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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7195

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (10:17): I join with the Prime Minister, the defence minister, the Leader of the Opposition and others in expressing my condolences to the family of Corporal Cameron Steward Baird, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan as an ADF soldier. I understand that it was Corporal Baird's fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan, and, whilst I did not know Corporal Baird personally, I know many of his colleagues and I often think it could easily have been one of them who did not return from Afghanistan. For Corporal Baird's family and his partner their loss will have the most profound effect. The bond between family members and loved ones is unique. His loss will stay with each of them for the rest of their lives, and their memory of him will always be with them.

Corporal Baird's comrades will equally have a heavy heart as they relive the incident in which Corporal Baird was killed, their service time together, their friendship and what the future might have been had he not been killed. Knowing that this was the life that he chose, with the full knowledge of the risks he faced, may ease the pain of those who grieve his death. But the pain will still be there. I also extend my best wishes for a full recovery of the special forces soldier and the Royal Australian Air Force airman also injured in the incident.

Corporal Baird's death brings to 40 the number of Australians killed whilst on duty in Afghanistan. Hopefully it will be the last. Australia has paid a heavy toll in deaths and injuries for our involvement in Afghanistan. The burden is carried every day by the family and loved ones of those ADF personnel who have been killed or injured.

Earlier this year I attended an Anzac Day service at Golden Grove Primary School in my electorate. My electorate is home to many ADF families, with RAAF Base Edinburgh being in the region, so at the service special recognition was given to the children of serving ADF personnel, many of whom were either on duty in Afghanistan or on regular tours of duty. As those children stepped forward to be recognised, sometimes with one of their parents, my thoughts turned to how difficult it must be for those children, living with the knowledge of the dangers faced each day by one or both of their parents. Similarly, how difficult it must be for those children each time they say goodbye to their mum or dad who is leaving for service overseas. I imagine the same heart-wrenching thoughts must go through the minds of the ADF parents whenever they leave home for a tour of duty, knowing that they may never see their children and loved ones again. I can only imagine the feeling of relief for family members and loved ones each time ADF members safely return home.

This Saturday I will be attending a welcome home parade for the 7RAR Task Group, in acknowledgement of the operational service of personnel who have recently returned from operations in the Middle East. I understand that 466 personnel, including 433 members based out of Adelaide, will be welcomed home. All are associated with Operation Slipper, Australia's military contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, and maritime security in the Middle East area of operations and countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden. The personnel being welcomed home contributed to the International Security Assistance Force led multinational effort in Uruzgan, Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of most ADF personnel from Afghanistan by the end of this year will be welcomed by so many people I speak with and perhaps by none more than the ADF families directly involved. Historians will be left to judge whether our involvement in Afghanistan was justified and whether our mission there was accomplished. Whilst political leaders make decisions about wars and military interventions, and historians write in judgement, our ADF personnel carry out the deeds of war. They do so without flinching, without question, but with absolute professionalism and loyalty to the uniform they wear and the country they serve. And they forever carry the scars of war with them, a burden that only those who serve could ever understand. It is because of their service that the rest of us can get on with our lives. For all they do, to those who have served and to those who continue to serve, I say thank you. To Corporal Cameron Baird and to all those who have lost their lives, I say thank you. You have given all you had for the rest of us in Australia and it is appreciated by those of us who understand.