It is with great honour that I rise today to pay tribute to Corporal Cameron Stewart Baird VC, MG on the occasion of his posthumous award of the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous acts of valour, extreme devotion to duty and ultimate self-sacrifice.
It was an honour to attend the ceremony at Government House this month where Corporal Baird's parents received the VC on behalf of their son. The Governor-General conducted the ceremony with great dignity, grace and respect. It was deeply moving to witness the CDF salute Corporal Baird's parents.
This is the second time I have paid tribute to Corporal Baird in this place. When I spoke last year following Corporal Baird's death I said that he 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. If anyone knows that group of people they will know that they are extraordinary individuals and extraordinary warriors. For him to shine amongst that group, he must have been an incredibly extraordinary individual. These commandos are extremely dedicated and disciplined. So for those qualities to be highlighted demonstrates that he was an exceptional man, always striving for excellence in everything he did.
At the time of his death we did not know much about Corporal Baird because, due to the nature of the commandos, the aspects of their work, their actions must not be disclosed. But we have learnt much more about him since that time, both about his personal qualities and his actions in service. Everything that we have learnt has further demonstrated that Corporal Baird was an exemplary leader who showed the utmost dedication and courage and, above all, humility.
Many times before in this place I have spoken about the special bond that exists within commando regiments. When a soldier joins the commandos he and his family are commandos for life. Commandos are more like a brotherhood than any other regiment I know. So when one of their fellow commandos dies in action it is just like losing a brother. Today I would like to pass on my sympathies and condolences to the 2nd Commando Regiment. I know that you have lost a brother and I also know that Corporal Baird's family will take comfort from the ongoing support they will receive from you and from the love and respect that you have shown their son. They were out in full force at the Governor-General's event this month. It was wonderful to see them bonding with the family, supporting the family and surrounding the family with support, love and compassion. The citation for Corporal Baird's VC reads:
Corporal Baird's acts of valour and self-sacrifice … preserved the lives of his team members. His actions were of the highest order and in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.
My deepest sympathies and respect go to Corporal Baird's parents, his brother, his extended family and friends, and his fellow commandos. Australia will never forget your sacrifice. Corporal Baird is truly deserving of this great honour.