Tribute to Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG

Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith received his Victoria Cross for:

… the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril as Patrol Second-in-Command, Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.

In an early morning raid on a Taliban stronghold near the village of Tizak in Afghanistan, Corporal Roberts-Smith and two other special forces soldiers were lying in a horribly exposed position just 20 metres in front of an insurgent machine-gun post. According to one report, he was part of a force of 25 up against 100 Taliban. From the cover of a small pile of rubble, Corporal Roberts-Smith saw gunfire tearing up the ground around his friends and realised that they would soon be killed. He stormed the machine gun, drawing fire away from his comrades, silencing it at point blank range. He then moved on to silence another machine gun and then moved on in company to silence a third.

SAS Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith has the words ‘I will not fail my brothers’ tattooed across his chest. To him, it is not just a slogan; to him, it is a commitment. His words on receiving our highest military honour tell us a lot about this man:

I saw my mates getting ripped up, so I decided to go forward. I wasn’t going to sit there and do nothing. I thought I’d have a crack. I’m not going to let my mates down. It just got to a point where we had to stop the fire. Someone just had to move forward, and I think that if it wasn’t me it would have been someone else. That’s what it’s about: to complete the mission, get the job done.

Corporal Roberts-Smith is a giant of a man and soldier, but he is also extraordinarily self-effacing. He also said:

I saw a lot of brave men do a lot of brave things that day. I am wearing it — the VC — for my unit.

He also said:

Every single person there showed gallantry.

Laconically, RS, as he is known, described this action as ‘just a busy day’. More than saving the lives of his comrades, Corporal Roberts-Smith’s conspicuous gallantry in perilous circumstances was instrumental to the success of the troops against a numerically superior force. This decisive engagement caused the Taliban to retreat from the Shah Wali Kot District.

His obvious heroism aside, Corporal Roberts-Smith is dedicated to his mission in Afghanistan:

I want my children to be able to live as everyone does now without the fear of getting on a bus and having it blow up.

I will definitely deploy again … Being a father … I think about my children every second of the day and that is what I do it for.

I do what I do because I believe in the country that we live in. I believe that we are making a difference and stemming the flow of terrorism.

I am just very proud to do my job I do so that my kids will grow up and know that.

The Coalition pays tribute to this soldier’s sense of purpose. We stand in awe of his selflessness. It should be noted that his VC follows a Medal for Gallantry that Corporal Roberts-Smith received in 2006. The account of his gallantry near Chora Pass on that occasion—disregarding his own personal safety and maintaining an exposed sniper position under sustained fire, with a risk of being surrounded by the anticoalition militia—is truly inspiring. At one point, while alone in an exposed position, he used his sniper rifle to stop the advance of 16 insurgents and held his position while under fire from other militia until air support arrived.

Our country and his comrades owe a great debt to Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith. He is truly a worthy recipient of the Victoria Cross. He is a great role model for all Australians. We in the coalition salute him and congratulate him.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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Senator.Abetz@aph.gov.au

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