Mr Dick Payten OAM

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (10:36): A few years ago I was asked to represent the Australian government and the Australian people at the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Kokoda. I took that trip, along with Scott Morrison, representing the then opposition. We flew out from here in Canberra on a VIP jet to Port Moresby. With us in that jet was a stowaway, an old fellow named Dick Payten, a good mate of mine. He had originally intended to be part of the group of veterans brought along on that trip by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, but he failed the medical. I knew Dick was so desperate to be part of that journey that we secretly put him on board the plane, and I’m sure the Prime Minister won’t mind me telling this story.

We took Dick to Bomana cemetery, where there are fields of tombstones. We went to visit one in particular, the tombstone of Arnold Darling, Dick’s best mate. Dick had never been there before. He lost his mate when a plane crashed at the airport in Port Moresby and Arnold was killed. A US plane crashed into a fuel depot, which exploded and killed many men, including Arnold. To see a man in his 90s cry at the tombstone of his best friend who he had hadn’t seen in 70 years is a very moving thing.

Dick was part of the ‘silent 7th’, that great generation of Australians who fought in the Middle East, came home and were then sent to Papua New Guinea to defend Australia. After the war he got married, he had kids and he set up his own business, but he never forgot his mates. I first met Dick when he was setting up a memorial for the 7th on the Hume Highway at Bass Hill. I remember him complaining that he was being frustrated in his attempts to do that because he had to go into hospital to get a pacemaker.

As he got older, more of Dick’s mates passed away and left us. In recent years, Dick has been the face of Anzac Day in the local papers. In the past few months he’s been quite sick; he was in hospital recently. He told me that it was just a little illness. I saw Dick on Saturday night at Georges Manor. He was very, very ill. He said to me then—he was still talking about Legacy and veterans—’I’ve still got a long way to go.’ About 10 minutes ago I got a message that Dick had passed away. I love you very much, Dick, and I miss you very much, but you’re on your way now to see your mates, to see your lovely wife and you’re back with Arnold Darling.