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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 7698

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) (3:34 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate record its deep regret at the death, on 27 November 2008, of Lieutenant Michael Kenneth Housdan Fussell, killed while on combat operations in Afghanistan, and place on record its appreciation of his service to his country, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

I know all senators and I think all Australians were saddened by the report of the death of Lieutenant Fussell and the injuries to two of his colleagues. We express our deep condolences to his family, who have lost a fine young man—a man who was very well respected by his colleagues and who had a reputation as a courageous and loyal soldier. His death saddens us all and I think highlights again the dangers of our mission in Afghanistan.

This brings to seven the Australian soldiers we have lost in operations in Afghanistan, and I think it very much brings home to us the seriousness and danger and the commitment we have made to Afghanistan. While we acknowledge the need for the efforts that we are making there and for the international efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, it is also becoming clearer that that comes at a very high price for the Australian defence forces and for the other forces engaged in those efforts in Afghanistan.

But it is important that we signal our renewed commitment to that international effort to bring some peace to Afghanistan and to provide for a democratic government to rule Afghanistan in peace and stability. I know this parliament has been as one in supporting our troops in Afghanistan, and I know there has been a bipartisan approach from this government and the former government to the responsibility and commitment we make there, but I think it is true that we all accept the burden of the decisions we have taken in this regard. While it may be easy sometimes for politicians to commit to such things, it has very much brought home to me the fact that that commitment has now seen the loss of seven Australian soldiers, and it is they and their families who bear the cost of the commitment we make. But we hope that their efforts will not be in vain and that we will have success in Afghanistan.

The signs of renewed international commitment to the strategy in Afghanistan are, I think, encouraging. At the moment our focus is, as it should be, on the death of this Australian soldier and on the contribution he has made to Australia and to the interests of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family, and, of course, our thoughts are also with his ADF colleagues, who have suffered another tragic loss.