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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 1066

Mr McCORMACK (8:32 PM) —‘He was just a lovely boy and very well known and liked around here. He was the kind of boy you’d wish your daughter brought home with her.’ They are words spoken about a departed friend from someone—a Kangaroo Island local—who was lucky enough to know him better than most; words spoken about an everyday, fun-loving Aussie bloke; words spoken about our latest, our 23rd, digger killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

As the member for Riverina, whose home of Wagga Wagga is also home to the Army Recruit Training Centre at Kapooka—the home of the Australian soldier—the death of soldier Jamie Ronald Larcombe is especially sad. It is especially sad because I know how strongly this will be felt at Kapooka; especially sad because this is another young life lost. Sapper Larcombe was just 21 years old.

Many of the war monuments which dot the Australian countryside, in every city and town large enough to support even a handful of volunteers who answered our country’s call in its greatest hour of need, have a solemn message chiselled on them. They are the words of St John: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ What powerful words. What an appropriate epitaph for Sapper Larcombe, who has made the supreme sacrifice. He leaves behind grieving parents, three sisters who thought the world of him and a girlfriend whose happy face, pressed close to Jamie’s in a beautiful recent picture which featured in yesterday’s media accompanying the tragic news, really reinforced what a terrible loss the nation in general and his own close-knit community in particular have suffered.

The ANZAC spirit burns brightly in the hearts and minds of all who proudly wear an Australian military uniform. We must stay the course in Afghanistan. Australia’s oldest surviving Victoria Cross recipient, Vietnam hero Keith Payne, has warned that it would be a mistake for Australia and its allies to set a specific exit date from the conflict. It would, he argued, encourage the Taliban to hide in the mountains and emerge when our troops departed. The sacrifice of Sapper Larcombe and his 22 brave comrades must not be in vain. We must now, more than ever before, ensure that terrorism and oppression do not win out against those who seek peace, the price of which is eternal vigilance.

We give thanks to Sapper Larcombe, to his three engineer mates who have also lost their lives and to the other diggers who have returned to our shores not in the way they ever should have had to, but as fallen heroes having fought the good fight, having kept the faith—the faith of their family and friends, of a nation and of the ageless ANZAC legend. May it always endure. May Sapper Larcombe rest in peace. Lest we forget.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms K Livermore)—I understand it is the wish of honourable members to signify their respect and sympathy by rising in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I thank honourable members.