This is a slightly expanded version of the speech given by Luke Gosling, Member for Solomon to the House of Representatives, on Monday 7 November 2016.

Mr Speaker, I thank the Member for Kingston for moving this Remembrance Day motion

I want to acknowledge the Member’s commitment to our Defence Force and veteran community whichI saw writ large during the past week, visiting our troops as part of the ADFP program to the Middle East. Her heart and considerable intellect is in the job and I know she is genuine about ensuring our country supports our Defence Personnel and Veterans as best we can. God knows they deserve it.

Mr Speaker, I speak today as someone that has lost mates who died while serving and also as a son of a Vietnam veteran and as the grandson of a WWII veteran. Remembrance Day is an important opportunity to remember those who have gone before us.

As mentioned I have recently returned from the Middle East including a visit to Afghanistan where it was a privilege to meet and talk to the men and women who are serving our country. Whilst I was at the Australian Joint Taskforce Head Quarters in the United Arab Emirates I paused with the Commander and other Members who were part of the Parliamentary visit, at the Wall of Remembrance which has the photos of over 40 Australian service men who have been killed in the Middle East since 2001.

One of them is the Territory’s own Scott Palmer who was killed in Afghanistan on 21 June 201. His family will be in my thoughts this coming Remembrance Day. This week the Territory will have great pride as one of our best known Vietnam vets, Frank Alcorta, is acknowledged for his role in the Battle of Long Tan.

Frank was instrumental in getting the national Vietnam Veteran’s Day commemorated on the 18th of August each year which is the anniversary of the Battle. A ceremony at Government House tomorrow will see the long belated acknowledgement of the courage of the men of the 6 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment during the Battle of Long Tan. Frank was with Alfa Company travelling in Armored Personnel Carriers dispatched to assist D Company when it suddenly found itself in the midst of a couple of hundred Viet Cong. He was the only man sitting on top of an APC. He rolled off the vehicle and in an amazing act of bravery charged the enemy.

Although Mentioned in Dispatches, his courage is finally being recognized with the Star of Gallantry. I send my heartfelt congratulations to Frank and the other members of A Company who are in Canberra to receive well-deserved honours.

For years many Territorians were unaware of this side of Frank Alcorta, but they knew of his courage as a journalist who helped set up Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Territorian in 1986 and as a fighter for returned servicemen. In 2013 Frank received an OAM for his services to veterans and their families as well as to journalism.

On the walls in my Parliament House office is a famous photo taken in 1969 at the site of the Long Tan battle where a cross was raised in dedication to the 18 Australians who fell there. That photo was taken by journalist Don Hook, the father of Captain James Hook, himself a journalist currently based in the Middle East with the Australian Army. James is a Territorian who worked with Frank Alcorta on the Sunday Territorian along with NT News editor Jim Bowditch who served with Z Special Unit in WWII.

Jim, a well-known lefty as Frank called him, was also a fighter for workers’ rights. In his life time he was awarded a Military Medal for bravery as well as two Walkley Awards. These interwoven lives and histories is part of what I love about the Northern Territory; the stories, the strength of character, people who made the Top End.

Frank Alcorta told me he believes very strongly in the history of this great country which over the past 100 years has largely been shaped by the ANZAC tradition and its associated values – in Frank’s words, by “mateship, sacrifice, duty, love of country and a profound belief in freedom and democracy which makes us such an enviable society.”

Mr Speaker, on Remembrance Day we honour those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

This week we are also finally honour the bravery of D Company and men like Frank Alcorta.

The 6RAR is a very proud regiment. My father served with the Battalion and its first RSM, the legendary George Chinn DCM, who commandeered the RAAF choppers and dropped ammunition to the trapped Delta Company. is the father of one of my staff. Her mother Mrs Margaret Chinn just celebrated her 92nd birthday and only recently retired from her work supporting war widows and her weekly visits to sit with ill and dying ex-service men and women at Calvary Hospital here in Canberra. Francine, her Mum and sister Laraine will be attending the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Australian War Memorial on Friday.

Mr Speaker, Remembrance Day is a time to remember the fallen, it is also a time to remember those left behind, the families and the children. In 2003 Frank Alcorta lost his dear wife of nearly forty years and, in his words, fell into despair.

But on November 11th, Remembrance Day of that year, a bunch of old mates, former soldiers, visited the Cenotaph near where Frank was living on a visit organised by an old Regimental Sergeant Major and a great mate of Frank’s, Ross Smith OAM. These former comrades in arms helped Frank and, as he puts it, “restored a little sanity in my otherwise befuddled brain and heart.”

So Mr Speaker, this Remembrance Day we remember the fallen, we remember the families, we pray for those who served and those that continue to serve. We remember those who returned, especially those who may still need our help. And we continue to be inspired by their continued bravery in every-day life.

Some Australians may not stop to mark this Friday at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. If not, I hope they do pause the next time they see a news report from a location where our Defence Force men and women are currently on active service, and to spare a thought for them and their families. It was another Australian journalist Edward Honey, who suggested a two-minute silence as part of the very first anniversary of what was then known as Armistice Day in 1919.

The journey from the sodden fields of the Western Front when the guns were silenced for the first time in four years to mark the Armistice is a bloody one filled with sacrifice, courage and bravery. The sacrifices by generations of Australians have meant that we now live in this amazing, free and plural society.

Lest we forget.


Photo: Luke Gosling and Frank Alcorta, Canberra, November 2016