PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: I rise to support the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition as well as those speakers before me on this condolence motion on the deaths of three fine Australians: Captain Duffy, Corporal Birt and Lance Corporal Gavin. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families in this time of great sadness for them. We sincerely wish them strength and courage in their bereavement and into the future. I also acknowledge the seven Australian soldiers who were wounded in the same incident, and we wish them a speedy recovery.
The betrayal of an Afghan soldier who had been considered an ally makes these deaths particularly tragic. I repeat the words of the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Tony Abbott, in saying: This is more reflection on the malice of the enemy than on the merits of our cause.
Captain Duffy joined the Australian Defence Force Academy in January 2003 where he completed a Bachelor of Science and graduated from the Royal Military College in December 2006. He was posted to the 1st Field Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery in Brisbane where he served until 2010. He was transferred to the 4th Regiment in Townsville in 2011 as the Assistant Operations Officer before his second deployment to Afghanistan in September.
Captain Duffy had recently completed the SAS selection course and was looking forward to joining their ranks in the future. His dedication was evidenced in the fact that he had volunteered for his second tour of duty at short notice after a fellow officer was wounded in action. Captain Duffy is survived by his partner, his parents and his extended family.
Corporal Ashley Birt is survived by his parents and his brother. He enlisted into the Australian Regular Army in June 2007 and joined the Royal Australian Engineers as a Geospatial Technician.
Following initial training and a specialist technical geospatial basic course in 2008, he was posted to the 1st Topographical Survey Squadron as a Geospatial Technician. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in February 2001 and to Corporal in April 2011.
This was Corporal Birt’s first deployment after assisting with the Queensland flood relief efforts in January.
Lance Corporal Luke Gavin is survived by his wife and their three children. He enlisted in the Army in 2003 and, on completion of his basic training and initial employment training, he was posted as an Infantryman in the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment in Townsville in 2005. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in January 2009.
Lance Corporal Gavin was a highly qualified soldier, having completed specialist training as a combat first aider, a Pashto linguist and an infantry support weapons operator.
Lance Corporal Gavin was on his first tour to Afghanistan after three previous tours to East Timor.
Last Saturday’s incident now brings the total number of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 32 and the number of wounded to 209.
I know that, with the death of these three fine soldiers, it will also be a difficult time for the families of the other 29 soldiers who have been killed in the battlefield in Afghanistan in recent months and years. While these soldiers have died tragically, they have died in great honour in serving our nation in the cause of making Afghanistan safer from terrorism. Their sacrifice is not in vain. We honour their memory and we thank them for their service to our nation. Lest we forget.