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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8845

Mr FITZGIBBON (HunterChief Government Whip) (12:36): As a former defence minister, the opportunity to speak to this motion certainly caught my eye and I have seized the opportunity. Having said that, I would not claim to be an expert on Bomber Command, but I think that every Australian who grew up watching World War II movies in particular would have a full and proper understanding of the role the command played during the Second World War. Some 125,000 people participated in Bomber Command over the period of its existence, including 10,000 Australians. More than one in three would never come home: 3,486 Australians were lost in action and another 650 died in training accidents.

This morning we paid tribute to another fallen soldier, one who tragically gave his life in Afghanistan. Right across the globe many Australians gave their lives in the name of defending Australia and our interests, and certainly those in Bomber Command were very much a part of that. We know now that Bomber Command yielded 19 Victoria Cross winners, and the Queen recently unveiled a new Bomber Command memorial amid the beautiful lawns and trees of Green Park, London. This recognition of the courage and dedication of the men who fought a relentless 2,000-day campaign is long overdue.

I have very fond memories of travelling to Norway in 2005 or 2006 as part of a parliamentary delegation to European institutions, The Hague and then to Norway. While in Norway we travelled west to a beautiful town called Bergen. Anyone who knows the area will agree it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We were very touched to find some local men there who had maintained a small memorial to a number of RAAF personnel who had given their lives on a raid on a German submarine base in Bergen, the Germans having taken over Norway during the war. These local men had maintained this memorial for all of this time, and it was a memorial to a couple of Australians who were in that raid on that occasion.

We were very pleased to come back to Australia and make a recommendation to the government that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission take authority and control over that memorial which had been built by the locals, because the locals were not going to be around for ever and we were very keen to ensure that tribute to those Australians, and those they flew with, meant they were properly remembered in Bergen. That is my personal association with that period of time and those raids, those things given by so many during that very concerning period for all of those participating in the Allied forces. It is my very great pleasure with others in this place, including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, to pay tribute to those who gave so much and did so much as a part of Bomber Command, and to acknowledge their contribution on this the 70th anniversary of the operations of that command.