Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
I rise to associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on our condolence motion for Corporal Richard Atkinson.
Corporal Atkinson’s death was a blow to our nation and a tragedy for his family.
Our thoughts, as they have from the first moment, go to his fiancée, Danielle, and also to his father and mother, Ross and Kate.
As Minister for Defence, I have had the great privilege of speaking both to Danielle and to Ross, and at this moment of terrible grieving they are conducting themselves with great stoicism and with great pride and honour at the service that Richard paid to his country.
At 22 years of age he became our 22nd fatality in Afghanistan.
Whilst our thoughts are with Danielle, Ross, Kate and the rest of their family, this is also a time when, for 21 other families, it will be a terrible reminder of their own tragic loss. Our thoughts go with them, as they do to Sapper Rose, wounded in the same improvised explosive device explosion, and to his family, together with the families and friends of the over 160 who have been wounded in the course of our commitment and contribution in Afghanistan.
Corporal Atkinson was a fine young soldier.
He served in Indonesia in 2009 on Operation Padang Assist, seeing two great arms of Australian Defence Force personnel contribution: military, defence and national security; and humanitarian intervention and disaster assistance.
Members would have seen from the ramp ceremony in Tarin Kowt over the weekend, telecast into Australia, the sorrow in the eyes of his mates but the great pride in which he was held—the respect and the regard.
As the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have said, this has, of course, occurred in the course of our contribution to Afghanistan. Richard’s family should understand that he died pursuing our nation’s national interest and that he died pursuing Australia’s contribution to the international community’s efforts to stare down international terrorism.
Our thoughts, our prayers and our thanks are with them at this point.
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