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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 9010

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (PerthMinister for Defence and Deputy Leader of the House) (14:08): I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition both in expressing condolence to the spouse, parents and family of Private Matthew Lambert and in expressing support for our mission in Afghanistan.

Private Matthew Lambert was born in Kogarah in New South Wales in 1985. He was 26 years of age. He joined the Army, from Southern Queensland, enlisting in the 9th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment in August 2005. He transferred to the Australian Regular Army in February 2007 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment—2RAR—based in Townsville in Queensland. Private Lambert first deployed overseas to East Timor from June to November 2009. He deployed to Afghanistan in June of this year with Mentoring Task Force 3.

His mates remember well that he was looking forward with great anticipation to serving his country in Afghanistan. Private Lambert is described as a well-respected soldier who excelled in any task he was assigned. He was awarded the Australian Active Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Australian Defence Medal and the Timor Leste Solidarity Medal.

As the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have indicated, Private Lambert is the 29th fatality we have suffered in Afghanistan. With this terrible tragedy, we must continue to be clear sighted about our objective in Afghanistan. Our objective is to prevent Afghanistan, in particular the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, from again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. We will not be in Afghanistan forever, and we are on track to transition to Afghan-led responsibility for security arrangements in Oruzgan in 2014.

None of this, of course, makes it any easier for the Lambert family, for his spouse, for his friends, for his mates, for 2RAR or indeed for the people of Townsville. It does not make it easier for the 28 other Australian families who have been so terribly reminded of the loss of a son, a husband or a brother. Nor does it make it any easier for our nation to bear yet another fatality. Our condolences are with Private Lambert's spouse, his parents, his family his friends and his mates. His contribution and his sacrifice will always be remembered.

Members may be pleased to know that my New Zealand defence colleague, the Minister for Defence, Dr Wayne Mapp, rang me just before question time to express New Zealand's condolences at the tragic loss of Private Lambert. Dr Mapp and I spoke as recently as Saturday when I conveyed Australia's condolences for the death of Corporal Douglas Grant, who was killed defending the British Council in Kabul. I am pleased to advise the House that an Australian C130 assisted in the early stages of Corporal Douglas Grant's repatriation to New Zealand. At this time of tragic loss on both sides of the Tasman, we remember Private Matthew Lambert with our age-old refrain, so fitting for our Anzacs, 'Lest we forget.'