Parliamentary Speech: Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon


House of Representatives on Thursday 21 March 2024.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

May I begin by acknowledging and welcoming the Fitzgibbon family—Joel, Dianne, Caitlin and Grace, Maxine and Jack’s partner Kass—to the House.

This is a familiar place to your family – I’m sure – but there is nothing familiar about the grief, sorrow, and dislocation that you are feeling in this moment as you mourn the loss of your son and brother and partner, Jack Fitzgibbon.

Many of us grieved alongside you on Monday in Cessnock as you laid Jack to rest, and I thank you for the hospitality and warmth that you showed to many of us here on that toughest of days.

I’d like to say two things today in honouring Jack. 

Joel, we first met in Darwin in 2008 when you were Minister for Defence, and I was a junior Lieutenant.

Then, in 2009, you farewelled me and the Member for Herbert in Townsville, along with the 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Battlegroup, as we deployed to Afghanistan.

I remember your warmth and ease with the troops and thinking that you’d be more than happy to trade your suit for a uniform and come over with us to the sandpit.

So, I wasn’t at all surprised that Jack joined the Australian Army, or, as you shared on Monday, that you’d bought him army t-shirts every year from a young age and that he’d always had a passion for the ADF.

He had a father who respected and loved our ADF, and that makes all the difference for young Australians when choosing to enlist.

We know that you shouldered a tough burden during your time as Minister for Defence. You sent me, the Member for Herbert, and the Member for Menzies to war, along with thousands of other young Australians. We were glad to go, as were our peers.

But you also had the task of comforting the families of the fallen and attending the funerals of those young Australians tragically killed in action.

The Member for Menzies shared with me on Monday how grateful the Sher family are that you attended Greg’s funeral in January 2009, and for the compassion that you showed to them. Greg’s father, Felix, is forever grateful for that.

And, so, Joel, it’s our turn to support and comfort you, Dianne, Caitlin and Grace during this time, as your family experiences the unique grief that comes with losing a loved one in the service of our nation.

I’d like to say a final word about how Jack died in the service of our country. Jack was a qualified military free faller.

It’s one of the most specialised and demanding capabilities in the Australian Defence Force, and it rightly resides within Special Operations Command.

It’s a capability that enables Australian special operators to insert, clandestinely, at high altitude in hostile and denied areas.

Military parachuting is not yet a century old, and only a small number of Australian soldiers have conducted parachuting in peacetime and war.

The first Australians to complete an operational jump were 31 artillerymen of 54 Battery, 2/4th Field Regiment, on 5 September 1943. They landed with their guns to support US paratroopers during the landing Nadzab, in Papua New Guinea.

The Z Special Unit – the forerunner of the Australian Commando and SAS Regiments – conducted twenty odd operational jumps into World War Two, including into Borneo in 1945.

The SAS managed one operational jump in Vietnam in 1969, borrowing parachutes from the Americans.

But it’s been in this century that the military freefall capability has matured within Australian Special Operations Command.

Our troops conducted multiple operational jumps in Afghanistan, and individuals embedded with coalition special operations made operational jumps in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

It's dangerous work. Jumping at night, under night vision, into hostile territory.

But our people have done it. And they stand ready to do it again. That’s why they train these jumps and embrace the risk that comes with it.

So that in the moment of crisis, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, and the national security committee of cabinet have discreet military options that can protect and serve the Australian national interest.

One day, special operators with free fall capability may be our only option to save Australian lives.

That is why we maintain it, that is why we train it.

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon was a custodian of this military free fall capability.

He was a custodian of the Australian Special Operations capability.

And he gave his life making sure that our special operations are ready when the moment of crisis arrives.

The 2nd Commando Regiment is proud of him.

The Special Air Service Regiment is proud of him.

We are all proud of him. And we will remember him.

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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2024-03-21 12:22:33 +0800