House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Statements on Indulgence

Keighran, Corporal Daniel Alan, VC

6:17 pm

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to support the speeches given by the member for Lingiari and the member for Forrest. Those two speeches are the only two I have heard on this motion, but I commend both speakers for the way that they have spoken about an Australian hero: Daniel Keighran, our latest VC winner.

I will not go into the detail that both those previous speakers have gone into, but I will add a couple of points. The first is that, to me, what Daniel Keighran showed above all else was true leadership, in that he was prepared to sacrifice himself for his mates. I do not think you can get stronger leadership than that. It was done in a humbling way; it was done in a self-effacing way; it was done in a way where he just did what he thought was right and what he thought any Australian should do in the same circumstances.

What he did was put his life at risk. It is quite clear from the descriptions of the battle that he did that, and he did it on more than one occasion. He also did it to try to save the life of his mate. He was prepared to risk his life, to put his life on the line, to save the life of his mate who lay injured, wounded and dying on the battlefield. That is leadership. Having done all that, there was no skiting, no returning to Australia to be a hero and boasting to his mates, and telling everyone how great he was; it was return to Australia and carry on with his life. As far as he was concerned, what he had done was what anyone else should do in that situation. Whether they would or not is the big question. The reason he has received the VC, I think, is the answer to that question. He showed unique qualities in what he did on that battlefield and he deserves to be recognised and rewarded for that. As the previous speaker mentioned, he deserves to have the head of the Army salute him for what he did that day.

It is extraordinary to look at other VC winners and see what they have done. When I heard of Corporal Keighran's story, it reminded me of the VC winner from my electorate, Ted Kenna, who next year will be commemorated in Hamilton with the unveiling of a statue in his honour. Ted Kenna was awarded the VC and his citation states:

Near Wewak, New Guinea, when fire from a Japanese bunker was holding up the company's advance, Private Kenna stood up in full view of the enemy less than 50 yards away and engaged the bunker, firing his Bren gun from the hip. The enemy returned the fire and bullets actually passed between Private Kenna's arms and body. He remained completely exposed and went on firing until his magazine was exhausted, when he continued with a rifle. As a result of his gallantry the bunker was taken without further loss.

Once again, we see a VC winner who was prepared to put his life on the line to protect his fellow mates. I cannot wait for the unveiling of the statue for Ted Kenna. I place on record my thanks to the local RSL for pushing ahead with the initiative. I congratulate the state government for putting in a contribution, some $25,000 to help with this statue. I mention in a very non-political way to the member for Lingiari that the local RSL has written to the federal government seeking a contribution. I would like them to give a contribution. I think that this statue and what the VC winner has done deserves the federal government to also play its part. The community is doing the same. The local Rotary club has launched a framed picture of Ted Kenna, which local community members can buy for $500. The community has been doing its bit and purchasing these commemorative photos. It would be fantastic if the federal government could support the community, the local RSL and the state government and make its contribution as well. There is a reason that the federal government should think about that. I would like to leave the chamber with a poem written by Arthur Haskell, in June 2011, called True Valour. It was written for what Ted Kenna did, but it could also have quite easily been written for our latest VC winner, Daniel Keighran.

True Valo u r:

How courageous the man,

Who true valour can find;

Who can cast all the vipers

Of doubt from his mind.

To be brave without fear,

Is a blind contradiction,

For true bravery comes

From subduing affliction.

Power to hold tenets true

And o'ercome trepidation,

Is displayed by but few,

Without profound dedication.

Ted Kenna the soldier,

Did not seek acclamation,

For courage displayed,

In defence of our nation.

So we gather today,

To praise our brave son,

To give thanks to Ted Kenna,

For all he has done.

And can I add Daniel Keighran and give thanks for all he has done.

