House debates

Monday, 18 October 2010


Private Nathan Bewes; Trooper Jason Brown; Private Tomas Dale; Private Grant Kirby; Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney

Debate resumed from 28 September, on motion by Ms Gillard:

That the House record its deep regret at the deaths of Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney while on combat operations in Afghanistan and places on record its appreciation of their service to our country and tenders its profound sympathy to their families and friends in their bereavement.

4:00 pm

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Death is not a topic that I find easy to talk about, but that is what we are speaking about today as we honour these brave Australians—Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. The stark finality of the sacrifice of these young men can never be properly expressed by mere words because words alone seem to belittle the sacrifice these Australians have made on our behalf. Of course, members of this House have spoken and will speak to this condolence motion. They, like me, seek to properly and justly honour these men.

The sheer tragedy of these deaths should remind us that war is not something remote. For many Australians our connection to these young men, to war and to Afghanistan is through today’s interface—television and internet news. War by television is close enough to touch yet far enough away that it is just not seen. I say this not as a criticism but rather to showcase the distance between our remarkably cohesive, vibrant and safe community and the harsh reality of this war where young Australians do their absolute best for us and often pay the ultimate price for us. Sadly the remoteness of this war and the 15-second-grab nature of television news mean that many Australians do not see that reality, do not see the pain and suffering.

Over the last two months I attended the funerals of Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. The Prime Minister was at those funerals, as was the Leader of the Opposition. They were there, like me as the local member for the Gallipoli Barracks, the home of 6RAR, to pay their respects and those of this nation to these brave men. As important as that is, those funerals serve to remind us all that death is not a solitary thing because not one of us is alone. We have families, wives, partners, children, mums and dads, grandparents, good friends and colleagues. They all share the burden of this sacrifice made on our behalf, made in the name of our nation. Their pain will not go away. At each of these funeral services I saw evidence of that—wives, children and Noah MacKinney, who was born only a matter of hours after his father’s funeral. That is the price that is paid as fine Australians, so many of our best, go to war.

Our soldiers do not choose their wars; we do through our government. Those decisions are not made easily, no matter the political persuasion of the government of the day. The stark reality of war hits home most harshly to those whose loved ones have paid the ultimate price for us. In saying this I ask that we all reflect on the challenge and burden that we place on our armed forces and acknowledge the sacrifice they make on our behalf, willingly going into battle fully understanding the risks they take of death, injury, pain and mental torment. We as a nation ask so much of these Australians and we ask it of their families as well.

So my challenge to my fellow Australians is to take the tragedy of these deaths, think of how you would cope if it were your son, your partner, your father or your friend, and open your heart to these brave Australians who died for you. In particular, open your heart to their families whose lives and responsibilities must go on, having themselves made this enormous sacrifice for all of us. As we pay our respects to these courageous Australians, let us never forget the debt this nation owes to those who go to war, to those who do not come home, to Nathan Bewes, Jason Brown, Tomas Dale, Grant Kirby, Jared MacKinney and their families. How our nation repays that debt is a matter of honour, not of accounting. As the families consistently said at the funerals: do not let their deaths be in vain.

4:06 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Trade) Share this | | Hansard source

I also rise to record my sympathy at the deaths of Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney, all of who died whilst on combat operations in Afghanistan. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to their families and friends and to their communities, and to acknowledge my appreciation for their service to our country. Today I would like to speak in particular of Private Nathan Bewes, who was from Murwillumbah in my electorate of Richmond. Nathan Bewes was serving with the First Mentoring Task Force when he tragically lost his life from an improvised explosive device on Friday, 9 July. Whilst Nathan Bewes was from the Brisbane based 6th Battalion RAR, he grew up in Murwillumbah and his family and many friends still live there.

Nathan was just 23 years of age when he died. Born in Kogarah, Nathan, like his dad, Gary, loved the St George rugby league team. His family moved to Murwillumbah, where Nathan attended Mount Saint Patrick School. Nathan joined Murwillumbah’s Army cadet unit at the age of 13. He joined the Army in 2005, at the age of 18, and was part of the 6RAR. He was on his third tour of duty after first serving in East Timor in 2006, then in Afghanistan in 2008 and again this year. He had been awarded six service medals.

Speaking with his family it was clear that Nathan was always keen on joining the Army. Gary Bewes said that his son had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfathers: Cliff Gill, who served in New Guinea in World War II, and Jack Bewes, who served with the Royal Air Force in England. As his family have said, the Army was his lifelong passion. It was all he wanted to do. When he was on leave from Afghanistan in June all he could talk about was getting back to the deployment and to his mates.

Nathan’s family said that he was a born leader and loved the comradeship of the armed forces. He thrived on the lifestyle, the adventure and the mateship. His mother, Kay, said, ‘He was very proud of the job he did and we were very proud of the job he did as well.’ For him that was what he was joining the Army for—to serve Australia, change the world and to help other people.

On the day of Nathan’s funeral the town of Murwillumbah paid tribute to a son and a brother who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Nathan was remembered by his family, friends and fellow soldiers as a man of great courage and as an outstanding soldier. He was also remembered as a man of humour, mateship and compassion. At the end of the service a guard of honour was formed outside the Sacred Heart church with members of the 6RAR, Army cadets, and local school children. And the town of Murwillumbah came to a standstill and more than a thousand people lined the streets as a mark of respect.

We will be forever grateful and indebted to our soldiers for the work they do in protecting us, our interests and our nation. We must always remember those who have served and who continue to serve our nation with such bravery.

Our thoughts are especially with Nathan’s parents, Gary and Kay; his sister, Stephanie; and his partner, Alice. Our thoughts are also with all the families of those whose loved ones have died while serving our country. We thank them for their sacrifice and dedication and their service to our nation.

I commend the motion to the House.

4:10 pm

Photo of Bob BaldwinBob Baldwin (Paterson, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the condolence motion for Private Bewes, Trooper Brown, Private Dale, Private Kirby and Lance Corporal MacKinney. It was on 24 June when I last stood in this committee room under similar, joyless circumstances and recounted the lives and tragic deaths of Private Timothy James Alpin, Private Benjamin Adam Chuck and Private Scott Travis Palmer. It was only two days prior to that, on 22 June, that I stood here and spoke on the condolence motion for Sapper Moerland and Sapper Smith.

