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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 1

Mr TURNBULL (Leader of the Opposition) (2:04 PM) —I join with the Prime Minister in offering the condolences of the opposition and the nation for the death of Private Greg Sher. Whatever the challenges in our world today, it is important to remember that we owe our greatest debt to those who give their lives in the defence of freedom. On the evening of Sunday, 4 January, in southern Afghanistan, Private Greg Sher died in the service of our nation. He was 30 years of age. He was born and raised in South Africa; he died a proud Australian, wearing our uniform and serving under our flag. He was killed during a rocket attack in Oruzgan province, and at the time of the attack he was serving in a special operations task group. He was a member of Sydney’s first commando regiment but he trained with and was a member of Victoria’s second commando company. He was, as the Prime Minister said, the eighth Australian Defence Force member to die in Afghanistan since 2002. He was the first reservist.

Private Sher leaves behind a large and loving family, including his parents, Felix and Yvonne, his two brothers, Steven and Barry, and his loving partner, Karen Goldschlager. He was so much admired by his family, his friends, his comrades in arms and the whole community. He was so admired for his determination and his courage. He was, as one of his friends said, a man of purpose and committed determination, the sort of mate who would do anything for anyone and whose friends knew him for the loyal and loving family member who always put his family high on his list of priorities.

Private Sher was a volunteer for the Australian Army Reserve in 1998. He served in East Timor. He was determined to become a commando in special operations, and his fellow soldiers have spoken of the determination he brought to that task. Out in the rugged hills outside Melbourne, early on the coldest and wettest of mornings, he was running up and down steep fire trails carrying enormous weights in the pack on his back—all readying himself to win that green beret, which he won in 2004.

He made all of these commitments unreservedly and with passion. He was well read, he was articulate, he was keenly engaged in the great issues facing the world and, like one of the greatest of Australia’s soldiers, Sir John Monash, Greg Sher’s Jewish faith was also profoundly important to him. The Prime Minister and I joined many other Australians at the ceremony at the interment at the Chevra Kadisha cemetery in Melbourne. The deep bonds of emotion and admiration that were felt for Private Sher by all of his friends, his family and the men and women with whom he served were clear.

In Afghanistan, our soldiers are doing the most difficult work in the most dangerous conditions. They are truly in the front line in the battle against terror. In that role, they continue the Anzac tradition of Australians being in the front rank of the global struggle to defend the values of liberty and democracy on which our nation was founded. They are doing a great job—and a vital one, but it is very dangerous work. That is why the thoughts and prayers of all Australians should be with them always. Today we honour the service and the sacrifice of a true Anzac, Private Greg Sher. Our prayers are with his family and today this parliament extends the nation’s gratitude.

The SPEAKER —Order! As a mark of respect, I invite honourable members to rise in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

The SPEAKER —I thank the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Albanese) adjourned.