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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2876


Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (11:39): I thank the member for Kingston for moving this Remembrance Day motion, and I acknowledge her commitment to our Defence Force and veteran community, which I saw writ large during the past week while visiting our troops as part of their Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program to the Middle East. Her heart—and her considerable intellect—is in the job, and I know she is genuine about ensuring our country supports our defence personnel and veterans as best we can. God knows, they deserve it. I speak today as someone who has lost mates who died while serving, and also as the son of a Vietnam veteran and a grandson of a World War II veteran.

Remembrance Day is an important opportunity to remember those who have gone before us. As I mentioned, I have recently returned from the Middle East, including a visit to Afghanistan. It was a privilege to meet and talk to the men and women who are serving our country. At the joint task force headquarters I paused at the wall of remembrance, where there are the photos of over 40 Australians who have been killed in that area of operations since 2001, including the Territory's own Scotty Palmer, who was killed in Afghanistan in June 2010. His family will be in my thoughts this coming Remembrance Day, as they always are. This week the Territory will have great pride as one of our best known Vietnam vets, Frank Alcorta, is acknowledged for his role in the Battle of Long Tan. Frank was also instrumental in getting the national Vietnam Veterans Day commemorated on 18 August each year.

A ceremony at Government House tomorrow will see the long-belated acknowledgement of the courage of those men of 6 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, during the Battle of Long Tan. Frank was with Alpha Company, travelling in armoured personnel carriers dispatched to assist Delta Company, when it suddenly found itself in the midst of a couple of hundred Vietcong. He was the only man sitting on top of an APC—an armoured personnel carrier. He rolled off the vehicle and, in an amazing act of bravery, charged the enemy. Although mentioned in dispatches, his courage is finally being recognised with the Star of Gallantry tomorrow. I send my heartfelt congratulations to Frank and the other members of A Company who are in Canberra to receive well-deserved honours. An old boss of mine at the School of Infantry, Glenn Willmann, was part of the company.

For years, many Territorians were unaware of this side of Frank Alcorta, but they knew of his courage as a journalist who helped set up Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Territorian in 1986, and as a fighter for returned servicemen. In 2013, Frank received an OAM for his services to veterans and their families as well as services to journalism. On the walls in my Parliament House office is a famous photo taken in 1969 at the site of the Long Tan Battle, where a cross was raised in dedication to the 18 Australians who fell there. That photo was taken by a journalist, Don Hook, the father Captain James Hook, himself a Territory journalist currently based in the Middle East with the Australian Army. James is a Territorian who worked with Frank Alcorta at the Sunday Territorian along with many others including NT News editor Jim Bowditch, who served with Z Special Unit in World War II. Jim—a well-known leftie, as Frank called him—was also a fighter for workers' rights. In his lifetime, he was awarded a Military Medal for bravery as well as two Walkley awards. These interwoven lives and histories are part of what I love about the Northern Territory—the stories, the strength of character, the people who have made the Top End. Frank Alcorta told me he believes very strongly in the history of this great country, which, over the past 100 years, has largely been shaped by the Anzac tradition and its associated values—in Frank's words, by 'mateship, sacrifice, duty, love of country and a profound belief in freedom and democracy, which makes us such an enviable society.'

On Remembrance Day we honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This week we are also finally honouring the bravery of D Company and men like Frank Alcorta. The Sixth Battalion is a very proud regiment. My father served in this battalion on the second tour in Vietnam with the legendary George Chinn DCM. George's daughter Francine is one of my staff and George's wife, Margaret, has just celebrated her 92nd birthday. We remember George and all our fallen, particularly those who need our help. Lest we forget.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): Lest we forget. The time for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.