I remember standing here and thinking that, indeed, it had been a very dark fortnight for our Australian Defence Force, who had lost five of their own in very quick time. Let us not forget the grief-bound families who must still be coming to terms with the very personal loss of their loved ones. Today all here in this place again pause to remember those that have given their lives for their country. I am sure that those here today will agree that, while a lot has happened since I was last standing here, the one thing that remains unchanged, unmoveable and unrepenting is our collective support for our troops and our collective sadness in remembering those we have recently lost.

Since the parliament was prorogued only a few months ago Australia has continued to suffer casualties in Afghanistan. In fact, in two short months Australia lost five fine soldiers who gave their all in the name of their country. They were doing only what their government had asked of them and it is therefore entirely appropriate that we take their measure of sacrifice and reflect on that here today.

I now wish to briefly recount the lives of each of the five fallen soldiers as well as some of the moving tributes paid to each of them by those who knew them best. I believe it is important to have those very moving sentiments read into the Hansard so that they remain on record in this parliament for ever and a day.

Private Nathan Bewes was from the Brisbane based 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment and was serving with the First Mentoring Task Force in Afghanistan when he was killed by an improvised explosive device on 9 July 2010. It was Private Bewes’s second appointment to Afghanistan, having already been deployed to East Timor once previously, and he knew the dangers of undertaking a dismounted patrol in the Chora Valley region of Uruzgan Province more than anyone.

I am reminded of Thucydides, the Ancient Greek historian and author who said:

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

In fact, 7 Brigade Commander Brigadier Paul McLachlan said of Private Bewes:

He held the welfare and safety of his mates more dearly than he held his own life and he revelled in this responsibility.

In a society that has a tendency to overuse the concept of a hero, here is an example to us all. A knock about bloke, who day in and day out, clearly understanding the consequences, chose to put his life on the line to do his job and protect his mates.

Private Bewes was born in Kogarah, New South Wales, and joined the Army in 2005. He was posted to 6RAR after completing his recruit and infantry basic training the same year. He was only 23 when he was killed.

Private Bewes was awarded the Australian Active Service Medal with clasp International Coalition Against Terrorism, the Australian Service Medal with clasp Timor-Leste, the Australian Defence Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, NATO medal with clasp ISAF and the East Timor Solidarity Medal. Private Bewes was also awarded the Infantry Combat Badge, and for previous deployments the Returned Active Service Badge.

Private Bewes is survived by his parents, Gary and Kay; his sister, Stephanie; and his partner, Ms Alice Walsh, who released a statement about Nate that I would like to read:

Nate was my best friend, my soul mate, the one I knew I’d be with for the rest of my life. He was an amazing mate to our many friends and was loved by everyone. He always made me laugh and I have never loved anyone so much.

He was an excellent soldier who was willing to put his life in danger along with his mates from Team 3 for the people of Australia. I will miss my Bewesy for the rest of my life.

While your loved one comes home to you every day there are others who are worrying if there will be another day. Soldier’s families be proud, as they are out changing the world, making history and putting their lives on the line for Australia.

Take one minute out of your day to pray or wish upon a star for a soldier so that they may all come back home safely one day to his or her family.

I love you and miss you Nate.

Private Nathan Bewes was truly an Australian soldier, dedicated to upholding the values of the Australian Defence Force, but, more than that, he was committed to the very end to looking out for his mates.

Trooper Jason Brown from the Perth base Special Air Service Regiment was serving with the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan when he was sadly killed by insurgent gunfire on the morning of 14 August 2010. Trooper Brown was born in Sydney in 1981and joined the Army on 13 June 2000. In 2004 he joined the 4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) and on successful completion of the 2007 selection course Trooper Brown became a member of the Special Air Service Regiment. This was Trooper Brown’s first tour of Afghanistan but he had considerable experience on the ground, having been deployed to East Timor on three previous occasions as part of Operation Tanager, Operation Citadel and Operation Astute. His colleagues spoke of an outstanding career soldier who was dedicated to his job and always went the extra mile for his mates. They spoke of a professional and committed soldier and one that will be sorely missed by his closest friends, as well as the entire ADF family.

Trooper Brown has been award the Australian Active Service Medal with clasp ICAT, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Australian Service Medal with clasp Timor-Leste, the United Nations Medal with ribbon UNTAET, the NATO ISAF Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, the Infantry Combat Badge. Trooper Brown has also been awarded the Return from Active Service Badge for an earlier deployment.

Trooper Brown is survived by his parents, Graham and Ann, along with his sister, Stephanie. In a statement they released, the family said:

Today we were advised of the tragic death of our son, brother and mate while he was serving in Afghanistan.

Jason was a career soldier who dreamed from a young age of being nothing else. Everyone who knew him knew his dream. He strived to be the best he could be at his job and was successfully accepted into the elite Special Air Service Regiment.

He was born to be a soldier, and believed in what he was doing. He died doing what he loved. We are all very proud of him.

We will miss him dearly, as will his army mates, who were his second family.

We ask at this time you respect our privacy and allow us our space to grieve the loss of an exceptional soldier, mate, brother, son and most of all Australian. 

In a subsequent statement his family also thanked friends, the ADF and the local community for the:

… wonderful and overwhelming support, care and compassion we have received during this most difficult time following the death of our dear son and brother, Trooper Jason Thomas Brown.

…            …            …

The army was his life and his second family. He died serving the country he loved so well and his advice to his military mates would be to stay focused and stay strong.

This sentiment was echoed by the Commander Joint Task 633, Major General John Cantwell, who said that Trooper Brown will be remembered by his mates in both the Special Air Service Regiment and 2nd Commando Regiment as a professional soldier who strived to excel in everything he did. He said:

It was a warrior’s send-off by our nation’s finest warriors—something I’m sure Jason would have been extremely humbled by, but something he truly earned with his dedicated and selfless service.

Trooper Brown will be sorely missed by his family, his mates and his brothers-in-arms, who I know will be doing all they can to help Trooper Brown’s family cope with this immense loss of their son and brother.

I am sure the deaths of Sapper Moerland and Sapper Smith are all too fresh in our memories, not least of all because their deaths represented the first time Australia had suffered multiple casualties during one operational incident since the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, on 20 August 2010, Australia again lost two soldiers—two exceptional soldiers—during one operational incident. Once again, the culprit was the insidious and indiscriminate improvised explosive device. The incident occurred at approximately 10.30 am on 20 August 2010 during a joint counter-IED operation that Australian troops were conducting with the Afghan National Army personnel near a position in the Baluchi Valley. The two soldiers killed were Private Tomas Dale and Private Grant Kirby, and their loss so soon after the loss of Trooper Brown serves as a very real reminder of the dangers that our troops face on the ground every day in Afghanistan.