6:25 pm

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

I rise today to express the gratitude of the Ryan electorate to Corporal Daniel Keighran and to congratulate him on receiving the high honour of the Victoria Cross for Australia. While this honour has been bestowed on him for a number of acts of bravery in the Battle of Derapet, there is one act in particular which resonates in the hearts of the residents of Ryan. Many speakers before me have highlighted the details of the battle and Corporal Keighran's bravery, but today I wish to focus on the corporal's efforts to save a soldier from our own Ryan military family: Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. Corporal Keighran chose to risk his life to draw insurgent fire away from soldiers treating the wounded lance corporal. Although, tragically, Lance Corporal MacKinney did not make it, we are grateful for Corporal Keighran's brave efforts to help his fellow soldier, who was a husband, father, son and brother and a member of the Gallipoli Barracks community.

Since 1856, the Victoria Cross has been awarded to servicemen who have shown gallantry in action, through self-sacrifice and extreme devotion to duty in the face of the enemy. Australia has a deep respect for and pride in the Victoria Cross, with 99 Australian recipients in the award's history. Our Australian War Memorial has 61 of these medals on display, in what is the largest publicly held collection in the world. This award has deep meaning and significance for our nation. It is fitting that Corporal Keighran, who has exemplified the qualities recognised by the Victoria Cross, be the 99th Australian recipient. The corporal follows in the footsteps of a fellow Queenslander, Keith Payne VC, OAM, who is the last living Australia recipient of the original Victoria Cross before the change to the Victoria Cross for Australia in 1991.

With the Gallipoli Barracks in my electorate and also being a military mother, I am proud of the achievements of all of our soldiers who consistently show honour and dedication to the service of our nation. During this parliamentary term, we have mourned the loss of many Australian heroes. Today we are able to celebrate the courage of a young man who fought alongside some of those we have lost and who, despite the grief and trauma of losing his colleagues, was able to persevere with the vital work being done in Afghanistan. Corporal Keighran has continued to serve Australia with pride and dedication. He will remain a strong role model for young Australians. His qualities of comradeship, duty and honour in extraordinary circumstances have been recognised with this prestigious award.

Our mission in Afghanistan has at times been controversial in its purpose and its duration. However, the work of Australian forces is unquestionably of vital importance to ensuring freedom and security for the Afghan people. Corporal Keighran fought for this liberty and peace against the insurgents, and he has made a significant contribution to the Australian mission and to the lives of many people in Afghanistan. It is with great respect and admiration for the acts of bravery of Corporal Keighran in assisting Lance Corporal MacKinney, and for the corporal's contribution to the overall effort in Afghanistan, that I congratulate Corporal Keighran on his high honour.

I am sure that Lance Corporal MacKinney's family—including his wife, Beckie, daughter, Annabell and son, Noah—and the Gallipoli Barracks community are grateful for the efforts of Corporal Keighran. He has shown tremendous strength of character through his unwavering mateship in protecting his fellow Australians and furthering the mission for peace in Afghanistan. The Victoria Cross for Australia, our nation's highest military honour, is well deserved. I congratulate him and I thank him and his family for their sacrifice and service to our nation.

6:29 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Australians are justifiably proud of all of our service men and women. We recognise the dangers they face and we admire their commitment, courage under fire, professionalism, skill and capability. We all grieve when we lose one of them. We honour them for their remarkably brave and ongoing efforts in the quest for a better, safer and more peaceful world. In recent months Australians have seen and endured the heartache of what serving our country can bring to those brave men and women. We have had eight Australian soldiers die in Afghanistan in 2012, taking the total to 39 deaths since Operation Slipper began in 2001. However, many, indeed any, brave action comes with the element of risk. On 1 November 2012, Royal Australian Regiment Corporal Daniel Keighran, 29 years of age, received the nation's highest military honour for his actions in repeatedly drawing enemy fire during a 2010 battle in which one of his comrades, one of his mates, one of his friends was killed.

Corporal Daniel Keighran is the third soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia and the first member of the Royal Australian Regiment, the first outside of the Special Air Service. According to the citation, the 6RAR soldier exposed himself with complete disregard for his own safety, breaking cover repeatedly to identify enemy locations when his patrol was engaged by numerically superior forces.Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney of 6RAR was shot and, sadly, killed during the battle.

