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Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Page: 37


Mr STEPHEN SMITH (Minister for Defence) (6:07 PM) —It is a sad honour to speak on this condolence motion. It is an honour as Minister for Defence to commend the service of five brave young Australians serving in Afghanistan but it is a sad one as we are tragically reminded that these men are sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. They were also the great mates of men and women in the Australian Defence Force, in particular those who were in Afghanistan facing the same risks as these five Australians. I met with some of them last week while visiting Australian personnel working as part of the International Security Assistance Force—ISAF—in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan last week, I was particularly pleased to again hear that Australian personnel are highly valued and respected for their effectiveness and their conduct, including their interaction at the local community level as they continue to work not just in Australia’s national interest but in the international community’s interest as they seek to stare down on our behalf international terrorism.

The families of Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney can be proud in knowing that their boys were highly regarded colleagues and very effective soldiers. This condolence motion will remind them of their great and tragic loss but it is also an opportunity for this parliament and our nation to commemorate their service to our country. While their families will remember these men for more and very personal reasons, we will remember them as brave young Australians who served our country and served it well.

Mr Speaker, I make some remarks about the five. On 9 July 2010 Private Nathan Bewes was tragically killed by an improvised explosive device while part of a dismounted patrol in the Chora Valley region in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan. He was 23 years old. Born in Kogarah, New South Wales, in 1986, Private Bewes joined the Army in 2005. He was qualified in direct fire support weapons, combat first aid and as a driver of the protected mobility vehicle. Private Bewes completed a deployment to East Timor in 2006 and was on his second deployment with the First Mentoring Task Force in Afghanistan at the time of his death. His father stated:

The army was his life-long passion. It was all he wanted to do.

On 13 August 2010, Trooper Jason Brown died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds sustained during an engagement with Taliban insurgents in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. He was 29 years old. Born in Sydney, Trooper Brown joined the Army in 2000. Trooper Brown completed deployments in East Timor in 2001, 2003 and 2006. He was deployed in June of this year for the first time to Afghanistan as a member of the Special Operations Task Group. Trooper Brown was an outstanding career soldier. His father stated that he was ‘born to be a soldier.’

Private Thomas Dale was serving in the First Mentoring Task Force when he was killed in action as a result of the explosion of an improvised explosive device on Friday, 20 August this year. He was 21 years old. Private Dale was born in Lancashire in the United Kingdom in 1989. He immigrated to Australia with his family in 2003 and lived in Adelaide. He joined the Army in 2007. After successfully completing his recruit and infantry basic training, he was posted to the 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. This was Private Dale’s first operational deployment. Private Dale was an outstanding soldier. His family stated:

Tomas loved the Army and it was all he wanted to do from an early age. He knew the risks from going overseas but he was willing to take that risk for the cause he believed in.

Private Grant Kirby was serving with the First Mentoring Task Force when he was tragically killed in action as a result of the explosion of an improvised explosive device on Friday, 20 August of this year. He was 35 years old. Private Kirby was born in Nambour, Queensland, in 1975. He joined the Army in 2006. This was Private Kirby’s first deployment to Afghanistan. It was, however, his second deployment to the Middle East. He had previously deployed to Iraq and also to East Timor. Private Kirby was an outstanding career soldier. His father said that his son always had been keen to be in the Army—and I quote his father:

In fact after suffering shin splints in his first attempt to join, he stuck with it and successfully tried again.

Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. On 24 August this year, Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was tragically killed. He was conducting a dismounted patrol in the Tangi Valley area of Deh Rawud when fired on by a number of insurgents. He was aged 28. Lance Corporal MacKinney was born in Canberra in 1982. He joined the Army in 2002 and, in the same year, successfully completed his recruit training. He was qualified as a commander and driver of the protected mobility vehicle, an Assault Pioneer and a sniper. This was his third deployment to the Middle East and his second to Afghanistan. His mother said:

He was patriotic. He was a dedicated soldier who was realistic about the risks.

These five men had much in common. They were all men of honour. They all served their nation with distinction and courage. They were all cherished by those they loved. And they will always have the gratitude of this parliament and our nation.