Truly the dangers cannot be underestimated, nor the bravery and dedication of the Australian soldiers doubted. Private Tomas Dale, who was 21, and Private Grant Kirby, who was 35, were from the Brisbane based 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment—the very same regiment that bore the loss of Private Nathan Bewes only a few weeks prior. Although Private Dale and Private Kirby were separated by a few years in age, they were described as being truly brothers-in-arms. Commander of the Joint Task Force 633, Major General John Cantwell, spoke of the two soldiers who had naturally fallen into the role of youngest and oldest brothers in their sections. He also spoke of the hardship experienced by their mates at having to deal with the loss of two comrades. He said:

Losing anyone is hard, but losing two people close enough to be considered as brothers, in every sense of that word, is especially difficult and it will be a real test for those who need to continue with this fight in their honour.

It is a testament to their unwavering commitment to one another that Private Dale and Private Kirby’s section mates were transported in from their outlying patrol base to attend the ramp ceremony in Afghanistan and bid a final farewell to their mates.

Private Dale’s life and service, his courage and, ultimately, his selfless sacrifice will be forever remembered by his parents, David and Karen, along with his brothers, Sam and Joe. Of their beloved son and brother, they said:

Tomas loved the Army and it was all he wanted to do from an early age. He knew the risks from going overseas but he was willing to take that risk for the cause he believed in. 

Tomas loved his family, brothers and girlfriend and we all loved him very much and are very proud of him.

Tomas was a great bloke and will never be forgotten. His brothers Sam and Joe will greatly miss him.

Tomas would want his colleagues to keep fighting the cause and hope they come home safely. His mates meant everything to him.

At Private Dale’s funeral service, it was perhaps his father, David, who best reflected the terrible sense of loss that the family felt. In but a few short words he said:

The thought of spending the rest of our lives without you is scary, you were our world …

Private Kirby will also be sorely missed and his absence will be forever felt by his family. In a statement they put out soon after the news of his death, Private Kirby’s family said:

Grant was part of a close and loving family, father Gary and mum Dianne, brothers Shaun and Luke, sister Lauren, and former wife Edwina and their two daughters Isabella … and Madeleine …

“While Grant and I were no longer married, he was very much a part of our family,” said Edwina, “he was a dedicated father and my very close friend.”

“Grant was always there for our girls and was totally involved in their sports and school events when he was not deployed.” 

Edwina said Grant was an incredibly honourable person who had an immense amount of pride in his job serving the country.

Grant’s father Gary said that his son had always been keen to be in the Army. 

“In fact after suffering shin splints in his first attempt to join, he stuck with it and successfully tried again.”

“He was very passionate about health and fitness and kept himself in very good shape,” Gary said.

“Grant was one of the boys,” said his sister Lauren, “and being older was often called ‘Dad’ by the boys in his unit.

“He was a role model at times and often a mentor to them.”

Gary said the family was incredibly proud of Grant and it will take time to come to terms with his loss.

These sentiments were echoed in a statement released by Miss Joanne Matthews and the extended family of Private Kirby, which said:

Grant was also part of another family with me, his mother, Joanne and my former husband, Gavin Matthews and his other brother George and wife, Belinda and son Nate and other sister Avy. We are all brokenhearted and we find his death difficult to accept or understand. On their behalf and on behalf of the extended families we wish to say that we are so very proud of the way Grant carried out his responsibilities in life and the way he died serving his country. We send our condolences to Grant’s former wife, Edwina and their beautiful girls Bella and Mattie. We also wish to express our deepest sympathy for the family and friends of Private Thomas Dale and other members of the unit.

At Private Kirby’s funeral service his family spoke of a man that will be sorely missed. His sister spoke of an eternal optimist, no matter what the situation, and said that he was the biggest, best brother in the world. Ten-year old Isabella spoke of the love for her daddy while his brother Sean read a moving poem describing how much he will be missed.

It will of course take time for the family, Private Kirby’s section and Private Dale’s section to come to terms with the loss of their brothers-in-arms. Although I am sure they have gotten on with the job at hand, the loss of two fine soldiers and mates from within such an obviously close-knit section will take its toll. However, I am confident that those mates will be the first to lend their support to the families of Private Dale and Private Kirby and will ensure that their service was not in vain and their sacrifice is never forgotten.

A little over one month ago, on 24 August, another Australian soldier was killed in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was conducting a dismounted patrol in the green zone when he and his section were fired upon by insurgents. Lance Corporal MacKinney was moved out of danger by his mates and was provided with first aid but tragically succumbed to his wounds. Lance Corporal MacKinney is the latest Australian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan and his death takes the total number of Australian casualties in Afghanistan to 21. The Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Houston, recently noted:

The last couple of months have been a particularly trying time for members of the mentoring task force, particularly as Lance Corporal MacKinney’s death came while other soldiers were still coming to terms with the loss of Trooper Jason Brown, Private Thomas Dale and Private Grant Kirby.

Lance Corporal MacKinney was also from the Brisbane based 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment and the fourth member of that rotation 6RAR to have been killed in Afghanistan in just a few short weeks. Lance Corporal MacKinney was a popular soldier in the 6th Battalion and had recently taken on extra responsibility within the section following his promotion to the rank of lance corporal. ‘Crash’, as he was known by his mates, was regarded as a soldier’s soldier, a consummate professional and someone willing to do anything for his mates. At home he was a loving husband to wife Becky and a loving father to their daughter, Annabel. In a statement released by Becky, she said :

The long journey without Jared has begun for Annabel and me and will soon begin for little Noah Jared, who is due to come into the world in a fortnight. Noah will never get to meet his father but he will come to know him for the incredible man he was through our love and memories. So many people have helped our family through the dark times of the last few days, people we know and also so many people we have never met, who all wanted to help ease our pain. On behalf of the family I would like to very sincerely thank them for their best wishes and generous support. I would like you to know that it has made a very real difference. In the next few weeks I hope I can personally thank as many of you as I can. To Jared’s mates in Afghanistan and back home: we were all very proud of Jared and the work he loved doing. I want to thank you for your caring and incredible messages of support. I know Jared would want me to tell you that we are all very proud of you and fully support you in the job that you are doing for all of us. I would also like to express my appreciation to the media for the very sensitive manner in which they have covered the tragic events over the past few weeks and also their ongoing respect for our privacy. We have reached the deepest depths of despair since we were told of Jared’s death and we are also being helped and comforted by the support and extraordinary generosity of the spirit of old friends, new friends and strangers who care.

