TRANSCRIPT: CONDOLENCE MOTION FOR CORPORAL CAMERON BAIRD IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 24 June 2013
I rise to associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in expressing condolence to the family, friends and mates of Corporal Cameron Stewart Baird. He is survived by his parents, his brother and his partner.
Corporal Baird is our 40th fatality in Afghanistan, our first this year and our first since October last year. As the Prime Minister indicated, in the course of the battle in which he was fatally wounded, two other Australian soldiers were wounded, bringing to 256 the number of Australian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan, 10 this year.
As our 40th fatality, his death will of course be a tragic reminder to 39 other Australian families. He was a Medal for Gallantry recipient, from the 2nd Commando Regiment at Holsworthy. Our Special Operations Task Group has paid a heavy price and the Commandos have paid a heavy price for their great work in Afghanistan. Corporal Baird is the 20th fatality from our Special Force Operations Task Group, the 12th from the 2nd Commando Regiment. He was on his fifth tour of Afghanistan, following upon tours in Iraq and Timor-Leste. As both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have said, he was regarded as an iconic figure at Holsworthy, an iconic figure of the Commandos and, as the Chief of the Defence Force said and as the Leader of the Opposition quoted the Chief of the Defence Force over the weekend: “When there was action, he was the man to watch and he was never happier than when the situation demanded someone to take decisive action.” And that was certainly the case when he received his Medal for Gallantry.
For those families who gathered together with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief of the Defence Force on Saturday afternoon in North Queensland, the news on Sunday morning would have been particularly distressing for them. Our thoughts were with them on Saturday afternoon when I spoke to the Chief and the Prime Minister, and also on Sunday again.
This is a terrible blow to Corporal Baird's family and a terrible blow to the Commandos. On Wednesday last week I, along with the Shadow Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, and the Governor-General, attended Holsworthy to mark the awarding to the Commandos of the Eastern Shah Wali Kot Battle Honour, the first Battle Honour to be awarded to an Army Regiment since the Vietnam War—such is the contribution that the Commandos and their members have made to Afghanistan.
Corporal Baird's death underlines that Afghanistan continues to be difficult and dangerous. The risk may have changed but, nonetheless, the risk remains, particularly for our Special Forces. Transition to Afghan-led security responsibility in Uruzgan has commenced and is on track. Our main base in Tarin Kot will be closed by the end of the year and around 1000 Australian soldiers will return home at that time. The transition to Afghan-led responsibility for security across all of Afghanistan has also started with the formal, final tranche of transition occurring last week. All of the Districts in all of the 34 Provinces in Afghanistan are now subject to Afghan National Security Force responsibility.
Our condolences go to Corporal Baird's family, his friends and his mates.
His contribution and his sacrifice and that of the Commandos will never be forgotten. Lest We Forget.