PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: I rise also to speak to this condolence motion, which was moved by the Acting Prime Minister and was spoken to by numerous parliamentarians before me. I acknowledge the member for Moreton with regard to his very moving and fine words, and I associate myself with his comments.
Every soldier lost in the line of duty is a tragedy. In every circumstance and situation where we lose one of our own is dark and sorrowful.
However, to mourn three soldiers killed in an act of betrayal is a heavy burden indeed. Lance Corporal Stjepan ‘Rick’ Milosevic, Sapper James Thomas Martin and Private Robert Poate, on operations in Afghanistan, had their lives tragically taken from them in an insider attack at Patrol Base Wahab in the Baluchi Valley region of Uruzgan Province on the evening of 29 August 2012. Today, I stand also to honour their memory. Today, I stand to mourn with a nation.
Lance Corporal Milosevic, a 40-year-old Queensland outback raised and former Marist student, carried on a proud family tradition of military service, joining the army when he was 36. He became dedicated to the army, and was known for his strong sense of right and wrong which saw him rise quickly within its ranks. He was highly respected as a leader who put his soldiers ahead of himself. He was clearly a well-liked member of his regiment, with leadership and professional abilities which stood out in the unit, on the rugby field and on operations. Lance Corporal Milosevic is survived by his wife and their two children, for whom he was a loving and much loved husband and father. Those who knew him well said his family was always uppermost in his mind. This nation mourns with them today.
Sapper James Martin was on his first operational deployment as part of the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment Task Group with the Brisbane based 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment. The 21-year-old from Perth became a combat engineer and was well-known as a meticulous researcher. He was a quick learner who adapted well to the army environment. As a member of the 7th Combat Engineer Squadron, Sapper Martin completed a number of additional courses, including combat engineer, high-threat search and communications, and weapons courses. He was respected by his colleagues and, I understand, was considered a very loyal friend and comrade. He was also a keen musician, as the member for Moreton pointed out. Apparently he often played his bass guitar for his mates, even over in the field. He was also an avid follower of Aussie Rules—I do not know which team, but I was hoping it might be the Kangaroos. His love for his family was well known within his unit. The nation also shares the loss and extends its sympathy to his mother Suzanne Thomas, his younger brother Angus and his sister Holly, as well as his grandparents Lucille and Ralph Thomas.
Private Robert Poate was born in Canberra in 1988. He enlisted in the army in 2009 and was posted as a rifleman to 6 RAR. ‘Robbie’ to his family and ‘Poatey’ to his mates, I understand, was a larrikin in the great Australian tradition—one of the boys, a young man who loved to laugh and gave as much as he got. He will be fondly remembered by his ‘Brothers by Choice’ in 6 RAR as an incredibly professional soldier, but also one with a reputation for creating mischief and getting away with it. He was well-known for having outstanding leadership potential and had completed a promotion course for Corporal in 2011.
He was a highly qualified soldier with specialist training as a protected mobility vehicle driver and was a protected mobility vehicle commander. Private Poate is survived by his parents Hugh and Janny, and his sister Nicola. He was known to have been very proud of his family, his military service, his Canberra origins, and his red hair, as the member for Moreton also pointed out.
The nation mourns with the families of these fallen heroes. We look up to them. We honour them and acknowledge the terrible loss to their families and to this nation. Lest we forget.