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Monday, 10 September 2012
Page: 9937

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:00): I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the deaths, in the early hours of 30 August 2012, of Lance Corporal Stjepan (Rick) Milosevic, Sapper James Thomas Martin and Private Robert Hugh Frederick Poate during operations in Afghanistan, and place on record its appreciation of their service to their country and tender its profound sympathy to their families and friends in their bereavement.

They were three Australian soldiers born in very different parts of our nation—Penrith, Perth and Canberra. They were soldiers at different stages in their military careers and their own lives. Two of them were young men on their first deployment. The other was an older father of two making his second deployment overseas.

Lance Corporal Milosevic was a much-liked and experienced leader, a typical Australian bloke with a dry sense of humour and a friendly, natural charm. Sapper Martin was a quick learner who adapted well to the Army environment, a young man who when his mates were thinking of withdrawing from training said, 'I won't give up this opportunity for anything'—and he did not. Private Poate was a larrikin, a young man known for his leadership potential. They were three men different in character and background but united in their loyalty to our nation, men who served together and men who tragically died together.

We have mourned many combat deaths since the day this parliament first sat in May 1901. We were at war then and we are at war now. They have been, for the most part, wars far from our shores. But with the deaths of Lance Corporal Milosevic, Private Poate and Sapper Martin we were left in no doubt about how real this war is and how close to home its effects are felt not only in its grim cost but also in its complexity. All deaths during wartime are heartbreaking because of the lives they have shortened and the losses they leave behind.

These three men loved the Army, its way of life, its challenges and its comradeship. They loved life too, and they were in its prime. Their deaths are doubly heartbreaking because grief has been compounded by betrayal. The coward who took their lives was meant to be a fellow soldier in arms from the country that we came to help, the army we came to train.

Some have seen in these shocking deaths a reason to come home. Our troops will come home once they have seen their mission through to completion. But, right now, we must hold to our course. We must show to the world and to ourselves that Australia is a nation which keeps its commitments, a nation which sees the job through and a nation which honours its fallen by continuing and completing their work. On the eve of the 11th anniversary of the terrible events of September 11, we are reminded of the importance of their work.

On behalf of all Australians I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the friends and comrades of these three brave soldiers in the Australian Defence Force and particularly to the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment Queensland Mounted Infantry, the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment and the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. I say to Lance Corporal Milosevic's wife, Kelly; young daughters, Sarah and Kate; mother, Heather; brother, Milan, and sister, Danica; to Sapper Martin's mother, Suzanne; sister, Holly; stepbrother, Angus; and grandparents Ralph and Lucille Thomas; and to Private Poate's parents, Hugh and Janny; and sister, Nicola: your loved ones gave this nation all they had. We will never take their sacrifice for granted and we will never allow ourselves to forget.