Like every Australian on the weekend, I was deeply saddened and deeply humbled by the news of the death of Corporal Cameron Baird. We have heard that Corporal Baird was a Medal for Gallantry winner who was born in Tasmania. He was based in the 2nd Commando Regiment in Sydney, and he was killed by small-arms fire during an engagement with insurgents on Saturday. In a statement made by Defence, Corporal Baird is described as someone who had the unconditional respect of his fellow commandos, who died how he lived—at the front, giving it his all without any indecision—and who will be forever remembered by his mates and the soldiers he served with in the 2nd Commando Regiment.
That is high praise indeed, exceptional praise for an exceptional man who was in brotherhood with exceptional men. Anyone who has met commandos, particularly in situ in operations, is overwhelmed by their sense of dedication, commitment, professionalism and honour and their very strong will to advance Australian values in fields of war. This was a man of that calibre, as are his comrades in the regiment.
Corporal Baird was an outstanding special forces soldier. He exemplified what it meant to be a commando, living by the attributes of uncompromising spirit and honour, which in turn earned him the unconditional respect of his fellow commandos. His leadership in action was exemplary, constantly inspiring those around him to achieve greater things. He was an extremely dedicated and disciplined soldier, and that is saying something for this group of people. These commandos are extremely dedicated and disciplined, so for those qualities to be highlighted it sounds like he was an exceptional man always striving for excellence in everything he did.
He was highly awarded, as so many of these commandos are. He won the Medal for Gallantry for his acts during a mission to clear and search a Taliban stronghold in November 2007. During the initial phase of the clearance, his platoon came under heavy fire, and during the ensuing close-range firefight, a member of his team was mortally wounded. Displaying complete disregard for his own safety, Lance Corporal Baird—as he was at that stage—led other members of his team forward under heavy fire from machine guns and assault rifles to recover the wounded team member to a position of cover. He then re-entered the compound, with extraordinary bravery, and continued to engage the enemy. Even though he was under constant fire, Lance Corporal Baird continually moved amongst his team members, coordinating their fire, and throwing grenades to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions.
Once the close-quarter battle had been won, Lance Corporal Baird again led his team forward and began roomto-room clearance, where he was again engaged by several enemies. Lance Corporal Baird continued to lead the fight, killing several enemies and successfully completing the clearance. Throughout the action, he displayed conspicuous gallantry, composure and superior leadership under fire. He was personally responsible for killing several enemy combatants during the clearance, ensuring that the momentum of the assault was maintained and undoubtedly preventing further members of his section from becoming casualties. His performance and his actions were of the highest order and in the finest traditions, as we can hear, of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.
Lance Corporal Baird also was awarded the Australian Active Service Medal with clasp East Timor, clasp Iraq 2003 and clasp International Coalition Against Terrorism; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal; the Iraq Campaign Medal; the Australian Service Medal with clasp—Counter Terrorism/Special Recovery; the Australian Defence Medal; the United Nations Medal with ribbon United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor; the NATO non article 5 Medal with clasp ISAF and Multiple Tour Indicator; the Infantry Combat Badge; and the Returned from Active Service Badge.
Since the beginning, I have been a strong supporter of our efforts in Afghanistan. I am strong supporter for the people of Afghanistan and, most importantly, for the women and children of Afghanistan. I do believe that we are making a difference. I have been to Afghanistan and I have seen the difference we are making on the ground in terms of building mosques, roads and trade training centres; in allowing the community to take their food to market, which was impossible in the past; in allowing them to slowly, day by day, build up economic strength through roads; and in putting systems to place to ensure that they can have the economic strength to succeed in the future.
We are making a difference in Afghanistan. I want the parents, brother and partner of Lance Corporal Baird to know that he made a difference and that his sacrifice will improve the lives of people in Afghanistan. I share and send my deepest condolences and sympathies on behalf of the people of Canberra. I would want his parents, brother and partner to know that they are in our thoughts and prayers. I am also deeply heartened by knowing that, on joining the 2nd Commando Regiment, a soldier and his family become commandos for life. They become a band of brothers. His family—his parents, his brother and his partner—will be provided with very, very strong support from the regiment.
From meeting these exceptional young men, these exceptional soldiers and exceptional Australians, I know that the commandos are a brotherhood. When one of their brothers dies in action, they wear little mementoes, tokens, in memory of that brother. They wear braids, beads or bracelets on their wrists. It is a brotherhood. Lance Corporal Baird's parents, brother and partner will receive incredibly strong support. I know what the regiment have done for their past fallen comrades and I know they will provide that support in the future, and that gives me great heart.
Australia has lost an exceptional young man. I send my deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Canberra people, to his parents, brother and partner. Lest we forget.