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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4461

Senator MINCHIN (3:43 PM) —On behalf of the coalition, I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Faulkner and to join with the government in expressing our sincere condolences to the family of Private Benjamin Ranaudo, killed on operations in Afghanistan on 18 July. As Senator Faulkner has said, Private Ranaudo was killed by one of these—as he properly described them—absolutely insidious improvised explosive devices while on operations north of Tarin Kowt. And that incident also resulted in very serious injuries to another Australian soldier, Private Paul Warren, as well as, tragically, Afghan civilians. That just shows the depths to which the Taliban will go—to kill their own fellow citizens. Senator Faulkner has properly reported to the Senate on Private Ranaudo’s membership of the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force—a great initiative of the ADF in Afghanistan.

He was only 22 years old. I have a 23-year-old son, and it strikes you just how young these soldiers are and how tragic it is that the 60-odd years of life Private Ranaudo might have otherwise had have been denied him. His parents have described him as ‘a proud soldier’ who ‘believed in what he did’, which is very, very important. Our thoughts are with his parents during what must be a dreadful time for them. The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, has described Private Ranaudo as:

… a professional soldier who served enthusiastically and with distinction … dedicated to his career as a soldier and committed to the profession of arms.

There could be no better statement than that. The 2nd Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class One Darren Murch, described Private Ranaudo as ‘a highly skilled infantryman’ who ‘always put his mates first’ and ‘displayed the true qualities of the Australian soldier’.

This reminds us, as Senator Faulkner properly said, of the enormous challenges that all coalition forces are facing in Afghanistan. Private Ranaudo was the 11th Australian soldier to die proudly fighting for what we believe in and for Australia’s interests against this dreadful terrorist threat. In fact, it is an enormous credit to the ADF that our losses are so relatively light in what is a dreadful war zone. I think we can all be proud of the ADF and what it is doing.

Private Ranaudo’s parents, very importantly, said in their statement that they prayed that Benjamin’s death and the other 10 Australian fatalities in Afghanistan will not be in vain. I think that is very important. We join with the government in the resolve to ensure that Afghanistan does not fall back into the hands of the Taliban. We acknowledge the important role we play in ensuring that. As a member of the cabinet that first committed Australia to action in Afghanistan, I say that it is absolutely imperative that Australia not lose its nerve as a nation. The consequences of failure in Afghanistan, in my view, would be disastrous. I commend the government for its deep commitment to this cause. We respect the service of all Australian men and women in Afghanistan and the enormous sacrifice that they make.

We also send our best wishes to Private Paul Warren and his family. I gather he has returned to Australia following the very serious injuries that he suffered. We wish him all the very best for his rehabilitation. We acknowledge and thank him for his courageous service in Afghanistan, and our thoughts and prayers are with him in his rehabilitation. Of course, our thoughts and prayers are also with the family and friends of Private Ranaudo. I want to emphasise our support for all the families of defence personnel serving abroad. We appreciate that they are serving Australia with great distinction and we acknowledge the enormous dangers that they face.