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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5833

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:01): I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the death of Sapper Rowan Jaie Robinson on 6 June 2011, while on combat operations in Afghanistan, and place on record its appreciation of his service to the country and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

The last two Tuesdays the parliament has sat, we have commenced the sittings with words of condolence for families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan. In the non-sitting week that has just passed, the Leader of the Opposition and I attended two funerals, which were services of great emotion and great dignity. Unfortunately, we commence again today with another motion of condolence.

These are the hard days I spoke of last year when I addressed the parliament about Afghanistan—the unyielding, thankless days when war extracts its toll and our patience is tested. Today we grieve for Sapper Rowan Robinson. His family—mum and dad, Marie and Peter, and siblings, Rachael, Ben and Troy—mourn a beloved son and brother. His mates mourn a trusted comrade. Our nation mourns a proud Australian who fought and died in our name.

Sapper Robinson lived much in his 23 years. He had already recorded five years of service in the ADF, with two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and he had been awarded six decorations during that time. It was a long journey for the young surf-lifesaver from the New South Wales North Coast to the battlefields of Tarin Kowt. In the course of that journey, Sapper Robinson had become an accomplished military professional. Soldiering was what he did and he did it well. In fact, Sapper Robinson forms part of a defence tradition that goes back to the very first days of our Commonwealth 110 years ago. It is the tradition of Australians who love their country and who freely elect to serve it, embracing all of the risks and all of the hardships that that entails: leaving family and friends, leaving the lifestyle of home and walking into the unknown, showing so much courage—courage that deserves to be matched by our resolve, our resolve to see the mission through, to persist through the dark days when giving up would be so tempting, and to stick to our plan and our time frame, which we know will yield results and is yielding results.

There is a remarkable feature of our commitment in Afghanistan and that is the belief by our soldiers in the value of their mission. Anyone who speaks to our soldiers, as I have and as the Leader of the Opposition has, hears the same reply every time: 'We are making progress. We are making a difference.' They do not want sympathy. They do not want easy answers. They just want to know that the nation's commitment matches theirs, and I can assure them that it does. This is why we come to honour Sapper Robinson today, placing on the record, the record of this parliament for all time, the measure of his courage, remembering a young man who cared enough for our nation that he was prepared to offer his life for it and pledging to his family and mates our enduring commitment to ensure his sacrifice is not in vain. We will not let go; we will not forget.