Monday, 21 June 2010
On indulgence: it is with profound sadness that I inform the House that a helicopter carrying coalition forces went down in Kandahar province in Afghanistan today. There were 10 Australian servicemen on board. It is my sad responsibility to inform the House that three Australian commandos from the Special Operations Task Group have been killed and seven other Australian servicemen are wounded, two of them very seriously.
This is a tragic day for Australia and for the Australian Defence Force. It is a day of the deepest sorrow for the friends and families of those who have lost their loved ones in this tragedy. I express to all of them the deepest condolences of the Australian government and the Australian people. Our thoughts are also with those who have been wounded. I want them and their families to know that they will receive the best possible medical care.
This tragedy brings to 16 those Australians who have lost their lives serving our country in Afghanistan. This is a very heavy price to pay, particularly for the families of those brave Australians who have lost their lives.
We know our mission in Afghanistan is hard, but this mission is critical for our common security. We work alongside our allies from the United States and from other NATO countries to avoid Afghanistan once again becoming a breeding ground for terrorists, who can then strike at innocent Australians both at home and abroad.
It is our nation’s highest calling to wear the uniform of Australia. Those who wear it do outstanding work for Australia, and they do that outstanding work in the most difficult, demanding and dangerous of environments. Today, we recall their service as we mourn the loss of some of Australia’s finest. The commitment, the dedication and the sacrifice of those soldiers will not be forgotten. It will never be forgotten. All Australians owe them a debt of gratitude for their service and for their sacrifice. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families and friends of those who have fallen. We mourn them, and we pay tribute to them for having paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
On indulgence, I rise at this very solemn time to support the words of the Prime Minister. A fortnight ago, two sappers were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and there has now been another incident, this time even more serious, with three dead and others with very serious injuries. These are exceedingly grim reminders of the dangers our armed forces face and of the high price that members of our armed forces can be called upon to pay in the service of our country.
Our soldiers are men of great character. There is no evidence that any of them are flinching from their duty, despite the terrible losses that have been experienced in Afghanistan. Knowing that their lives are on the line is a test of character that our troops regularly face and having troops in harm’s way in the field is a test of character for our country too. It is a test of character that our troops invariably pass. It is a test of character that I hope the rest of us will pass too.
Obviously, the families, the fellow soldiers and the friends of those killed, and injured and wounded, in action will be devastated. All Australians will share their grief and the hearts of all Australians will go out to them. There is no greater sacrifice that a soldier can make than to give his or her life in the service of our country. I commend the work that the Australian Defence Force is doing in Afghanistan. It is vital to ensuring that that country does not again become a safe haven for terrorists. It is a task vital for the security of all Australians. I hope that the knowledge that these soldiers have died serving their country and upholding its values will be of some comfort and consolation to their families and loved ones in this very sad time.