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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 5301

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) (2:01 PM) —I move:

That the House record its deep sorrow at the deaths of Sapper Jacob Daniel Moerland and Sapper Darren James Smith on 7 June 2010, while on combat operations in Afghanistan and place on record its greatest appreciation of their service to our country and tender its profound sympathy to their families in their bereavement.

I wish to express heartfelt condolences to Sapper Moerland’s parents, Sandra and Robert, his sisters Bethany and Laura, and his fiancee, Kezia. I also wish to express heartfelt condolences to Sapper Smith’s wife, Angela, and his 2½-year-old son, Mason, and his parents, Graham and Amanda. I wish to express my deepest sympathy to both Sapper Moerland’s and Sapper Smith’s extended families and their friends, including their fellow service men and women of the Australian Defence Force with whom they served with pride and with honour, in particular the men and women of the 1st Mentoring Task Force at Tarin Kowt in Afghanistan who this day continue to serve our country with distinction.

On Monday, 7 June, Australia lost two of its bravest sons. Sapper Moerland and Sapper Smith were both outstanding soldiers and valued members of the Brisbane based 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment. They were heirs to a great military tradition, that of the combat engineer—that group of soldiers who accept great personal danger to protect their fellow soldiers. They were also heirs to the great tradition of Anzac. Sapper Moerland and Sapper Smith had both shown strong commitment and professionalism throughout their military careers.

Sapper Jacob Moerland was a loving son and brother who was engaged to be married. Sapper Moerland was proud to serve his country. His family has said:

Jacob died doing the job he loved and he went to Afghanistan not because he had to, but he thought it was a valuable job to do to help the people in Afghanistan.

Sapper Darren Smith was a loving husband and father. His wife, Angela, has said:

He was very passionate about his job and understood the risks involved but he was the sort of man who always put others first and did his best for them whether it was his mates in the army or at home with his family and his friends.

Darren also loved his explosives detection dog, Herbie, who was also, sadly, killed in this incident. These dogs also do a great job for Australia, and all animal lovers will be saddened by that dog’s loss.

On the day that this occurred I spoke with these soldiers’ commanding officers in Tarin Kowt to express to them and to all our soldiers in the field the solidarity and support of the Australian people. Those who feel and experience this loss upfront and first are their comrades in arms who are with them and who bring their broken bodies back to the base at Tarin Kowt. Our soldiers are taking this well. They are strong and they are resolute. They also mourn the loss of comrades.

As I have done in the past, I have also spoken individually to members of these two soldiers’ families, to their parents and partners. Nothing can compare with the grief which is experienced by a mother and a father, a wife, a partner, when the news comes. This is a terrible job to perform for the Australian Defence Force. They do it with dignity and they do it with distinction. When they arrive at a person’s house to tell them this news it is the most sobering moment for them. It is a terrible moment for the families. As we stand here and reflect today on the grief which the nation feels and the grief which the members of the Australian Defence Force feel, there is nothing comparable with the grief which these soldiers’ families and loved ones feel now and into the future.

The one thing which, in my experience in speaking to these families, gives hope and consolation is this: the mission in which they are engaged is an important one. It is one which has value in it. It is not simply a military operation here or a military operation there. It is actually doing something real on behalf of a core set of Australian and human values. And what is that? It is making sure that the country of Afghanistan does not return to the clutch of terrorists. Terrorists trained in the main part in Afghanistan over the last decade have been responsible for the murder in cold blood of about 100 Australians. The resolve of our men and women in uniform is not to allow that country to become that sort of training base again in the future. Those are the core values which they were serving on our collective behalf, and those are the values which we salute in the loss of these brave soldiers today.

On behalf of the Australian government and all members of this House, we offer our prayers and our support to Sapper Moerland’s family, to Sapper Smith’s family, to their friends and their fellow soldiers, at this extraordinarily difficult and sad time.