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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 969

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (10:54): It was an honour and a privilege yesterday to lay a wreath and say some words at a National Servicemen's Day service in my electorate. Australia owes a debt of gratitude to our Nashos. It is fitting that this commemoration was held beside the National Servicemen's Memorial in the Victory Memorial Gardens in the tri-service city of Wagga Wagga. No other regional city in Australia has a military heritage that comes even close to that of Wagga Wagga. It is the home of the soldier, with Blamey Barracks at Kapooka. It has wonderful Air Force and Navy bases at Forest Hill. Wagga Wagga is also home to many, many Nashos—proud servicemen who answered their country's call, did their duty and played their part. Between 1952 and 1972, a total of 287,000 young Australian men were called up in two separate schemes for compulsory training in the Air Force, Army and Navy. National service was a vital part of Australia's defence preparedness for three decades. Sadly, 187 Nashos paid the ultimate price for their service and 1,479 of them were wounded on active duty in Vietnam, Malaya and Borneo. Nashos killed in action gave their tomorrows for our todays. The price of peace is a heavy debt for our country to pay and many Australians, including many Nashos, have laid down their lives so that we can now enjoy the freedoms we have.

The pursuit of peace is, however, an ongoing struggle and I need not remind anyone just how deadly and difficult today's military deployments are for our brave serving men and women. Australia has lost 32 of its best, bravest and brightest in Afghanistan, 28 of them falling last year.

In my address yesterday, I acknowledged the presence of the hierarchy of the three local bases and, on behalf of those present, I thanked them and the hardworking and diligent service men and women they command. Our military personnel do us proud each and every day. As we reflect on the fact that the price of peace is eternal vigilance, we recall just what a difference Nashos made. We should pay tribute to Nashos, as we do. It is not hard to see why they are so proud to say that they were a Nasho, why they are so proud to march on Anzac Day and why they are so proud of our flag.

How anyone, particularly young people, can desecrate our national symbol is beyond belief. More time in the classroom needs to be devoted to educating children about the enormous sacrifices made by our military, including Nashos, who have given today's kids the hard-won opportunity to be freely able to do pretty much what they want when they want. But for the courage and pluck of yesteryear's armed forces, including Nashos, a different language would surely be spoken in this great country of ours today. We should never forget that. Let us also not forget that Nasho family members were rightly concerned for their sons and brothers during their time of national service. 14 February marks the day the last Nasho marched out of camp, a significant occasion ending a significant chapter of Australian military history.