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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6206

Mr HAYES (5:25 PM) —It is with sorrow that I rise today to support the condolence motion moved by the Prime Minister concerning Sapper Darren Smith and Sapper Jacob Moerland. They were both members of the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, based in Brisbane. I and my colleagues on all sides of the parliament and, indeed, the nation are mourning the loss of these two brave soldiers.

I start by extending my deepest sympathies and condolences to both men’s families, their friends, their colleagues and their brothers in arms. Our prayers and thoughts are with them all at this dreadful time. Sadly, the opportunity to speak on this particular condolence motion comes only a day after another three Australian soldiers tragically lost their lives in Afghanistan and seven other servicemen were wounded, two of them very seriously. They were members of the Australian Special Forces contingent, which is based just outside my electorate at Holsworthy. This tragedy brings it very close to home for people in Western Sydney. Once again, I offer my thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those who are only just now coming to terms with the loss of their loved ones so far away. I extend my best wishes to those who are injured and pray for their speedy recovery.

The attack on 2 June killed Sapper Smith and Sapper Moerland. Sapper Darren Smith was a dog handler and his dog, Herbie, was also killed. Dogs do an amazing job. Those of us who have had the opportunity to see them work in the military can attest to that. We all know the bond between us humans and our animals. However, I cannot imagine how close the bond would have been between a dog as specifically trained as Herbie and his handler, Darren Smith. It would have been very close. Again, this just adds to the tragedy.

These are very much tragic times for Australia and for the Australian Defence Force. These deaths take to 16 the number of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002. All these men paid the ultimate sacrifice. These deaths are a sobering reminder of just how difficult and perilous each day in Afghanistan is. Whilst their deaths come at a time when there is public questioning of our involvement in Afghanistan, it is important to remind ourselves just what our role is in that country. Our mission is necessary and vitally important. We know that we are up against a determined and dangerous enemy. You have only to watch the TV to see that firsthand. Each day our soldiers are working diligently alongside the United States and other allied NATO countries to ensure that Afghanistan does not return to being a breeding ground for terrorists, who we know are capable of striking anywhere in the world and at any time. Sadly, this includes Australians both at home and abroad. We are not free from this horror. More than 100 Australians have already lost their lives to terrorists in the last decade.

In question time today the Prime Minister reaffirmed our military position in Afghanistan. He said that that it was in our nation’s interest to stay on course despite the consequences we are currently facing. As difficult as it may seem during these horrific times, we must be firm and we must complete the mission we have set ourselves in partnership with our allies. I take this opportunity to reiterate the Prime Minister’s comments and those of the Minister for Defence about the outstanding work that our many fine men and women in the ADF are doing on our behalf. To them I say: I, along with the community that I represent in south-west Sydney, recognise and appreciate the tremendous work you do on our behalf. Your job comes with a degree of risk that, thankfully, most of us will never, ever have to face. I know it takes a special kind of person and a special kind of courage to wear the uniform of the ADF. All Australians are truly indebted to the service and dedication of these young men and women.

We mourn the loss of these soldiers. On behalf of my colleagues, my family and my community, I would like to once more offer my sincere gratitude to them for their service and for the commitment they showed on behalf of our nation. My thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of those who have given their lives for our security. May they rest in peace.