In a heartbreaking twist of fate, little Noah Jared MacKinney was born two weeks early and only hours after his father’s funeral. Although Noah will never get to meet his father, in time he will get to learn about him from those closest to him. From his unwavering love for his family to his courage and devotion to his mates, Little Noah will forever embody the spirit of his father and forever keep his memory alive.

I conclude by saying that this nation has a very heavy heart when one of its sons is killed in combat, but losing five in such a short period of time only compounds the feeling of sorrow. I would only say to those families who have lost their sons, their husbands, their brothers, their fathers or their mates to remember them as the heroes they are. Keep a place within your hearts to forever remember them for all that they did for the country they loved so dearly. Hopefully, in time the knowledge of their sacrifice and courage will bring some small peace.

I visited Afghanistan in April and I may have met some of these people when I was there—I had met Sapper Smith. I say to those families that these men are making a real difference. That is what I told them at the funeral because that is what I truly believe. That is what our men and women on the ground in Afghanistan understand and believe. They are making a real difference in the lives of Afghanis. They are making a real difference in halting terrorism, addressing it at its very access where it begins and to think otherwise would be to disrespect their lives and their contributions. Australian soldiers, whether male or female, when they pull on that uniform and wear that flag patch on their shoulder all grow to over 10 feet tall. They are courageous, they are dedicated, they are locked into supporting their mates no matter what and they never leave their mates behind. The mates of those five diggers will never leave behind their memories or their families as they respect their contribution to this nation for the freedoms that we would all want and encourage for those in Afghanistan. (Time expired)

4:30 pm

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too rise to pay tribute to five very brave, courageous Australians who were obviously very committed to their work and to their country. Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney are now Australian heroes. I do not want to speak this evening in personal terms. I did not know any of these soldiers, although it is possible that as Minister for Defence I might have met some or all of them—when I was minister I had the privilege, on a regular basis, of making personal contact with many of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force. But, although I did not know these men, I can be confident in saying a number of things about them and about their families—and, of course, tonight I also extend my deepest sympathies to all the families and friends of each of these soldiers.

It is always distressing to lose a soldier in theatre, but it is even more distressing that four of the five soldiers we pay tribute to tonight lost their lives to IEDs, improvised explosive devices. It is only a personal thing with me, but I think it is even more distressing—if that is possible—when a life is lost to an IED than it is when a life is lost in a firefight. Notwithstanding the fact that the insurgents in Afghanistan do not play by the rules, to me there seems something fairer and more equal about a firefight than the insidious use of explosive devices like roadside bombs. The use of such devices is such a callous act, even in a time of war. It is excessively distressing to see so many soldiers fall to these devices in theatre.

I said I can be confident about a few things, and I can be. The first is that each of the soldiers to whom we pay tribute tonight believed in what they were doing and wanted to deploy. They understood the risks absolutely and were prepared to take those risks. I can also be confident that their families understood that as well. They understood their commitment. They too had a full understanding of the risks involved and were prepared—although, I am sure, often reluctantly—to support these soldiers in the taking of those risks. That is a very, very important point, because it goes to the broader debate about our participation in Afghanistan. People are right to say that this has been a terrible and tragic waste of life. Of course it is. But in the minds of those who have given their lives, and in the minds of those who are closest to them, it was something they believed in doing and, on that basis, a risk worth taking.

The best thing that this parliament can do—and this is important in a week when we will commence a debate about our participation in Afghanistan—for these five soldiers, and those who have gone before them in Afghanistan and those who have been injured permanently in Afghanistan, is to stay the course, to finish the job. We should not allow their contribution, the sacrifice of their lives, to have been in vain. We are doing very important work in Afghanistan. The international community is doing very important work in Afghanistan. Afghanistan goes to the heart of our own national security. It appears we need to be constantly reminding the broader electorate that Australians did lose their lives in places such as Bali and Jakarta at the hands of people who were trained by insurgents in Afghanistan. In addition, in stabilising the country we are not only helping Afghans but also helping to stem the flow of refugees, which is a topic of some debate in this country at the moment.

This is not a job that should be left to one country alone and certainly it is not a job that should be left to the US alone. It is important to give this mission moral authority by making sure it is a truly international campaign. Australia’s contribution in Oruzgan province is important but relatively small in the greater scheme of things. But more than anything else it helps to give the mission that moral legitimacy and that moral authority. It shows the world that this is not just one country acting against another country or indeed an ideology; this is the broader international community doing what it believes it needs to do to protect people everywhere from the sort of people the Taliban were prepared to give safe haven to prior to the intervention.

So tonight, in addition to paying tribute to these five soldiers, more than anything else I want to pre-empt the debate that is coming before us later in the week and remind people that we are there for important reasons. The people who we have there are doing important work and they all do so as volunteers. If anything comes out of the debate in the parliament this week, I hope it is twofold: first, I hope it forces us to become better at explaining our participation in the mission to the broader Australian people—and I am confident it can do that; and, second, I hope that it returns the parliament to an absolutely bipartisan position on Afghanistan. Cracks have been appearing in that bipartisan approach—I know they are, in a sense, at the margins, and there has been no suggestion that the opposition is now questioning our involvement in the project—and I think it is very, very important, if we are going to continue to maintain the support of the Australian community for this mission, to really hold tight in our public pronouncements about the campaign.

I also think we need to start being more transparent and open with the Australian people. We need to be talking about the challenges as much as the successes—and there have been many successes—and we need to better define what it means to win in Afghanistan. I do not think the Australian people understand that. They cannot understand how likely success is if they do not understand what the definition of a win is. I look forward to the coming parliamentary debate providing some of those answers for the Australian people, but more than anything I look forward to that debate reinforcing in the minds of the family and friends of all those who have given their lives in Afghanistan that they retain the support of the Parliament and all of its representatives and that those same representatives will be eternally grateful not only for the very significant sacrifices those soldiers made but also for the significant sacrifices made by those who were closest to them.