Queensland born Keighran joined the Army in 2000. Prior to Afghanistan, he served in East Timor and Iraq. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in 2005 whilst within Mortar Platoon of the support company 6RAR. He was promoted to Corporal with the same unit in 2009. In 2011, he transferred to the active reserve. A real hero, Corporal Keighran chose not to speak of what happened in respect of his fallen comrade, only telling his wifeKathrynabout the circumstances of the battle 13 days before his award was given. Corporal Keighranput that great Anzac spirit of mateship first—a superb example of the fact that the tradition well and truly endures in a new generation, a generation showing itself to be every bit as brave and every bit as selfless as the long line of khaki who preceded it.

The Victoria Cross for Australia was inaugurated in 1991. It is the highest Australian award in the Australian system of awards and honours. It was first awarded in January 2009 to Trooper Mark Gregor Donaldson, 40 years after the award to the last Australian recipient of the Imperial Victoria Cross, Warrant Officer Keith Payne in Vietnam in 1969. I had the pleasure of meeting Warrant Officer Payne VC at the unveiling of Wagga Wagga's Korean war monument on 20 February. The first Australian to receive a Victoria Cross was Captain Neville Howse, during the Boer War in 1900.

The people of the Riverina, a region which has a proud military history, know all about the importance of the awarding of a VC. All three arms of the military operate out of Wagga Wagga and the many monuments erected in cities and towns across the region bear remembrance and respect from grateful communities for those who served, and especially those who fell in past conflicts. Among the Riverina's VC recipients is unmistakably Tumut's greatest hero, Private Edward John Francis Ryan, known sentimentally as Jack. His medal is proudly on display where it belongs, in the Australian War Memorial's Hall of Valour, alongside those awarded to other diggers, who by their selfless actions earned an honoured place in history. Jack Ryan earned his VC during an assault on the fabled Hindenburg Line as the 55th Australian Infantry Battalion attacked near Villacourt, France, on 30 September 1918. He had enlisted on 1 December 1915 at Wagga Wagga, and marched out that same day with 87 others, known as Kangaroos, passing through Harefield, Junee, Illabo and on to Sydney, arriving on 7 January.

That famous march is the subject of considerable discussion now by the Wagga Wagga Anzac Centenary Committee, organised by Petrina Quinn, as to how best to commemorate its impending centenary. The committee has talked about enhancing the inner sanctum of the memorial arch in the aptly named Victory Memorial Gardens as well as a partial re-enactment of that famous march. A replica banner of the original Kangaroos recruitment colours, which was carried all the way on that 1915 march, has been made with the help of the Wagga RSL club and is presently housed at the local RSL sub-branch. It was proudly paraded for the first time at this year's Wagga Wagga Anzac Day march along Baylis Street. Dr Quinn had the honour of meeting Daniel Keighran VC at this month's Remembrance Day commemoration in Martin Place, Sydney, describing him as a 'most modest and unassuming individual'.

Other VC recipients with Riverina links include John William Alexander Jackson, from Gunbar. He was just 19 years of age when he was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1916 for courage under heavy fire while rescuing his comrades near Armentieres in France.

Private Jackson was the youngest Australian to be awarded a Victoria Cross and his was the first VC to be won by an Australian on the Western Front. Other VC recipients with links to the Riverina include Walter Ernest Brown at Villers-Bretonneux, in France, in 1918.

A VC was also won by John Hurst Edmondson from Wagga Wagga, who was awarded his VC posthumously after he died rescuing his officer who was under attack in Tobruk, in Libya, in 1941. There was also Reg Roy Rattey, from Barmedman, whose actions in South Bougainville in 1945 earned him, rightly, the highest honour for valour.

Daniel Keighran joins those celebrated heroes and, although his service is now as a reservist while he works in a Kalgoorlie mine, his military exploits stand as the epitome of heroism. Well done, Corporal Keighran VC. You are indeed a fine example to all who wear the military uniform and to all who enter the Army Recruit Training Centre at Kapooka, near Wagga Wagga, hoping for a soldier's career. A grateful, proud nation salutes you.