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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7831

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) (2:01 PM) —Mr Speaker, on indulgence: I will make a statement regarding the location of the remains of the last two members of the Australian Defence Force missing from the Vietnam conflict, Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver.

On 3 November 1970, Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver disappeared following a bombing mission in Vietnam. They were returning to base when their No. 2 Squadron (RAAF) Canberra bomber was lost without trace approximately 65 miles south-west of Da Nang. Thirty-nine years later, thanks to the dedicated and selfless work of many Australians, their remains have now been recovered. Finally, they will come home and be laid to rest with honour and with dignity.

This will bring an end to a very long period of uncertainty for the family, friends and loved ones of these two men, who lost their lives in the service of their country. I would like to thank all those people who have worked to locate their remains. In particular, I would like to thank the Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Army History Unit, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and Jim Burke and Operation Aussies Home, whose commitment to bringing home our missing in Vietnam has been unwavering.

I would also like to put on record the Australian government’s gratitude to the Vietnamese government and many local Vietnamese people, whose assistance and support during the search and recovery of our missing airmen has been exceptional. Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver’s return follows the recovery in recent times of the remains of four other soldiers who were lost in Vietnam: Private David Fisher, Lance Corporal Richard Parker, Private Peter Gillson and Lance Corporal John Gillespie.

Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver lost their lives in the service of their country. Many years have passed since that day in November 1970 when they went missing. But the passage of time does not diminish our great respect for their bravery and their dedication, and their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

It is now 37 years since Australia’s 10-year involvement in the Vietnam War ended, and it is 22 years since the streets of Sydney were filled with the national reunion and welcome home parade for our Vietnam veterans. With the return of these two men, we will be bringing home the last two missing Australian personnel from Vietnam. At this significant time we honour the service of all 60,000 Australians who served in the Vietnam War and remember the sacrifice of the 500 troops who lost their lives in that conflict.

On behalf of the government and the House, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families of Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver. With their homecoming later this month, there will no doubt be much sadness, yet sadness mingled with some measure of comfort for those who have waited so long for their return to Australia’s shores.