Wednesday, 1 March 2017
Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan—Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) (10:26): Seventy-five years ago today Australia was marred with the loss of 350 lives during the fierce sinking of HMAS Perth. In the days before the Battle of Sunda Strait, the American, British, Dutch and Australian allies lost five ships to the Battle of the Java Sea. Narrowly escaping this battle was HMAS Perth and USS Houston, which sadly met their match on the eve of 28 February 1942. A fierce battle broke out when the Perth was sighted by the Japanese. The Perth and the Houston were faced with an at-strength Japanese force that was fully armed as opposed to the allies, who had depleted arms from their recent battle in the Java Sea. At 12.25 am, approximately 20 minutes after the last torpedo strike, they sank. It was reported by the Japanese that 85 torpedoes were expended during the battle.
At the time of her loss, the Perth's company totalled 681 naval personnel, and my uncle Lloyd was one of those 681 sailors. To this day, he remains with his ship, 35 metres below water in the Java Sea, never to see his family again. Perhaps he was lucky not to have met the perils of the Japanese prisoner of war camps, where the 328 survivors were taken captive. Of those survivors, only 214 returned home at the end of the war. I recently received emails from Lloyd's daughter Anne and my cousins, who are dismayed at the lack of official recognition of the Perth. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does not consider the shipwreck to be a war grave. The Battle of Sunda Strait, which took place on this day 75 years ago, remains a significant event not only in the Pacific war theatre but also in Australian maritime history. My family affiliation with HMAS Perth is not unique. I can assure members here today that I will continue to advocate for official recognition for those still resting beneath the water.
We are a proud country. We are proud of our past and present veterans. We are a country proud of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. No-one should ever forget the liberties and freedoms afforded to each and every Australian as a result of our armed forces. A veteran is a veteran, and a grave is a grave. Whether you fell on the shores of Gallipoli or the Sunda Strait, or whether you are under six feet of Turkish soil or 35 metres of the Java Sea, every war grave must be recognised. Wherever the crew of the Perth may be, I thank them, I pay my respects and I hope that we can give them and their families peace. Lest we forget.
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