4:39 pm

Photo of Philip RuddockPhilip Ruddock (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to be associated with this condolence motion on the deaths of Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Thomas Brown, Private Grant Walter Kirby, Private Tomas James Dale and Lance Corporal Jared McKinney. The reason I particularly wanted to speak to this motion was that it related to a family in my own electorate whom I have had the opportunity to know over a long period of time because of their very significant level of engagement within the Westleigh community in particular.

I had only in July spent some time in Tarin Kowt as a parliamentary observer of our mission and I had the opportunity of visiting and speaking with many of our troops, particularly our troops of the special services. Trooper Jason Brown was the son of Graham and Ann Brown and the brother of Stephanie, his 25-year-old sister. I do not know whether, on that day when I had afternoon tea with the troops, Jason was there, but I know from speaking to many of his colleagues that they were very proud of the mission in which they were engaged and what they were doing for Australia. They were young people who recognised that there was a very significant risk but, I think, were conscious that our engagement in Afghanistan was for the very proper reason of ensuring that Australia and Australians are protected.

There is no doubt that what was happening in Afghanistan, and I will say this in another debate, was that people who were prepared to engage in terrorism operations abroad were being trained, and trained in very large numbers. That operation of Al-Qaeda needed to be brought to an end. Certainly, when you look at the tragedy that happened in New York, when you look at the tragedy of the bombings in Indonesia, where Australians tragically lost their lives, and when you look at the situation that occurred with people trained by Al-Qaeda coming back to Australia—some of them Australians through migration and some Australian-born but nevertheless training with that organisation—this is a situation in which the risk to Australians is either incurred there or here.

These young troops are the people who have taken up the task of defending their fellow Australians through their work in these operations that are designed to ensure that the Taliban do not re-establish themselves in Afghanistan. For all Australians, I think it is important to recognise that these people are undertaking a very, very dangerous task in our collective interests and we very much owe them not only a condolence motion but a continuing debt for the willingness with which they undertake actions which put their lives at risk and, tragically in many cases, lead to them losing their lives.

Jason Brown became the 18th soldier to lose his life during these operations in Afghanistan. He was 29 years of age. He was based in Perth with the Special Air Service Regiment and he died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds sustained during an engagement with Taliban insurgents on Saturday, 14 August. Members of his patrol gave him first aid. He was evacuated, but unfortunately he did not survive. His parents, whom I have met and whom I must say I greatly admire for their stoicism, reflected on the life of Jason:

Jason was a career soldier who dreamed from a young age of being nothing else.

Everyone who knew him knew his dream. He strived to be the best he could be at his job and was successfully accepted into the elite Special Air Service Regiment.

He was born to be a soldier, and believed in what he was doing. He died doing what he loved. We are all very proud of him.

We miss him dearly, as will his army mates, who were his second family.

Jason’s father was an Australian who served in Vietnam. The funeral, which took place in my electorate at one of our very well-known Catholic churches, was conducted by his uncle, Father Paul Fitzpatrick, who came especially from Ireland to conduct the service. It was a celebration of his life and a recognition of all that he had done for his fellow Australians. He was a young man very significantly awarded during his lifetime. He had the Australian Active Service Medal with clasp East Timor and with clasp International Coalition against Terrorism; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal; the Australian Service Medal with clasp Timor-Leste; the United Nations Medal with ribbon United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor; and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Medal for the International Security Assistance Force. He had the Australian Defence Medal, the Timor-Leste Solidarity Medal, the Infantry Combat Badge and the Returned from Active Service Badge. He was a young man of whom we can all be very proud. He was deployed in operation Tanager in East Timor, Operation Citadel in East Timor, Operation Astute in East Timor and Operation Slipper in Afghanistan. I am very proud that, as a constituent of mine, he was able to serve Australia in this way.

As I said in my remarks earlier, these sacrifices have not been in vain. This is not an operation about which any of us should be ashamed. All too often, in my judgment, if we are not prepared to deal with these issues further afield we will inevitably have to deal with them here, with even far greater consequences for the Australian community. We owe each of these young men a significant debt of obligation. They have served Australia well and their families can be very proud of them.

4:48 pm

Photo of Louise MarkusLouise Markus (Macquarie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to pay tribute to five Australian soldiers who gave everything, sacrificed all, in the service of their nation and in the defence of Australia’s interests in the region. This week we are preparing to debate Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan, and this motion of condolence is a timely reminder of the work being done, the sacrifices being made and the risks being taken by our troops each and every day.

Woven through the fabric of the electorate I represent is a rich military heritage, and that is why I speak today. It is a home for many members of the Defence Force and their families. It is the home of the Richmond RAAF Base, and can I briefly commend their service in communications and transport, with the C130s. The men and women who serve on that base certainly have a lot to do in assisting our deployments, and they have certainly assisted in the repatriation of those we have lost. On behalf of my electorate and those particularly who serve in the Defence Force, I express our most heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of these fine young men and to those who served with them and continue to serve. I will touch briefly on each of these men. They have a story and a life that they lived and it is important that we honour them today.

Private Nathan Bewes was killed in action serving with the First Mentoring Task Force in Afghanistan on Friday, 9 July this year. Aged 23 years, Private Nathan Bewes was from the Brisbane based 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, which we all know as 6RAR. He was known for his love and passion for the Army, having joined the cadets as a teenager and continuing to serve loyally until his life was tragically cut short. I have a few short words from his family, and I would like to quote from that statement:

Nathan was inspired by the family’s history of military and community service. He joined the Army Cadets at age 13 and by 15 years old he was a cadet under officer. The army was his lifelong passion. It was all he wanted to do.

Later on the statement says:

Nathan was a loyal friend and always cared for his mates. He just loved to look after people. At his 21st birthday party we could not get over such camaraderie between the young men. We could not believe that such mateship could exist between young men in this day and age.

Trooper Jason Brown was killed in action during contact with Taliban insurgents on 13 August this year. At 29 years of age, Trooper Brown was from the Perth based Special Air Service Regiment, known as the SAS. This was his first tour of Afghanistan. Trooper Brown was known for his professionalism, his committed approach, and his drive and determination in every task at hand.

Private Tomas Dale was killed in action when an improvised explosive device was detonated while he was on patrol in Afghanistan on Friday, 20 August. As we can see, the dates are so close together. This 21-year-old was also from 6RAR. This was also his first operational deployment. Private Dale’s family said that he loved the Army and that he would want his fellow soldiers, his mates, to continue the important work that they are doing in Afghanistan. Time and time again, as we hear the stories of these young men, this is a theme that flows through every story—their commitment to the task at hand, their love and passion for this nation, and their commitment to our freedom and the freedom of those who live in Afghanistan.

