Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I thank the Prime Minister for his fine words, and I join him in reflecting on the terrible incident which occurred during Exercise Talisman Sabre on Friday the 28th of July.
In that moment of disaster, at 10:30 pm in the Whitsundays, we lost four magnificent men of the Australian Army:
Captain Danniel Lyon;
Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent;
Warrant Officer Class 2 Joseph Laycock; and
Corporal Alexander Naggs.
The ordeal of tragedy is to contend with loss most profound, heartache most intense, and pain most enduring.
Australians around the country can only imagine the ordeal which four families continue to endure.
We grieve for them, and we mourn for them.
And we are thinking about the many people who were close to these four magnificent men.
Their fellow servicemen and women – especially from Sydney’s 6th Aviation Regiment in Holsworthy Barracks.
In the wake of tragedies like this, it is the humble duty of those in this place – as the Prime Minister rightly pointed out before – to do our best to illuminate the meaning behind the tragedy.
Not because our words can diminish the sorrow.
Our words never can – and never will.
But because our words can cast a light on what made these fine Australians tick.
In that appreciation, we are reminded about the brilliance of our national character.
In that recognition, we look to the examples of these men to inspire the best in ourselves.
These four magnificent men were taking part in a training drill.
The training drill was part of a broader 13-nation exercise.
That exercise is one of many, many military activities which contribute to a critical mission.
The mission to preserve peace and to deter aggression against our country, and our friends in the region.
These four magnificent men were not just doing their job.
They chose to commit themselves to the most vital of endeavours during these most precarious times.
They were duty-driven.
They were noble-minded.
They were brave beyond our imagination.
And their sacrifice casts no doubt in the mind of any ally, or indeed, any adversary, of Australia’s commitment to preventing the horrors of history being repeated.
This tragic event has rocked all our men and women in uniform.
And that’s been the case for generations past, wherever there has been a loss of life.
Some of those men and women in uniform, of course, have children themselves.
Many of those children, at a time like this, may themselves be asking:
‘Will my mum or dad or be safe when they’re training or when they’re away on deployment?’
As parliamentarians, we’d be dishonest if we were to make that guarantee to those children – as much as it might provide some reassurance.
Instead, may we say to those children that their mum or their dad – or in some cases their mum and dad – do dangerous work to keep the rest of us safe.
They are the few who protect the many.
Their dad or their mum’s service is the definitive expression of love.
A love of everything worth defending:
Their Family. Their Country. Freedom. Peace.
There is nothing more honourable.
There is nothing more necessary.
There is no one we owe a greater debt to than our soldiers, sailors and aviators.
Two years ago, I spoke at a 25th anniversary of the Black Hawk disaster which claimed the lives of 18 Australians.
That fateful night in June 1996 – just like the fateful night of the 28th of July this year – reinforces the risks our servicemen and women face, even when they’re just training.
We cannot eliminate tragedy in life.
But it is our tragic sensibility which will see Australians provide the families of the fallen with the support, the strength and solace they will need as they endure this terrible ordeal.
It is our tragic sensibility which will see the Australian Defence Force carry on doing what is has always done:
Serving Australia. Safeguarding Australia. Sacrificing for Australia.
I want to thank the Australian Defence Force, our partners – especially the United States – and the Queensland police and emergency services for their work in the initial search effort and the ongoing recovery operation.
They have been doing delicate and difficult work in testing conditions.
The black box has been recovered.
The investigation is ongoing.
And I hope Defence and the Government will be in a position soon to release the findings for the sake of the families and the colleagues of our deceased servicemen.
Moreover, I welcome the Defence Minister’s decision on the 29th of September to permanently ground the entire Taipan fleet early given the helicopter’s checkered history.
I also want to thank the Member for Petrie – the Shadow Minister for Defence Personnel – who represented the Coalition at the poignant memorial service on the 27th of September for our fallen soldiers.
On behalf of the Coalition, I offer my heartfelt condolences and abiding gratitude to the families of Captain Lyon, Lieutenant Nugent, Warrant Officer Laycock, and Corporal Naggs.
May they rest in peace.
Lest we forget.