Standing up for Canberra

Corporal Scott Smith 2012

I take this opportunity to commend the member for Kooyong for his moving speech and to echo the sentiments in it. It is with great sadness that I rise to support the condolence motion for Corporal Scott Smith. On the evening of 21 October 2012, Corporal Scott Smith was involved in an operation against a network of insurgents in Uruzgan province in central Afghanistan. While he was searching a compound as part of a team of Afghan and Australian special forces, an improvised explosive devise detonated, taking his life.

Corporal Scott Smith joined the Australian Defence Force in 2006 and within just two years had joined the elite —and they are elite—Special Operations Engineering Regiment. In 2006 he served in the Solomon Islands as part of Operation Anode and in 2010 he completed his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. Corporal Scott Smith was widely respected in his unit, and we have heard from many in the past few days about his wonderful warmth of personality and sense of humour. He received nine honours during his six years of service—an extraordinary achievement for such a young man. He has been described as one of the best junior non-commissioned officers his unit had known and also as an honest, genuine and dedicated man.

Corporal Scott Smith had the honour of helping to protect the President of the United States, Barack Obama, when the president was in Darwin last year. He was selected as part of Operation Norwich, which was the ADF's contribution to the operation put together to protect President Obama when he was here in November.

Tragically, Corporal Scott Smith died just a few weeks before he was due to complete his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. He is the 39th digger to lose his life in Afghanistan and the third combat engineer.

We have over 1,500 ADF members and civilians serving in Afghanistan, and their safety is our uppermost concern. Tonight we have heard from many members of both my party and those opposite about Corporal Scott Smith's achievements, his awards and honours, and we pay tribute to what was an exemplary and promising career. We have heard about our losses to date and our current commitment to bringing peace and security to the Afghani people.

These numbers have significance in and of themselves, as each loss is keenly felt by the families and friends of those who have died and by all Australians. That is very, very true—it is felt deeply by all Australians. Our concern for those men and women currently serving is ever present. But there is more than a matter of numbers or an individual sprint record to reflect on. Corporal Scott Smith was the loving partner of Liv, the much loved son of Katrina and Murray and the brother of Roxanne. He was a mate and he was a young man dedicated to his mission. By all accounts he exemplified the attributes that make is also proud of the men and women who join our defence forces.

I read that Corporal Scott Smith's family said that the Army was his second family, and this is the case for so many Australian service men and women—it truly is a second family for them. It is important that the public at large understand the dedication and commitment of our young men and women and of the service they give to this country.

Our mission in Afghanistan is critical. We are helping young girls to break free of totalitarianism and oppression. For the first time they are able to get an education. Early this month the world was shocked when Malala, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot for speaking out against the Taliban and their oppression of women—in particular, women are trying to get an education. If we ever need reminding of why we are trying to suppress the reach of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the attempt to kill young Malala is why. Our mission there is to restore peace and, hopefully, a level of prosperity to a people who have been victims of extreme oppression, extreme hardship, war and difficulty for many, many decades. Australia's role in world events and particularly in peacekeeping is recognised as critical, and our success in gaining a seat at the United Nations Security Council means we now have a more active voice in shaping security challenges such as Afghanistan.

As we contemplate this loss, our thoughts are on the tragic death of the brave young Australian. We salute his bravery and we mourn his loss. He will be remembered. On the evening of Sunday, 21 October 2012 a man braved incredible danger in the service of Australia, in the service of the world community and he died tragically. I join with my colleagues in paying tribute to Corporal Scott Smith and sending my condolences, my thoughts and my prayers and my deepest sympathies, and those of the people of Canberra, to his family, friends and mates. Lest we forget.

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