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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12648


Mr CLARE (BlaxlandMinister for Defence Materiel) (17:28): I rise to pay tribute to the lives of Captain Bryce Duffy, Corporal Ashley Birt and Lance Corporal Luke Gavin. They were doing tough, difficult and deadly work on our behalf, trying to make Afghanistan safer. Their deaths are a reminder that Afghanistan is still a very dangerous place. The shocking circumstances of the way they died make it all the more difficult to comprehend. Captain Duffy, Corporal Birt and Lance Corporal Gavin were killed by one of the men they were trying to help—one of the men they were training. This will obviously be a terrible blow to the confidence of our soldiers and to the trust they have worked so hard to build with their Afghan partners. It will take some considerable time to restore that confidence and that trust.

I do not often agree with the Leader of the Opposition, but I did on Monday when he said that this attack was a reflection more on the malice of the enemy than on the merits of our cause. That cause is to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorism. There are days like Sunday when it is easy to wonder whether that is possible—but it is. This is not easy work. There will inevitably be more dark days ahead. But the merits of our cause should not be doubted. The strategy we have is the right one. We are training an Afghan National Army which will ensure the security of Afghanistan when we are gone. And we are making progress—we are building up that army, and the security situation in Oruzgan is improving.

Captain Duffy, Corporal Birt and Lance Corporal Gavin all lived in Queensland. Collectively they served not just in Afghanistan but also in East Timor and the Solomon Islands and as part of Operation Yasi Assist and Operation Queensland Flood Assist in January and February of this year. These were outstanding men and their loss will be deeply felt by the communities they were a part of, at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville and Gallipoli Barracks in Enoggera. This loss will be ever more felt by the people who knew them and who loved them most: their mums and dads, their brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, and their wives and children. I send my most sincere condolences to all of them. Lance Corporal Gavin's wife said in a statement this morning:

I'm not sure how to live a life without him in it. We are all so incredibly proud of him. He died doing what he loved and what he believed in. We will never forget him.

All Australians are proud of him—we are proud of all three men and we too will never forget them.