CONDOLENCES: Smith, Corporal Scott James
Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (17:46): It is with deep sadness that I join the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Defence, the shadow minister for defence, science and technology and personnel, the members for Herbert and Higgins, the Minister For Veterans' Affairs and the member for Greenway, whom we just heard, to honour another fallen sapper. I know that all our words are heartfelt as will be the words of those who will follow my speech about our fallen hero.
There is a tremendous debt of gratitude and responsibility felt by parliamentarians for our service men and women who are actively engaged in operations overseas. Today, we mourn for and pay tribute to Corporal Scott James Smith from the Incident Response Regiment who was killed on 21 October 2012 while serving with the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan.
Corporal Smith was killed instantly by an improvised explosive device during a joint Australian-Afghan compound clearance and disruption mission in the north Helmand province. Corporal Smith has been described as a soldier who exemplified what it took to be a Special Forces Combat Engineer. Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East, Major General Michael Crane described Corporal Smith as:
… a fine soldier and a good bloke, a wonderful Australian who devoted himself to the service of our country.
Major General Crane knows a good soldier when he sees one. He was the commandant at Kapooka, Wagga Wagga, where all the Australian Army's recruits undertake their initial training, from January 2000 to January 2002.
Corporal Smith had been in the Army for six years and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan after transferring from the Darwin based Number 1 Combat Engineer Regiment to the IRR in 2008. He had been deployed to the Solomon Islands in 2006. Corporal Smith was the 39th Australian soldier to fall in Afghanistan, the seventh this year and, as we heard from the veteran's affairs minister, the 19th Special Forces member, the sixth elite soldier and the 15th digger overall to be killed by an improvised explosive device. As the veterans' affairs minister said, IEDs are indiscriminate weapons of war. They are intended to maim and kill and do destructive damage absolutely indiscriminately.
At the time of his death, Corporal Smith was engaged in a mission against an insurgent network specialising in IED attacks in the north Helmand province. Defence said more than 100 IEDs in other places were destroyed in the fatal mission, dealing a blow to the network. Comrades described Corporal Smith as:
… a genuine, honest and dedicated member who was probably one of the best junior non-commissioned officers that the unit has seen.
The Special Operations Task Group Commanding Officer, who cannot be named for operational reasons, told Corporal Smith's comrades that the 24-year-old South Australian:
… exemplified what it took to be a special forces combat engineer.
“Scott’s sense of obligation, his sense of loyalty and his sense of purpose made him the epitome of the calling of combat engineer,” said Lieutenant Colonel I.
“The type of physical and moral courage required of our special forces combat engineers is what we all hope for ourselves, but in the case of this man he displayed it every time he deployed on missions and tasks.”
The officer also made a solemn vow to Corporal Smith's family and partner that he would not be forgotten. He said, 'It is our task to tell others of the type of man that Scott was and the wonderful things he did.' The motto at Corporal Smith's old school, Nuriootpa High in South Australia's Barossa Valley, is per aspera ad astra—through adversity to the stars.
To underline his courage, skill and service Corporal Smith had been awarded the following honours and awards: Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp International Coalition Against Terrorism, Afghan Campaign Medal, Australian Service Medal with Clasp Solomons, Australian Service Medal with Clasp Counter Terrorism Special Recovery, Australian Defence Medal, NATO International Stabilisation Assistance Force Medal with Multi-Tour Indicator 2, Army Soldiers Medallion, Army Combat Badge and Return From Active Service Badge. During Corporal Smith's service in the Australian Army he was deployed on the following operations: Operation ANODE in the Solomon Islands from November 2006 to December 2006; Operation SLIPPER in Afghanistan from February 2010 to July 2010; Operation NORWICH in Australia from November 2011; and Operation SLIPPER, again, in Afghanistan from July 2012 until his untimely demise.
His passing is a grim reminder of the sacrifices our military personnel make on our behalf in the war for freedom. Our soldiers are directly protecting our freedom to move unencumbered by the threat of terrorist activity, as well as establishing new peaceful communities in strife torn Afghanistan. As we heard the member for Greenway say, they have made such an inroad, particularly on behalf of women and on behalf of educational opportunities for those people in Afghanistan. Even though their hard work is of great importance, the price Corporal Smith has paid is a heavy one for his family, friends and, indeed, for our nation to bear.
Corporal Smith is survived by his partner, Liv, his parents Katrina Paterson and Murray Smith, and his sister Roxanne. We are forever indebted to him for his sense of duty, his bravery and his sacrifice. He has, as his alma mater's motto suggests, passed the test of adversity and now belongs to the heavens. May he rest in peace. Lest we forget.