Private Grant Kirby was killed in action, again by an IED, while on patrol in Afghanistan on the same day, Friday, 20 August. Thirty-five-year-old Private Kirby was also from 6RAR and this was Private Kirby’s first deployment to Afghanistan. He was considered a role model to his younger comrades. They looked up to him for guidance and he led by example.

Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was killed in action during a firefight whilst on patrol in Afghanistan on 24 August. Twenty-eight-year-old Lance Corporal MacKinney was also from 6RAR and this was his third deployment to the Middle East. He will be remembered for his patriotism and dedication.

These five young men demonstrated what it means to be part of the Australian Defence Force. They were courageous and incredibly honourable young men who displayed immense fortitude throughout their military careers. These were our finest. These were elite soldiers, Australia’s best. They were willing to put their hands up to volunteer. They were aware of the risks. They were aware of the sacrifice.

Each individual was a man who had contributed significantly to the lives that he touched. They were sons, brothers, partners, husbands and mates. The loss to all who loved, played and fought with them is no doubt still felt very deeply. I particularly extend my condolences to their comrades, who are continuing with the task at hand—dealing with the loss of their mates as they continue to fight for what they believe in. I also want to express my deepest sympathies to the wives, partners, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends that are experiencing the loss of these special Australians firsthand.

Today is an opportunity for us in this place to acknowledge their contribution and to make it clear that they will be remembered in our hearts and minds. The journey ahead for all who have been connected with these young men will not be easy. Our support, our continued prayers and our thoughts will remain with them. More will be said in the coming week as we discuss and debate the significance of the war in Afghanistan and the significance of the contribution of all our men and women in the armed forces.

It is important that, as we debate our involvement in Afghanistan over the coming days and weeks, it is remembered that today we have our men and women who have chosen to commit to improving Afghanistan laying their lives on the line for the cause of keeping Australia safe. As has been said by the member for Berowra, this is about ensuring that the fight happens there and not here. To their families, to their comrades, to their mates—your sacrifice and the sacrifice of those who you love and who you worked with, your mates, is indeed honoured and recognised. We are a grateful nation.

4:57 pm

Photo of Luke SimpkinsLuke Simpkins (Cowan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Since the conclusion of the 42nd Parliament, there has been no clearer reminder to our nation that the world goes on than the deaths of five more of our soldiers. While we think we struggled with the election campaign, more importantly our soldiers were out there struggling in the war and in a fight for their lives that five of them did not win. It is best that we keep in our minds that, as we pursue the national interest by having our soldiers fight in Afghanistan, the pursuit of our objectives is sometimes paid for in more than money, equipment and expended ammunition. It is the nature of war that some will end up paying with their lives, and so it was for Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney.

I am taking this opportunity to honour these five men and give thanks to their families for their sacrifice and dedication to their nation’s service. Before I speak specifically of them and pay a tribute, I will speak of the war in Afghanistan. I say that because I believe in this war and I am happy to have that on the record. I believe that the Taliban and their supporters must be stopped, and that if they are not stopped in Afghanistan they will take the fight even more into Pakistan, using Afghanistan as a base. They will then also take the fight to the Western world, just as they did on 9-11 in New York and Washington. They will use their home base of Afghanistan not only to destabilise and radicalise moderate Islamic nations but also to foster home-grown terrorism wherever they can. I believe in this war because we must attack their home bases to stop these murderous and evil people.

We should remember that the Taliban and these sorts of terrorists have no standards of human decency. Remorseless killers who think nothing of hiding behind civilians as they engage our soldiers, there is literally nothing good that can be said of them. They are not reasonable. They cannot be reasoned with. They are driven on by a belief that their religion justifies their actions and they are the haters of democracy. They do not believe in the equality of women. They believe in sending Afghanistan, and whatever other places they can control, back to the Dark Ages. They are not misunderstood. Turn the other cheek and it will be slapped. Offer the hand of friendship and it will be cut off. Take a step back and they will take two steps forward. There is only one way to deal with them, and that is this war. Some people talk about the war by saying that Afghanistan has never been conquered and we should not try. They say that Alexander failed, the British failed, the Russians failed—everyone has failed and it will never be achieved. What I say is that this is not a war of conquest. This is not a takeover. This is about securing a reasonable, effective and democratic government. This is about having a system of government where women have the same rights as men, a system of government where you are not persecuted because of personal decisions about religion and freedom of speech, or, if you are female, seeking an education or even deciding who you associate with.

I am in favour of this war but not an endless commitment. I expect that the Afghan government will be doing everything in its power to establish an effective government, supported by the people and a military that can protect the population to allow the withdrawal of allied forces. I believe in strong expectations and the strong delivery of outcomes in the quickest possible time frames. Clearly there is a long way to go in winning the hearts and minds of local people. I say that because I understand that there have been situations where our soldiers have been blamed for the deaths of civilians. I recall there is a certain military rule that says women and children should not be used as cover when shooting at other combatants. That is a basic rule of warfare that the Australian Army abides by because we value life.

The Taliban do not value human life. They do not care about the safety of women and children, in the same way that they did not care about the defenceless women, children and civilians who died in the 9-11 attacks. While we would not use women and children as human shields, the Taliban would. As a result of the Taliban specifically using women and children to protect their own cowardly hides, those women and children end up being killed or wounded. In those circumstances, some Afghan people blame our soldiers and not the Taliban. Clearly there is a way to go in winning the hearts and minds of local people. I really wonder why more has not been done in the pursuit via warrants and orders of every known Taliban in Afghanistan or elsewhere. I think we are sometimes too willing to judge those willing to submit to international laws while forgetting about those who live by no laws apart from the brutality of certain religious beliefs.

I would now like to turn to the main reason I join with my colleagues and pay tribute to the ultimate sacrifice of Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. Private Nathan Bewes was with the 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment. Unfortunately that battalion has taken more casualties than most in recent times. Private Bewes was killed by a roadside bomb on 9 July. He was originally from New South Wales. He was born in 1986 and joined the Army in 2005. That was the same year he completed his recruit and infantry basic training before he got posted to the battalion at Enoggera. Private Bewes was no stranger to Afghanistan. He was on his second deployment there when he lost his life. He had also been deployed to East Timor. He is survived by his parents, a sister and his partner, Alice. My condolences go to all his family, especially his partner, who is now alone.

