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Handover of ex-HMAS Brisbane: speech, Garden Island, Sydney.

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SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate



Garden Island, Sydney

3:30pm, Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Well, can I welcome everyone here, particularly our special guest, the Premier of Queensland, his minister, Peter Slipper, my federal colleague, Admiral Moffitt, who’s just been promoted - and congratulations, he’s (inaudible) the new job here - and a former skipper of the Brisbane.

For me, this is a day, I guess, tinged with sadness in some ways but also quite exciting in others. Sadness, I guess, because we say goodbye to a ship that has served Australian interests so well for 34 years and served those interests well, not only in peacetime but also in conflict, a ship that served off Vietnam on two separate occasions and then, more recently, in the first Gulf War.

It’s also a time, I think, to remember not only the ship but, of course, the many thousands of Australians who served with her, in her over that period of 34 years. And so, when we think of the proud heritage of this ship, we’re really thinking of the period of service and sometimes sacrifice of so many Australians, not only of those who served but of their families who give up so much to enable their loved ones to serve our interests in the Defence Force.

Excitement, of course, because the ship now goes on to a new future and will provide a great deal of pleasure to, obviously again, thousands of Australians over a very long period of time. This is the third of our, and last of our DDGs to be given a burial at sea to provide pleasure for future - for this and future generations of Australia.

The Perth in Western Australia, the Hobart in South Australia - and I was just wondering how we were so successful in getting the Hobart away from Tasmania but so it goes. And now, of course, Brisbane returns to Brisbane or to the Sunshine Coast, which seems most appropriate to be her resting place. And, of course, to a very beautiful part of Queensland off the Sunshine Coast.

Premier, for my part, I would just like to thank Peter Slipper who has pressed us along this path now for a very long period of time. The government made this commitment before the last federal election and provided some funds to assist with the preparation of the ship and the towing and the finally - finally what will be necessary to put her to the bottom of the sea.

I’d like to thank Queensland for taking her because, I’m not sure whether the Premier sees it in this way, but I certainly see that she’ll be a wonderful dive site for all Australians and visitors as well as just for, to Queensland. So it is, as I say, a day that’s in some ways tinged with sadness as we say farewell to a great piece of naval heritage, but also a day of some excitement when we look forward to the way in which this vessel in a new role will provide pleasure to so many people.


I’d, Admiral Moffitt, I think, served as captain on this ship three times - twice, twice, I’ve elevated him even further. And he’s joined by other retired colleagues here today who are also skippers of the Brisbane. And some of those colleagues, I know, are very deeply involved in the preservation of naval heritage, something that I think is very important. And my last visit to a site nearby was to announce the plan to establish a naval heritage centre on Garden Island, somewhere where we can exhibit so much of the moveable heritage of the Navy, much of which, of course, is stored away from public gaze at the moment but which we would really like to bring to the pubic presence.

And in concluding, let me say that not only - that although the ship will go to the bottom of the sea in its new role, parts of its construction, I was going to say moveable heritage but it’s not just moveable heritage because the bridge has gone to the War Memorial in Canberra, and other parts of its moveable heritage will be retained also so that those who don’t dive will nevertheless be able to experience something of the Brisbane in the future as well.

So thank you for coming along for what I think is an important day today as we farewell this great ship and thank all those who served in her, and we look forward to her new future offering pleasure to Australians and others. Thank you.