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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3472

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) (2:02 PM) —I move:

That the House record its deep regret and sorrow at the death, on 19 March 2009, of Sergeant Brett Till, killed while on combat operations in southern Afghanistan, and place on record its appreciation of his service to the country, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Sergeant Brett Till was an immensely courageous Australian soldier. He was doing one of the toughest jobs in one of the toughest environments anyone could imagine. Sergeant Till’s job often required him to undertake his tasks under threat of attack from the enemy. As an explosive ordnance disposal technician—a bomb disposal expert—one of his tasks was to defuse improvised explosive devices in order to prevent the loss of the lives of other soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan.

Australian troops face many dangers in Afghanistan. Few are more deadly or harder to predict than the dangers from roadside bombs or other improvised explosive devices. It was in the course of defusing a device that Sergeant Till was killed on 19 March this year. He demonstrated through his skill and commitment all the values that make the Australian soldier great: courage, initiative, teamwork and, most importantly, looking after your mates.

Sergeant Brett Till was a soldier who throughout his military career had risen to all the challenges that had come his way. He had earned the privilege of commanding one of the Special Operations Task Group’s mobility and survivability teams in Afghanistan. Sergeant Till, ‘Tilly’ to his mates, was a man deeply respected by other soldiers, a man who led from the front and by the example of his conduct.

His commanding officers have no doubt that his work, including the work that he was doing on the day that he died, saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers. As the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said, ‘Sergeant Till’s selfless act to protect his mates and innocent civilians is a mark of the character of the man.’

Those who have spoken personally of Sergeant Till have spoken of a loving husband and a loving father of two young children. His wife, Bree-Anna, said, ‘His smile would crack the frowns off a hundred faces.’ His parents-in-law, Kerrie and Peter Barclay, have spoken of their fondest memories of him ‘wearing his khakis, brushing and plaiting his daughter’s hair and getting his son ready for school before going to work doing what he was proud to do’.

The members of the Australian Defence Force serving in Afghanistan are in the front line of the battle against terrorism, a battle for the safety and security of Afghanistan and for the safety and security of all members of the international community, including Australia. Since 2000, over 100 Australians have been killed in major terrorist attacks, the perpetrators of which were largely trained in Afghanistan and the border region with Pakistan. In Afghanistan our troops are confronting an enemy that seeks to make that nation once again a safe haven for terrorists.

As President Obama said last Wednesday while standing alongside President Karzai of Afghanistan in Washington, this is a vital mission to disrupt, to dismantle and to defeat al-Qaeda and its extremist allies. As the President warned, the road ahead will be difficult. There will be more violence and more setbacks. But Australia recognises, like the United States, that we have a stake in the future of Afghanistan. Our security is shared, as we have learnt from terrorist attacks in New York, in Bali, in London, in Madrid and in other places throughout the world. The work of every Australian soldier, every member of the international forces and every Afghan soldier in that nation is therefore important work for us all.

Sergeant Till is the 10th Australian soldier to lose his life in Afghanistan. We will remain forever grateful for Sergeant Till’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of those who have fallen before him. On behalf of the parliament, the government and the people of Australia, I offer my heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Sergeant Brett Till and in particular to Sergeant Till’s wife, Bree-Anna; to his children, Jacob and Taleah; to his mother, Susan, and her husband, Leigh; and to his father, Noel, and his wife, Cathy.