Standing up for Canberra

Sergeant Todd Langley 2011

It is with solemnity that I rise today to speak on this condolence motion to offer my sincere condolences to the family, friends and comrades in the Defence Force, particularly the Special Operations Unit, of Sergeant Todd Langley. I also offer the condolences of the people of Canberra, a group of people who are familiar with those who serve their country. We are home to a number of defence facilities and bases, as well as the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College. Every year we welcome young Australians from across the country who have chosen to serve. We welcome them with open arms as one of us. They make our community a better place, just like they make Australia a better place.

I do not know if Sergeant Todd Langley ever came to Canberra and I never met him but, from the reports of those who served with him, he was a man who constituted the very best of what it is to be a soldier in the Australian Army and the very best of what it means to be an Australian. Sergeant Langley was described by his comrades, his brothers, as a true leader who brought the best out of his team.

Sergeant Todd Langley was killed in action while serving his country in Afghanistan. He was an exceptionally skilled soldier and was on his fifth tour of Afghanistan, doing vital work to bring security and stability to that country and fighting terrorism. He had previously worked with great honour and great skill in East Timor, helping to bring security and safety there as well.

The commandos are a close group of army soldiers. This loss will have hit them hard. I was fortunate to meet soldiers like Sergeant Langley when I was recently in Afghanistan. I was there for five days in Tarin Kowt, Kandahar and Kabul as part of the Defence subcommittee tour. Then I was overwhelmed by the gritty and determined Australians who are focused each day on stamping out terrorism and building a safe Afghanistan.

There can be no words to lessen the grief of his family, his friends and his comrades. All I can do is offer my thanks and gratitude for the work of Sergeant Langley and to assure his family that his service and his life mattered and will not be forgotten. I thank him and will remember him. Sergeant Langley's honour, courage and experience have made a difference to the lives of the Afghan people. He has made a difference to his team through his leadership and he has made a difference to Australia by being one of those Australians who put themselves on the line to protect the nation. As I said, I have seen firsthand the efforts of the contribution that our soldiers are making in Afghanistan and I know the Afghan people appreciate it.

I also want to take this opportunity to honour the lives and sacrifice of Lieutenant Marcus Case, Lance Corporal Andrew Jones and Sapper Rowan Robinson, who were also recently killed in Afghanistan. Lieutenant Marcus Case was from the Sydney 6th Aviation Regiment. He was born in Melbourne. He had quite an extensive career as a commando. He served in a range of missions. He was described as a keen and motivated soldier who excelled as a pilot. He lived life to the fullest, taking every opportunity that was given to him and making the most of it. He was always the go-to man who was able to get the job done. My condolences are with his family, friends and comrades. I also wish to honour Lance Corporal Andrew Jones, who was also killed recently in Afghanistan. Andrew was described as a 'dependable, yet cheeky character who we will be missed with all our hearts'. He enjoyed his role in the Army and was an excellent soldier. His mates will miss him. They will miss his professionalism but, most of all, his sense of humour. His dedication to his role as a cook was second to none. I understand he was always calling on his resources to provide the very best meals for his mates—and, I imagine, that was a bit of a challenge—including using his favourite family recipes.

Finally, I would also like to acknowledge and send my condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Sapper Rowan Robinson, who also recently died in Afghanistan. Again, it is another tragedy for this nation. He was described as a superb young man whose easy-going nature made him very popular with his unit. He was also a great team player, which is very important in that environment. He was dedicated and professional, with a range of skills and qualifications that were more than those that could rightly be expected of someone so young. These men also made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and I am equally moved by their deaths.

My trip to Afghanistan put into sharp focus the work that they do and the work that other men and women do who serve there. It left an indelible impression on me. As I observed, life in Afghanistan for our service men and women is difficult and challenging. We were on the edge of summer and the temperature was about 42 degrees then. The heat and dust are incredibly challenging and, when you couple that with the incredibly cold, freezing winters, it is a pretty bitter environment. As I said, it is hot, dusty and uncomfortable, but our service men and women endure these conditions with great tenacity and, as usual, great Aussie humour. They get on with it, as all Australian soldiers do. And, as only Australians can do, they do it with a strong sense of commitment, vision and purpose. They are very clear on why they are there.

I conclude by, once again, offering my thanks and condolences to the families of those who have died and, most recently, to Sergeant Langley's family. They are perhaps feeble words, but I offer them on behalf of all the people of Canberra with all sincerity and gratitude.

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