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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8489

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

That the House record its deep regret at the death, on 2 July 2012, of Sergeant Blaine Flower Diddams during 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.

We are here once again to acknowledge the sacrifice of an Australian and an Australian family in the war in Afghanistan. Sergeant Blaine Diddams joined the army at 18 years old. It was a job he held and loved for most of his adult life, a life that came to an end with an insurgent's bullet in Afghanistan's Chaura Valley last month. Sergeant Diddams was killed in the field on operations. This was a soldier's death—a death with honour, facing the enemy with his mates by his side.

Sergeant Diddams was farewelled at Karrakatta Cemetery. I attended the funeral; the Leader of the National Party was there representing the opposition; the Minister for Defence was there; and Ms Moylan was there as the local member. It was a day of profound sadness. Every death hurts, and pain was on display that day. Every day and every night that our soldiers continue to fight in Afghanistan, every day that we have troops overseas in harm's way, you hope the family will not be receiving some fateful news—but they do. That is the thankless reality of war. That is the price embraced when we as a government, as a parliament and as a nation send our forces abroad. We should be humbled by the fact that men like Blaine Diddams accept that risk freely. There are few things more remarkable in a democracy than a soldier willing to give his life for his country.

The loss of Blaine Diddams is the 33rd Australian death in Afghanistan. It is a grievous toll, a loss of life that has brought sadness to so many homes and to so many families. I extend my deepest sympathy to Blaine's widow, Toni-Ann; his daughter, Elle-Lou; his son, Henry; his parents, Peter and Cate; and his siblings, Christian, Luke Nikki and Sian.

I also wish to extend my sympathy to his other family, the Australian Defence Force, and particularly the Special Air Service Regiment. I know I speak for both sides of this House when I say to them and to all those other families who mourn a loss from Afghanistan that however bitter those losses are—and they must be very bitter indeed—they have not been in vain. The disruption and eradication of terrorism is one of the great security goals of our time. We are a world away from the dark days of 2001 when al-Qaeda and its allies acted with impunity, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan with cruelty and fear. Today it is a very different picture. Al-Qaeda has been degraded and disrupted everywhere. Its founder, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed and its former sanctuary of Afghanistan is progressing steadily through the transition process to full security control by its own army and police. Blaine Diddams saw more of that process than most other Australians due to his seven deployments since November 2001. He saw the progress because he helped deliver the progress—and ultimately he gave his life for it. I say today to the House and to the Australian people that that sacrifice was not in vain. This 'soldier's soldier' goes to his rest loved by his family, missed by his mates and honoured by his nation. Blaine Diddams's service and sacrifice will not be forgotten.