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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1519

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) (4:17 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its deep regret at the death of Lance Corporal Jason Marks while on a combat operation in Afghanistan andplaces on record its appreciation of his service to his country and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

On behalf of the Australian government and members of the Senate, I extend my deepest condolences to Lance Corporal Marks’s wife, Cassandra, their two children, Connor and Ella, and his parents, Paul and Sharon. Lance Corporal Marks was a loving father, husband and son. He was also highly respected by his peers and renowned for his dedication and his enthusiasm for his job. He had a distinguished career in the Army, rising to the position of Commando in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment. He deployed to East Timor and Afghanistan on more than one occasion. He received numerous service medals and was awarded a Unit Citation for Gallantry in 2006.

The sad death of Lance Corporal Marks gives us pause to reflect on the extraordinary strength of character and courage that all our service men and women display. In particular, our soldiers deployed to Afghanistan are making a significant contribution to the region. They are working with coalition partners and the government of Afghanistan to rebuild the country and provide security for its people.

Just over two weeks ago, on Anzac Day, the nation reflected on the Australian traditions of courage and of fighting for freedom and the common good. These traditions are part of who we are as a nation, but tragedies such as this remind us that they come at a terrible cost. As the Prime Minister reminded us a few weeks ago, our commitment to Afghanistan will come at a very high cost. Our successful operations in Iraq, where we suffered a very low level of casualties, created a false sense in the minds of the Australian public of the risks faced by Australian personnel deployed in active combat zones. What we have learnt in Afghanistan is the reality of our commitment to combat and the real costs that our soldiers and other service personnel pay.

The Rudd Labor government and, I think, all members of the Senate take our responsibilities very seriously when we take a decision to send our service personnel into harm’s way by committing them to combat activity. We all carry a heavy burden when we see the cost of our decisions to commit our troops on behalf of Australia. Lance Corporal Marks made a significant contribution to the national interest and to securing peace and nation building in East Timor and Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Marks lost his life serving his nation with courage and honour, and his sacrifice will not be forgotten. It is with great sadness that we pause today as a mark of respect to Lance Corporal Marks and honour his service to the nation.