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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 784

Mr FRYDENBERG (4:11 PM) —On indulgence: I rise to support the motion acknowledging the awarding of the Victoria Cross for Australia to Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG. In doing so, this is one of the bright moments in a difficult conflict, a fact brought home to us with the tragic death of 21-year-old Sapper Jamie Larcombe, who died in Afghanistan only days ago.

The Victoria Cross is Australia’s highest military honour and its conferral on Corporal Roberts-Smith is a significant occasion for our country, for our military and for Corporal Roberts-Smith and his family. His act of courage in Afghanistan on 11 June 2010 is officially cited as follows:

His act of valour enabled his patrol to break into the enemy position and lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machinegun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts-Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. The decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Wali Kot District to retreat from the area.

In the words of the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston:

 … we are honoured to call him one of our own … He placed his mates’ lives above his own.

These words reflect the feelings of all Australians.

This is not the first time this 32-year-old Western Australian has displayed remarkable acts of heroism while wearing the uniform. In 2006 he was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his brave actions as a patrol scout and sniper in Afghanistan. In receiving the Victoria Cross, Corporal Roberts-Smith becomes the 98th Australian recipient, the first from Western Australia since 1945, and the third still living. He follows in the great tradition of Australian soldiers going back to the 19th century who received this honour.

The conflicts in which Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross include: six in the Boer War; 64 in the War I, of which nine were for Australians at Gallipoli; two in north Russia; 20 in World War II; and four in Vietnam. Prior to Corporal Roberts-Smith, the most recent recipient was Trooper Mark Donaldson, whose brave deeds to save an Afghan interpreter were recognised in 2009. To Corporal Roberts-Smith, his wife, Emma, and his twin baby girls, Eve and Elizabeth: you have the thanks of a grateful nation.