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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3032


Mr DRUM (Murray) (12:23): I am delighted to be able to take this opportunity to speak to the importance of Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day, as the previous speaker noted, was originally known as Armistice Day and was introduced following the ceasefire at the end of World War I—the war to end all wars. As we now know, we use Remembrance Day to reflect on all of involvements in all of the various conflicts that have happened to Australia.

Australia has lost over 100,000 lives in battle since the turn of last century but the story is much worse than that. In the First World War, we acknowledge that we lost 62,000 lives. However, what is not often referred to is the fact that we lost another 60,000 lives of those returned soldiers within two years of them returning home, so the real cost, in terms of lives lost, is significantly worse.

Since Federation, our Australian defence forces have served in South Africa with the Boer War, World War I, the Russian Civil War, World War II, the Malayan emergency, the Korean War, Borneo, the Vietnam War—often referred to in Vietnam as the American War—the Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq, Timor and also the current war on ISIL.

The 11th of the 11th at 11 o'clock gives us an opportunity to reflect on all of those who have served for our benefit. It also gives us the opportunity to understand that Australia has never entered into a conflict with the ultimate goal of land gain for Australia. We have never entered into a conflict with the end prize being that we were going to take over someone's territory. We have, ultimately, committed ourselves in each and every conflict to remain where we currently are—to create peace and to create a coexistence with the status quo. That is something that we should all be extremely proud of as we reflect on the amount of conflicts that we have been involved in.

It is also an opportunity for us to reflect on what we are doing with our lives as a way of saying thank you to all of those who have served to preserve our quality of life here in Australia. Is our contribution to our lives here worthy of the sacrifices that have taken place on our behalf? All of those 100,000 people that lost their lives in battle were thinking of a better Australia. They were all thinking, 'I'm doing this so that my children, my extended family and my society that I have left behind will prosper in a way that I would be proud of.' The question that we need to ask is: are we doing everything within our personal power to create a better life and to actually make that sacrifice worthy? We are all weighed down by that debt: the people who fought for us need to have that debt repaid by us simply doing everything we possibly can to repay that enormous sacrifice.

I had the privilege two years ago to visit the Western Front and the various Commonwealth war graves in the cemeteries throughout the Western Front. It was certainly a very sombre process to witness so many small graves from that horrendous conflict in the First World War. What I can say is that it is an absolute credit to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission administrators that they were able to keep those cemeteries in such an amazing condition. Just recently, I had the opportunity to also visit the war cemetery in Port Moresby and, again, it has been kept in pristine condition so that those families that get the opportunity to visit their long-lost relatives can acknowledge that they lie in well-manicured surrounds.

Again, on this Friday, we will all have the opportunity, as I will at Shepparton, to remember those who have served.