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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7241

Mrs MARKUS (3:56 PM) —I rise on indulgence, Mr Speaker. I would like to associate the coalition with the minister’s remarks. The sinking of the Montevideo Maru with the loss of 1,053 Australian prisoners of war and civilians on 1 July 1942 is the greatest single tragedy in Australia’s maritime history. More importantly, it is also one of our lesser known. The Montevideo Maru sank after being torpedoed off the Philippines. There were no survivors. The Australian prisoners of war and civilians who perished had been captured and held by the Japanese at Rabaul on the Island of New Britain in what is now known as Papua New Guinea. I note that the names of the Army and Air Force casualties are listed on the memorial to the missing at the Bita Paka war cemetery in Rabaul, which I have had the honour of visiting.

In placing my condolences on the record today, I wish to help to bring to the attention of the Australian public this little-known sacrifice of 1,053 Australians on board the Montevideo Maru so many years ago. In particular, I wish to thank and acknowledge those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation, a sacrifice that has contributed to the peace that we enjoy today.

I understand that on 1 July on the 67th anniversary of the tragedy the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines will unveil a new plaque commemorating those on board the Montevideo Maru on behalf of the PNG Volunteer Rifles Association at the Hell Ships Memorial established in memory of all the ships that carried prisoners of war. I commend this latest acknowledgement of the tragedy, but also wish to remind the House of the important and vital contribution of our veteran community, past, present and also into the future. It is important in honouring those who have served our nation and given the ultimate sacrifice and also in acknowledging the significant loss to their families that every effort is made to locate the resting place of those who lost their lives at sea on that fateful day. I ask and urge the government to do everything that it can to locate the resting place of those who lost their lives when the Montevideo Maru sank. Lest we forget.