Trooper Jason Brown of the SAS was killed during sustained gunfire with the Taliban on 13 August. The member for Hunter made an interesting point when he said that there is a certain extra tragedy involved when a soldier is killed by improvised explosive devices rather than by direct fire with combatants, where the fight may be considered a little more honourable. Certainly in the case of Trooper Brown at least he had that, although it does not diminish from the tragedy and the loss that his family and his colleagues have suffered a result of his death. He leaves behind his parents and a sister.

Private Tomas Dale was just 21 when he was killed on 20 August, by an improvised explosive device. He was another member of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment. His circumstances are interesting. He was born in the United Kingdom in 1989 and it was just in 2003 that he and his family moved to Australia. He joined the Australian Army in 2007. Unfortunately, Afghanistan was his first operational deployment. He leaves behind his parents and two brothers. Having joined the Army in his adopted nation, he certainly made the greatest sacrifice for Australia.

Private Grant Kirby was 35 when he died. He was also from the 6th Battalion. He was a native-born Queenslander. Having joined the Army in 2006, he was posted to the 6th Battalion. Although he was on his first deployment to Afghanistan, he had previously been deployed to East Timor and Iraq. He leaves behind his parents, brothers, a sister, his former wife and two daughters. It does not get much worse when you see the children directly impacted by this situation.

Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was 28 when he was killed on 24 August in a firefight with the Taliban. Again, he was from the 6th Battalion. He was born in Canberra in 1982 and joined the Army in 2002. Lance Corporal MacKinney is survived by his wife and his daughter Annabell. We have heard the fact that his second child was born just after his funeral.

The loss of every soldier is a great tragedy for this country. The loss of those who have been willing to get out there and put their lives on the line for the nation is a terrible tragedy. But, when you see the children of deceased soldiers directly impacted, it really brings home the consequences of decisions we make in this place for the best possible reasons. It had better be for the best possible reasons, because the decisions we make could result in people being killed and families being devastated. I often wonder whether we should, every time we walk into the House of Representatives chamber, walk past some sort of board that reminds us of the names of those people who have lost their lives in the current war, so that every time we endorse the war or make decisions about the war we are reminded that there is a consequence that goes beyond budget costs and considerations, and that is the devastating impact on families.

As I said before, I believe in the war. We have to stop these people getting a hold again in Afghanistan so that they do not then take the war beyond Afghanistan and into Pakistan, with the implications of the weapons arsenals in Pakistan, and have the opportunity to operate from that base to take their terrorism to our shores. But we should remember always that when we make these decisions, as right as they are—and, as I said, I believe absolutely that they are right; that we should be involved in this war—we do not do it lightly. We should remind ourselves that ultimately soldiers will die and families will be devastated.

We should never forget those soldiers. Today I honour them for the important work they did and the supreme sacrifice they made. It was not in vain. It was and is to make the world a safer place. I hope their families know that this nation is grateful. I honour those soldiers, and their families, for their great service to our nation.

5:09 pm

Photo of Sharman StoneSharman Stone (Murray, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too rise to support the condolence motion on the deaths of Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Thomas Brown, Private Grant Walter Kirby, Private Tomas James Dale and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney.

This in fact is the second time that I have publicly talked about the sadness associated with the deaths of our Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan. The first time—it was just a short time ago—was at the request of the Goulburn Valley Vietnam veterans who, on the Battle of Long Tan commemoration day, asked that I pass a special motion of condolence at their commemorative service and that I list all of those who died in Afghanistan under the Australian flag. Of course, our Vietnam veterans are the Defence Force personnel in Australia who know best how a country can turn on its own personnel and cause enormous grief and sadness if what those personnel have done on behalf of the nation is misunderstood and condemned. We all remember how the Vietnam veterans suffered when the Australian media in particular but also a lot of younger adults, students of the day, condemned them. They were spat at when they returned. They were told to get out of their uniforms quickly. They were called baby killers. They were told the war in Vietnam was a dishonourable war.

When we debate the Afghanistan war today and tomorrow, may it be well understood—so no Australians can imagine otherwise for a moment—that we in parliament, of all political backgrounds, honour and understand the courage of our Defence Force personnel and the supreme sacrifice that some of our men and women in uniform make. In the case of the Afghanistan war we have had 21 killed since 2001, when we began what is called Operation Slipper. There have been 52 wounded just this year but 152 wounded since that operation began. It is an extremely dangerous place, Afghanistan. It is a war a little like Vietnam in that the enemy do not necessarily wear uniforms, they are great exponents of guerilla warfare and they manufacture personnel mines of all different types that make it almost impossible for Australia and its allies to know from day to day what they might encounter when they are out on their patrols. I want to make sure that the Australian public understand that, even if they do not necessarily agree with why we are deploying our troops in Afghanistan, they should never cast aspersions on the quality of the men and women in uniform who represent us in that war zone.

I am proud of course to be the mother of a major in the Australian Army, who is currently in the United States. He has served in Iraq and East Timor. I note that four of the five soldiers who we honour today were themselves in more than one deployment, which of course means that they were seasoned soldiers, but that one of the soldiers whose loss we are saddened by was in his first operational deployment. The war takes no special notice of how long a soldier has been trained or for how long he has been deployed. It is really an accident of life, in a sense, as to who steps on that mine or who comes under fire from the enemy.

I want especially to acknowledge today Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. He was killed in an intense firefight against the Taliban in Afghanistan on 24 August 2010. He was 28, born in Canberra and based in Brisbane. He was a seasoned soldier, having served in East Timor, Iraq and once before in Afghanistan. He leaves a wife, a daughter, Annabell, and a newborn baby who will never know him but who will of course be immensely proud that his father was a soldier of the Australian Defence Force who was honoured in this place and whose bravery, commitment and patriotism will never be forgotten.

We also acknowledge today Private Tomas James Dale. He was a member of the First Mentoring Task Force and was killed in action on 20 August 2010. He was only 21. He was in his first operational deployment. He was born in the UK but was living in Adelaide. He joined the Australian Army, something that he had wanted to do since he was a very young man, and he leaves behind his parents and brothers, Sam and Joe.

We honour Private Grant Walter Kirby, who was also with the First Mentoring Task Force and also killed on 20 August 2010. He leaves behind two daughters and a loving family. Private Kirby was born in Nambour, Queensland, and had already served in East Timor and Iraq.

