Condolences for diggers killed in Afghanistan

I join the House and all members in honouring Lance Corporal Stjepan ‘Rick’ Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate from the 3 RAR Task Group, who were tragically killed in action on the evening of 29 August at Patrol Base Wahab in the Baluchi Valley.

In the same attack, two of their comrades were wounded. I realise that the families, comrades and friends of these men may take a long time to bring themselves to read these condolences.

It will not be easy for them to read these condolences because their grief, loss and anguish at this point are beyond measure, as the member for Maranoa reflected on.

Some may never be able to read our words, such will be their loss. However, I offer my sincere condolences to Lance Corporal Milosevic’s partner, Kelly, his daughters, Sarah and Kate, his mother, his brothers and his sisters.

I offer my condolences to Sapper James Martin’s mother, Suzanne Thomas, his younger brother and sister, Angus and Holly, and his grandparents, Lucille and Ralph Thomas. I also offer my condolences to Private Robert Poate’s parents, Hugh and Janny, and his sister, Nicola.

In this place, we do need to honour and respect these fine men and the sacrifice they have made for our nation, but we also need to honour and respect the sacrifice their families have also made for our nation and the ongoing sacrifice that they now will continue to make.

I do not know how many others in this place have the same experience, but my mother was a war widow. My two older sisters and my mother lived all their lives with the sacrifice that they made, as well as the sacrifice of their husband and father.

So I know what is ahead for these families, and it will not be easy. As the member for Maranoa said, they will get wonderful support from Legacy, from the defence community and from their broader community. But nothing will change their loss, and they have to live with that on a daily basis.

These three specialist volunteers, these three brave men, will be remembered for their leadership, their dedication to their Army, but from what I understand mostly their love of life.

All were on the very first tour of Afghanistan and all were highly respected and outstanding leaders. The loss of these soldiers is even more tragic given the treacherous nature of their death—something that I think enraged all Australians, no matter where they were when they heard this news.

We all considered it such a cowardly, insider attack. We do know that we are in this battle to stay the course and to honour the sacrifice that has already been made, not to cut and run.

Having been to Afghanistan and spent time with our troops on the ground in theatre, I understand firsthand what they believe about their mission and how committed they are to doing what needs doing in Afghanistan. They all understand the job that this parliament has asked them to do. I saw the work that they have done in the provisional reconstruction.

In 2000-01 in Afghanistan there was no government, no health services, no basic governance and no education. They see firsthand what they are able to achieve on the ground. But the actions of our enemies, given the cowardly attack, will not define our actions nor change our attitude.

That is something that has been reinforced across this parliament. We will keep doing what is right in the face of such a grievous wrong.

In doing so, I believe we honour the legacy of not only these three brave Australian soldiers but all who have gone before them.

Above all, though, these three men were loved by their families, and they will be mourned and missed forever.

Their families have to live with this loss for the rest of their lives. I know that there have been requests to respect the family’s privacy during this time, but I do hope there will come a time when their loved ones and those closest to them can bring themselves to read these condolence motions and understand that we in this place share their grief, and we simply want to show respect for those who have been lost.