PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: I rise to contribute to this motion that moved by the Acting Prime Minister earlier this week. I would also like to commend the fine words of the member for Higgins and those of all the other members of this House on this motion over the last couple of days. It is with a heavy heart that I rise to speak on this condolence motion. Lance Corporal Mervyn John McDonald and Private Nate John Aubrey Galagher were on operations with the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan when they were tragically killed in a helicopter crash on 30 August 2012. Thirty-year-old Lance Corporal McDonald was born in Carnarvon, Western Australia. He joined the Army many years ago now in 1999 and was posted to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and the 2nd Commando Regiment in August 2008.
He was, incredibly, on his sixth tour to Afghanistan and, I understand, his 11th tour in total. As the member for Higgins pointed out, he was highly decorated, being awarded numerous awards over the years. He was a truly exceptional soldier. Previous members have spoken about him being part of the Special Forces, a commando, and these men are the very best soldiers that we have. They are exceptionally well-trained. They do the toughest missions that we can possibly think of. I had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with some of the Special Forces over in Western Australia a month or two ago and I heard first-hand accounts of what they have to do, and I saw some of their training and what they have to go through in order to prepare themselves for their tasks at hand. They are the best of the best.
Lance Corporal McDonald was certainly one of those soldiers. He was committed, he was enthusiastic, and he was known as an innovator and a problem-solver. His comrades and all those who served with him admired him and treated him with incredible respect. I understand he was the consummate team player who did not seek the limelight for himself but just got on with the job at hand. Lance Corporal McDonald leaves behind his fiancee, Rachael, his mother, Myrna, his stepfather, Bernie, and brothers, Percy, Roger and Gary. To them, we in this place extend our deepest sympathy in their unimaginable loss.
Private Nate Galagher was 23. He was born in Wee Waa and joined the Army in 2007. He was posted to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and then to the 2nd Commando Regiment in November 2011 on completion of his selection, training course and reinforcement cycle. It was his second tour of duty to Afghanistan and he was one of our exceptional commandos on this duty. Private Galagher was known for putting 100 per cent into everything that he did. He was known as having a real can-do attitude, being results focused and taking everything that was thrown at him in his stride. He was a dedicated and enthusiastic young soldier who was very well respected by his colleagues and was the recipient of many military awards. Nate leaves behind his partner, Jessie, his parents, Wayne and Sally, his sister, Eleanor, and of course his unborn son. As Nola Marino, the member for Forrest, pointed out earlier, his son will obviously never meet his father, but Nate will no doubt be an incredibly important person in his son’s life, in a very important and special way. He will hear the stories of his father: the contribution that he made to our nation, the incredible skills that he possessed and the service that he gave. He will be sadly missed. His regiment, the Army and our nation share the family’s loss and extend to them our deepest sympathies. Lest we forget.