Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:45): I move:
That this house—
(a) recognises that Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November;
(b) acknowledges that Remembrance Day has been observed since the end of the First World War to remember and pay tribute to those who have fought and sacrificed their lives to keep us free;
(c) expresses its profound gratitude to all South Australians who have served, and continue to serve, in our armed forces; and
(d) acknowledges the important role of the RSL and other organisations who support veterans and the families of those who did not return.
After four years of warfare and the deaths of millions of civilians and military, the guns on the Western Front finally fell silent at 11am on 11 November 1918. This marked the end of the First World War, and since then countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, have been using 11 November as the annual day to commemorate those who lost their lives in battle.
The day was originally called Armistice Day, due to the Germans calling for an armistice in order to secure a peace settlement. It remained Armistice Day until the end of World War II, when the United Kingdom proposed to change the name to Remembrance Day. This was done so that the day could be used to honour those killed in both wars.
There have been numerous other wars since the two world wars, and in Australia we have used 11 November to commemorate the lives lost in all wars and conflicts since 1918. Whilst the day has been around since 1918, it was not until 1997 that Governor-General Sir William Deane formally declared 11 November to be Remembrance Day and urged all Australians to observe one minute's silence at 11am on 11 November each year.
The first sign of the First World War coming to an end was in October 1918, when an armistice between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies put a stop to the fighting in the Middle East. This was shortly followed by an armistice being signed between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy. Meanwhile, over in the west the German Army was quickly collapsing, and on 10 November the Germans on the battle front were instructed by the government to sign the armistice with the Allies. This followed news that Kaiser Wilhelm II, German's last reigning monarch, had abdicated.
At 5am on 11 November the armistice was agreed on and word was sent to the allied commanders that hostilities would be stopped on the entire front, beginning at 11 o'clock on 11 November. The signing of the armistice resulted in the complete demilitarisation of the German Army, the evacuation of German soldiers out of France and Belgium, and the immediate release of allied prisoners of war and interned civilians. Numerous armistices were signed in 1918; however, it was the armistice of the 11th of the 11th that left a lasting global legacy, as it symbolised the war on the Western Front ending after four long years.
In regard to what we have contributed as Australians over the years, over 1½ million Australian men and women have served in eight major wars and conflicts since the start of the First World War in 1914. Some of this service has been here at home, but, as we know, a lot of it has been overseas. Over 100,000 have died during battle since that time and many others have died as a result of injuries sustained from battle.
In the First World War, 416,809 Australians enlisted out of a population of less than five million. Of that number, 34,959 were South Australians. Sadly, 61,665 Australians died during World War I, with more than 156,000 wounded, gassed or taken prisoner. The number of Australians who served in World War II was 993,000, more than double the number who were involved in World War I, and the number of South Australians who served was 54,660. It was fortunate to a degree that the number of casualties from World War II was considerably less for Australians, totalling 39,656, although one life lost is one life too many.
During the course of the Second World War, over 30,000 Australians were taken prisoner. Each Remembrance Day, we take the opportunity to reflect on wars that have shaped the world and commemorate those who tragically lost their lives protecting our nation. Serving in Australia's armed forces is a serious commitment, and we thank those South Australians who are current members and those who have served in the past.
We must also acknowledge the important work of the many ex-service organisations that provide support to our veterans and their families. Transitioning from military to civilian life can be a difficult period for veterans and their families, so it is crucial that they have access to quality support services to help them through this phase.
In particular, we express our gratitude to the Returned and Services League for the work they do year round for our veterans and for the dedication they put into conducting Remembrance Day services. I also want to acknowledge all the other organisations—the many tens of organisations in South Australia and hundreds of organisations across Australia—that assist our veterans. There are not just physical injuries that happen in battle. There is also obviously the toll taken on the mental health of veterans who have served on the many battlefields over the last century or so.
I really take my hat off and salute all the people who have served or are serving, whether it be here with forces at home or whether it be with the Citizen Military Forces, which my father was in in World War II because his brother was on Sunderland flying boats as a navigator flying out of England across the channel. Dad had to stay home to look after the farm. As I have said in this place before, I had a great-uncle who served on the Somme and three uncles who served, whether it was Tobruk or on the Shropshire or, as I indicated, Uncle Os, who served on Sunderland flying boats looking for submarines in the English Channel.
I have had a relative serve in the Air Force at Butterworth in Malaysia, and my own brother served for 23 years, including peacekeeping service in Rwanda. He was on the second tour that went into Rwanda, and it was a pretty ugly place. He was upgraded to active service, I think it was 13 years later. He also served in one of the Iraqi wars, on the 2005-06 six-month rotation, as a warrant officer.
Never can anyone do as much as those people who freely put up their hands to fight for our nation so that others like us can live in freedom. It is the ultimate commitment that someone can make. They know that they may give up their lives—and many have, as I indicated—to keep us free and keep us safe. I commend our forces, wherever they have served.
I went to a transfer of authority at Edinburgh air base the other day. It was great to see what our active service men and women can do. I noted a significant number of our forces come out of the reserves as well; I think it is about 30 per cent. They are to be truly commended for their service, and I truly commend their employers, or the self-employed amongst them, for the service that they give. They all integrate as one military force protecting our state and our nation.
We certainly see some challenges over time with making sure that we have enough equipment to assist our armed forces. There has been a long debate around the submarines for a long time. The Collins class has been a very able submarine. Some people have tried to talk them down, but with the ongoing refits I know they have had very commendable reports when they have served in exercises with the United States Navy, for instance.
We have replacement vehicles coming in for the Army, high-speed, essentially rubber-tyred, tanks. There is an issue that there may not be enough, but I will work on that moving forward. It must be noted that the Bushmasters that are made in Australia are a very good vehicle, and 90 of those have been committed to Ukraine in the conflict that Russia instigated.
It is pleasing to see that we are able to support the country of Ukraine. My thoughts are with them, not just on a personal level for their citizens and what is happening to them but support for the military there. It has also become extremely tough, as we have seen in the last few days. It is more than extremely tough because of the blockade to get grain out of Ukraine ports. They would be getting millions of tonnes of grain in as we speak and they had the last harvest held over. It is a very fertile country producing grains and it is a real issue for them at the moment, but we are doing what we can to support them.
On reflection, back in 2010 I was fortunate to go to London for a parliamentary conference and I spent four days after that in Belgium and France touring the battlefields, touring those war graves. The scale of mass destruction that would have happened over 100 years ago on those battlefields of Europe really hits you in the face when you note that there are at least 3,500 cemeteries in France and Belgium. As I have mentioned here before, it is amazing that on a lot of the battlefields, at Tyne Cot and other places, we were literally, as Allies, fighting uphill battles. I seek leave to continue my remarks.