Then there is Trooper Jason Brown, who was killed by gunshot wounds after battling insurgents on 13 August 2010. He was 29 years of age and leaves parents and one sister. Trooper Brown was born in Sydney and had served in East Timor three times before his death in action in Afghanistan.

We also recognise and grieve for Private Nathan Bewes, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on Friday evening, 9 July 2010. He was also serving with the First Mentoring Task Force. He was born in Kogarah, New South Wales, and he leaves his loving parents and sister and his partner, Alice. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. He had been there previously in 2008 and had also served in East Timor in 2006.

So 21 of our brave patriots have been killed in Afghanistan in a war which is, as we know, complex and difficult. There is of course no question that it is our intention to try to make that part of the world a safer place, to try to push back the evils of the Taliban and other terrorist forces like them to bring a safer place to people who live in that area of Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan.

I am reminded very much of the war memorials that are scattered all around the 52 towns in my electorate of Murray. Some of them stand alone because the towns have disappeared. These small towns gave up their finest in the First World War. I think of Campbells Forest, a little community with one hall left, and inside that hall there are just war memorials. Some of those memorials show half of the people who left for the First World War did not return. So we say, generation after generation, ‘This will be the last time that we have to march out of Australia with our finest and best to try to bring peace in other parts of the world.’ Indeed in the Second World War we tried our best to make sure that we were not overtaken by the Japanese, and we succeeded with those brave militia men who had done their training in Australia for such a short time and who marched into New Guinea and did a miraculous task fighting a hidden enemy much greater in number than they were on the ground.

I have often been told by the people left in these small communities, often the older people, ‘Look, our brightest and bravest and best were in the First World War; those diggers set the reputation for Australia for all time.’ I know that for generations, perhaps, that has been understood. Who could ever be as brave, as willing, as innovative and as tenacious as those old diggers in the First World War? I recently had the honour of going to Al Minhad, in the Arab Emirates, to the army base that Australians deploy from as they move forward into Afghanistan. Some of them go to Iraq but mostly they now go to Afghanistan. I looked at those soldiers sitting in the plane, ready to fly into Afghanistan, and I can tell you that they are the echo of the diggers. There is no doubt that they have the same fortitude and patriotism of their forefathers. We have lost 21 of our magnificent young men, but none of them would ever have imagined that the task they did was not honourable, and they have not died in vain.

5:19 pm

Photo of John MurphyJohn Murphy (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to pay tribute to the contribution just made by the member for Murray. It was truly a moving and heartfelt contribution to this very sad condolence motion. I take this opportunity of honouring Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Kirby and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. No greater price can any man or woman pay than to lay down their life for their country. Like the member for Murray we all hope and pray that their deaths were not in vain. They were clearly very courageous and brave young men. I think it is very timely that the parliament is to debate the war. All of us in this House support freedom and the right to free speech. We know that the contribution these young men have made for all of us is something that can never be repaid. Sadly, they leave young families behind to mourn their passing as we too do in this House. I too thank them for their service to their country.

One thing that is always raised in this place is the need to have peace throughout the world. If all of us who come here can make some contribution to peace, not only in our own land but anywhere in the world, we have done something and have made the world a better place. Sadly, these young men paid a dreadful price. They will never know and realise their own hopes, aspirations and dreams. We will never know what they experienced, but we thank them. We also hope that the families they leave behind will be supported by today’s government, future governments and their families and friends. I salute these very brave men.

5:22 pm

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to offer my heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and Australian Defence Force colleagues of the five soldiers who lost their lives while on combat operations in Afghanistan and to honour and express my greatest respect for Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Grant Kirby, Private Tomas Dale and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. These five fine, dedicated soldiers—four infantrymen from the 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment and one trooper from the Special Air Service Regiment—will forever be remembered for their ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives for their country.

Private Bewes was just 23 years old on his second deployment following a previous deployment to East Timor. Trooper Jason Brown was just 29 years old on his first deployment to Afghanistan following three previous deployments in East Timor. Private Tomas Dale was 21 years old and was on his first operational deployment. Private Grant Kirby was 35 years old, having previously deployed to Iraq and East Timor. Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was 28 years old on his third deployment to the Middle East and his second to Afghanistan. These men leave behind their wives and partners, their children, their parents, their brothers and sisters and other family members. They also leave behind many friends and their close-knit mates, their fellow ADF members. They are essentially the families and friends of our fallen and those whose grief and loss mean that their worlds will never be the same again.

I listened to the member for Cowan and the member for Murray and none of us in this chamber could have failed to have been moved by their contributions. The member for Murray spoke about small halls in communities. In my hometown of Brunswick, the name of my mother’s husband who was killed in New Guinea is on the wall. So it is a very real issue; it is a very real grief. My two sisters who were Alma and Jack’s children will carry the grief and loss of their father all their lives, as will the families of these five young men and all of our other servicemen and servicewomen. It is something that goes with them. It went with my mother to her grave. One of the last things my sister who died last year said to me was, ‘I will never forget my dad’s arm around my shoulder.’ I think she was only three. But my other sister has no memory at all of her father and she says to this day it is a loss she bears all her life.

There are many of us, like the member for Murray, in this place who well understand not only the sacrifice of these young men but also what is ahead for the families and the friends of these wonderful young men. As I said, these are people whose grief and loss will mean that their world will never be the same again. I know from my mother’s experience of 60 years in placing a floral tribute every Anzac Day on the memorial at Brunswick even when there was not an Anzac service that Anzac Day will become a very important symbolic but very dreadfully sad day. It will be a day when they and thousands and thousands of Australians right around the nation will come together every single year to show never-ending respect for these five young men and all those who fought for our nation, all those who will fight for our nation and all those who are fighting for our nation and are in uniform today as part of our Australian defence forces.

Private John Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Private Grant Kirby, Private Tomas Dale and Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney all embodied the Anzac spirit of an inherent commitment to their mates, of bravery, of courage and a determination to serve their country—and serve it well they did. Their professional skills and capability made them incredibly valuable members of our defence forces. However, they were very, very well aware of the dangers they faced. These men will never leave the thoughts or hearts of their family and friends and the nation will forever honour them.

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand it is the wish of honourable members to signify at this stage their respect and sympathy by rising in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Committee.

5:27 pm

Photo of John MurphyJohn Murphy (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That further proceedings be conducted in the House.

Question agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 5.28 pm to 6.30 pm