Bill's Speeches

SPEECH - STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE – HMAS PERTH - CANBERRA - WEDNESDAY, 1 MARCH 2017

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HMAS Perth's ships bells are currently in the Perth Town Hall. 


They are a reminder of the battle in the Sunda Strait, off Indonesia, 75 years ago.

HMAS Perth started life as an English warship which we then purchased off the English in 1939. 

Whilst we appropriately remember the circumstances of the sinking of the Perth, the Perth's battle honours reflect a part of the story of the Second World War which perhaps we do not talk enough about. I talk about our naval history in the Second World War. 

Today is the 116th anniversary of the formation of the Navy. It is the 50th anniversary of when we had the White Ensign, because we had to change our flag from the British flag because the British were not in the Vietnam conflict. We had to use the White Ensign. 

The point about the Perth is that it reflects the best of our naval traditions. 

It fought in the Atlantic, in the Malta convoys which kept Malta free from the Nazi invasion. Fought in the famous sea battle of Matapan where Australian warships took on far larger Italian and Axis forces and did very well. 

It supported our troops in Greece and their retreat. The Perth supported our Diggers in Crete where we made a valuable difference to that unsuccessful campaign. Then, of course, the Perth came to the Pacific.

As the Prime Minister said, there were 681 Australians on the vessel. Three hundred and fifty-three were killed in action, which is a horrendous number—frankly incomprehensible in today's life for us. One hundred and six of the survivors died in imprisonment.

As the Prime Minister said, Captain Hector Waller exhibited the sorts of characteristics which make us more proud to be Australian. 

I suppose, many here would have had family who were seafarers in the First World War and the Second World War. Certainly I do. 

I have spoken to members of the family now passed about naval conflict. But when we think of the Perth, the best tribute to the memory of the crewmen, including from the USS Houston - our American allies who died in service with the Perth - is the simple plaque in the member for Brand's electorate, in the Rockingham Naval Memorial Park. 

It says these words: 'Still on watch in Sunda Strait.'

We honour them. We remember them. Lest we forget.


ENDS


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