons serving in the defence forces. Like all parents of those serving, I know they worry for them. Obviously the family of those soldiers who died pay a terrible price as well and our thoughts are with them. I want to acknowledge that we recognise not only their suffering but also the contribution that their children have made to the defence of Australia and its national interests.

I am sure I have the support of all the Senate when I say on behalf of the government and the nation that we convey our deepest condolences to those who knew and loved Sapper Larcombe.