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Thursday, 19 March 2009
Page: 2269

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) (1:30 PM) —by leave—It is with great sadness that I make a statement to the Senate concerning the death of an Australian soldier, unfortunately for the second time this week. I know all Australia was deeply saddened to learn that another Australian soldier was killed in Afghanistan yesterday afternoon Australian time. He was a specialist explosive ordnance disposal technician and was tragically killed while making safe an improvised explosive device. The soldier’s name has not been released at this time and his family have asked that we respect their privacy, given they have only recently heard of his death. It has been a terrible week for our nation and for the ADF, particularly the troops serving in Afghanistan. Obviously, it is a time of great worry for the families of the soldiers.

As I said, this is the second Australian soldier to be killed this week. Corporal Mathew Hopkins died earlier in the week. I think everyone would have been moved by the photos in the paper of such a young man with a young baby and wife. They really brought it home to all of us. I know that anyone’s death is tragic but the death of such a young serviceman was very upsetting for all and brought home the seriousness and tragedy of his death.

As a result of the incident yesterday, 10 Australian soldiers have now been killed in Afghanistan fighting Taliban insurgents. We are deeply indebted to those brave soldiers who have given their lives on behalf of all of us. We believe they made that sacrifice not in vain; they have played an important role in maintaining the security of our nation and the world. I would like to reiterate to anyone listening today how seriously the government and, I am sure, all senators take their responsibilities in supporting the deployment of Australian troops overseas. We know what a risk those who serve on our behalf take and we have seen in recent times the terrible price they pay. I assure all Australians that all of us in the government and in the parliament more generally take decisions to support such deployments very seriously and only after great consideration, knowing that someone’s son, someone’s husband, will potentially pay a very high price. Unfortunately, 10 Australian soldiers have done so in Afghanistan.

It is essential for Australia’s security that we continue our fight to bring greater stability and security to Afghanistan. We should remember that many of the terrorists who have inflicted enormous suffering around the world over the past decade found sanctuary with and were trained under the Taliban. We must recall that, since 2000, over 100 Australians have been killed at their hands. Afghanistan remains a highly dangerous place. The government remains committed to fighting terrorism at its source. We cannot allow Afghanistan to yet again become a safe haven for international terrorists. So, however difficult the task, it is an important task, an imperative task, to ensure that Afghanistan is not allowed to become a safe haven for the export of international terrorism. The implications of this would extend not only to that region but also throughout our region, potentially even to our shores.

On behalf of the Australian government, I extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues—the fellow serving soldiers—of the brave soldier who died yesterday. I know words cannot heal the terrible loss they must feel but it is important that the parliament and the government let them know how we grieve their loss and that the thoughts of a grateful nation are with them at what must be a terrible and difficult time.