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Monday, 4 June 2001
Page: 27171

Mr EDWARDS (5:00 PM) —I am happy to speak to this motion on the 100th anniversary of the Australian Army and I would like to put it into context by quoting a poem entitled `A Soldier':

I was that which others did not want to be.

I went where others feared to go.

And did what others failed to do.

I asked nothing from those who gave nothing.

And, reluctantly, accepted the thought of eternal loneliness—should I fail.

I have seen the face of terror, felt the stinging cold of fear, and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moment's love.

I have cried, pained and hoped.

But, most of all, I have lived times others would say were best forgotten.

At least some day I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was—a soldier.

That is a poem written by a fellow by the name of George Skypeck. I picked it up on the web page put together by Ern Marshall from Sunraysia. He put this web site together because, he said, of the lack of information about the Australian involvement in Vietnam and for the benefit of all veterans, and maybe for the education of some of the younger generation. It is interesting, talking about the younger generation, to recall another quote, from a very famous person, George Washington. He said this:

The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.

That is a quote that features on the web page of the TPI veterans—a very good web page with a lot of very interesting information.

In speaking to this motion, I want to bring it down to what it is about—our Army. We talk about our Army and we talk about the men and the women who serve, and who have served over 100 years, in our Army. The Australian Army is, in relative terms, a young army, just as we are a young nation. And as we are a young nation with a great love for freedom we should always remember the price that so many soldiers, so many men and women, have paid for the freedom that we enjoy in this nation.

I guess it would be remiss of me, in talking to this motion, if I did not mention my own unit, the 7th Battalion, which was formed in Puckapunyal, Victoria, on 1 December 1965. This battalion subsequently served twice in Phuouc Tuy Province in South Vietnam. The first tour was in 1967 and the second in 1970. Both tours lasted approximately 12 months and, during that time, the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, was deployed on 48 operations. This battalion has very proudly as its mascot a pig—and a great pig it is!

As I am talking about 5/7 Battalion I will also say that the current RSM of the Army, Brian Boughton, is a former 7RAR man. I served in Vietnam at the same time as he did. I know that every member of the 7th Battalion is very proud of the RSM the Army has at the moment, because he is indeed a good digger and a man who holds some very high standards about heritage, courage, humour, fitness and professionalism. These are the qualities that the Australian Army has had in times of war and peace over 100 years, and these are standards that must be maintained. What is good about the Australian Army is the character of the men and the women who serve in the Australian Army. The decisions that we make here are merely decisions in support of that character.

I only want to speak for five minutes because my colleague wants to say a bit more than I do. I think we should look with pride over the 100 years of our Army—not just at the men and women who went away, but, as the mover of the motion has said, at the strengths, the succour, the support and the encouragement that they got from their loved ones at home. When a soldier is away, the person who feels it most is the mother, the father, the husband or the wife, and they are the people who have been an immense strength to our soldiers over 100 years. I support this motion.