PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: Mr TUDGE (Aston) (11.40 am)—I rise to join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the condolence motion in honour of Corporal Richard Atkinson, who was tragically killed in action by a roadside bomb on 2 February 2011.
At just 22 years of age, Corporal Atkinson was on his first deployment to Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with his family—his mother and father, Kate and Ross; his brother, James; his sister-in-law, Sumah; and in particular his fiancee, Danielle.
It is a time of great sadness for them. Whilst this condolence motion is in no way likely to ease their pain, we mourn the death of Corporal Atkinson, a brave young soldier who had so much life ahead of him and we wish those close to him courage and strength into the future.
Whilst Corporal Atkinson died tragically, he died with great honour serving our nation in the cause of making Afghanistan a place safer from terrorism. His sacrifice is not in vain. He also served in Indonesia in 2009 on Operation Padang Assist.
We mourn with Corporal Atkinson’s colleagues in the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment and the wider Australian Army. They have lost a mate and a fellow soldier. In particular our hearts go out to his comrade Sapper Rose, who was wounded in the same incident, and to his family and friends. I wish him well in his recovery.
It is also a difficult time, I imagine, for the 21 families who have also tragically lost loved ones. They must sadly grieve for the loss of another Australian soldier.
Corporal Atkinson’s death is the 22nd loss our nation has faced in Afghanistan, and to date there have been 168 Australian Defence Force personnel wounded in Afghanistan, many grievously so.
We make no mistake: deployment in Afghanistan is dangerous work. However, it is extremely important work that serves to make our world a safer place and that has the full support of the coalition.
We support all of our soldiers, pray for them and give thanks for their individual efforts and sacrifices. We will remember Corporal Richard Edward Atkinson as a hero of our nation. Lest we forget.