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Monday, 24 June 2013
Page: 6656

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

That the House record its deep regret at the death on 22 June 2013 of Corporal Cameron Stewart Baird MG 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.

On Saturday the opposition leader and I joined other guests just outside Yungaburra on Queensland's Tinaburra Peninsula. It is a place the Leader of the Opposition and I have been before. We went there for Ben Chuck's funeral. Following Ben Chuck's funeral his parents, Gordon and Susan, have worked hard, alongside other family members, for those lost in Afghanistan to create a beautiful memorial to those lost. It will be an avenue of honour where 39 trees have already been planted in tribute. There is a memorial statue there and a memorial board. It is a place of remarkable physical beauty and it has been wonderfully done. Many family members were in attendance on that day for the opening of the memorial and you could see, particularly as they walked forward to lay a floral tribute to their lost family member, the grief that is still wracking those individuals. You could see a lot of grief but you could see a lot of pride in service too.

Remarkably, as that service was coming to an end the first news was coming through that had been more death and more wounding in Afghanistan. These are always cruel things to hear but in that moment it seemed particularly cruel to hear this news. It was a reminder that our work in Afghanistan is not yet over. There is work to do and there is still danger and there is still risk. So today we move a motion of condolence for the person who will have the 40th tree planted at that memorial, the 40th Australian who has died in our name in Afghanistan. His name is Corporal Cameron Baird and he was 32 years old when he died. Cameron was in the Australian Army for most of his adult life. He died a young man. Corporal Baird was a soldier from the Sydney-based 2 Commando Regiment. In 11 years in uniform Corporal Baird served in Afghanistan on five tours and served in Iraq and in Timor Leste. The Chief of the Defence Force said yesterday in paying tribute that his mates describe him as one of the most iconic figures in the regiment. This is truly extraordinary praise in a unit with so many fine soldiers home to some of our most elite fighting forces and in a unit which has paid such a high price in our action in Afghanistan.

Four years ago Corporal Baird won the Medal for Gallantry. As members of the House would know, that is one of the highest military honours that anybody can win. Four years ago he won that Medal for Gallantry; two days ago Corporal Baird lost his life. At approximately 3 pm Saturday Canberra time Cameron Baird, from Burnie in Tasmania, was killed in action in a valley in Afghanistan where he was fighting to disrupt an insurgent network targeting our area of responsibility in the Uruzgan province. He is survived by his parents, his brother and his partner. They will never forget him and we will never forget him. We offer our most sincere condolences to his family.

At the same time an Australian Special Forces soldier was seriously wounded. He is now recovering from those wounds but our thoughts are with him as he undergoes that recovery and with his family, who have learned of his wounding and will be by his side as he does recover. A Royal Australian Air Force airman operating with the joint terminal attack control team was also wounded. His wounds are of a more minor nature but our thoughts are with him too. Our thoughts are with that Special Forces soldier and that airman as they recover. Our thoughts are also with their comrades who were with them when this death and wounding occurred.

It is a very sad day for this parliament, Speaker, a very sad day for the Australian nation, and I know every member will be offering their most sincere condolences. We best honour our loss in the spirit we see from the families whenever we have the privilege of seeing them gather together and their spirit is always one of wanting us to honour their sacrifice by seeing the mission through.