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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12222

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:00): I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the death on 21 October 2012, of Corporal Scott James Smith while on combat operations in Afghanistan, place on record its appreciation of his service to his country, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Only six weeks ago we gathered in this House to mourn the loss of Australians in Afghanistan. Tragically, today, we mourn another loss. Once again, the price of our commitment in Afghanistan has been made very real to us with the death of Corporal Scott Smith, whom we honour and remember today.

On Sunday, 21 October 2012, elements of the Special Operations Task Group were conducting a disruption operation against a network of insurgents in Helmand province. These insurgents manufacture improvised explosive devices and directly influence the security situation in Uruzgan province, where we work. Corporal Smith was involved in clearing a compound area when an improvised explosive device detonated, killing him instantly. He was a member of the Special Operations Engineer Regiment, a sapper, a combat engineer, a young man who died as he lived in front of the front line.

Corporal Scott's death brings to 39 the number of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. The roll of honour grows longer and our hearts grow heavier knowing the loss that has been visited upon so many homes and the possibility that there may be more before our work is done.

For the past week a loving family has been mourning his loss. Corporal Smith's partner, Liv; his mum and dad, Katrina and Murray; his sister, Roxanne; his extended family, whom I understand are very close; his many friends; and, especially, his comrades in the Special Operations Engineer Regiment are deeply in our thoughts today. We cannot imagine the heartache they are feeling and how empty their Christmas table will feel this year and in all the years to come.

When you look at the war graves overseas and attend the funerals here at home, the one thing that strikes you over and over again is just how young these men are. Corporal Smith was young, just 24 years of age, born in our bicentennial year. Yet by the time of his death he had already served in the Army for almost seven years, completed previous tours of Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands and earned a chest-full of medals. Corporal Smith has been described as an exceptional soldier, one of the best junior non-commissioned officers that the unit has seen. And remember that the world of special forces is intensively competitive, so these are truly the best of the best.

Scott's mates remember him as a genuine, honest and dedicated colleague. His family have spoken of a loveable character with a cheeky smile and a larrikin streak who lived life to the fullest. Perhaps most significantly, as we reflect on the wider meaning of Afghanistan, Corporal Smith himself believed that his work made a difference, as indeed it did.

We have lost a brave soldier who was going about difficult and dangerous work. He gave his best for our nation in life. He gave his all for our nation in death. Our deepest sympathies go to Corporal Smith's family and to his fellow service personnel. They are much in our thoughts and will continue to be so in the difficult days that lie ahead.