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Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Page: 35

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) (5:57 PM) —I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the deaths of Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney while on combat operations in Afghanistan and places on record its appreciation of their service to our country and tenders its profound sympathy to their families and friends in their bereavement.

On behalf of the whole House I extend heartfelt sympathy to Private Nathan Bewes’s parents Gary and Kay, his sister Stephanie, and his partner Alice Walsh; to Trooper Jason Brown’s parents Graham and Ann and his sister Stephanie; to Private Tomas Dale’s parents Karen and David and his brothers Samuel and Joe; to Private Grant Kirby’s parents Jo-anne, Gary and Dianne, his sister Lauren, his brothers Luke and Shaun, his former partner Edwina and his two daughters Isabella and Madeleine; and to Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney’s wife Beckie, his daughter Annabell and his son Noah, his parents Terry, Jane and Ian and his siblings Caleb, Jordan, Meg and Charlotte.

I also want to express my deepest sympathy to the extended family and friends of these five brave men, including the members of their respective units, whose service in Afghanistan has been so distinguished. Our thoughts are with them as they come to terms with the loss of their mates.

As all members know, these five fine men have already been brought home and laid to rest, but it is important that we the people’s representatives remember their sacrifice here in the heart of our nation’s democracy. We must always be grateful, because a nation that allows itself to forget is not worthy of the legacy they have left to us. But we will not forget. We will remember these five men who came from different suburbs and towns, attended different schools and held different beliefs but who came together in the fellowship of our Defence Force, united by a single ideal: to serve our nation in the noble profession of arms. They did so willingly, because every member of the Australian Defence Force is a volunteer. They deliberately chose a life of hardship and danger, and there can be no greater sacrifice than that which is freely made for others.

I know that not every Australian, or indeed every member of this parliament, accepts the wisdom of our presence in Afghanistan. That is why we will have an open and intelligent debate on the subject, worthy of a free and sovereign parliament. In that debate the government will steadfastly defend its policy that Afghanistan is a necessary engagement directly linked to Australia’s security needs. We will restate our position that no Australian soldier will stay in Afghanistan a day longer than is necessary to do the job. That is, of course, a debate for another time.

Today we honour the courage of these men and their 16 colleagues who made the supreme sacrifice before them. We reaffirm that every soldier who serves at the behest of an elected government goes with the guarantee that they will be sustained in the field and also when they return. That is especially so for those who are wounded or traumatised—to them we owe unstinting support. We owe also a special duty to the bereaved, because the five men we honour today have all left parents, siblings and friends, along with two widows and four fatherless children who will be embraced by a lifetime of care and support. Above all, we owe a debt of honour to those who gave their best years and the full measure of their future hopes for our sake. Grant Kirby was 35; Jason Brown and Jared MacKinney were 29 and 28; Nathan Bewes, 23; and Tomas Dale, 21. Soon their names will be inscribed at the Australian War Memorial, joining them forever to the ranks of the Anzac legend, where they belong. Over the century to come I am certain that no year will pass without a comrade or loved one coming to Canberra and placing a poppy next to their names on the Roll of Honour, because the truth is that, as Australians, we do not forget. We remember our own. We remember their courage and their sacrifice and their very clear sense that in this world there are things worth fighting for and things worth dying for. A country that can count such men amongst its people is a very fortunate nation indeed.

Today we recall these fine men as they were a few short weeks ago: fit and strong, highly trained, much loved by their families and so very proud of serving in the Anzac tradition. They left as soldiers and we welcomed them back as heroes: home for good, at peace forever and remembered always. I commend the motion to the House.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!