THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP
Tuesday, 24 July 2018
Remarks at the Afternoon Reception in recognition of the Australian Chiang Rai Rescue Team
Government House, Canberra
Your Excellency’s, Ambassador Sivakua, the Honourable Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition, Your Excellency Paul Robilliard, our Ambassador to Thailand, my parliamentary colleagues and ministerial colleagues. Welcome, and a big welcome home to our heroes from Thailand.
During the World Cup, the most inspiring story about football wasn't in Russia, it was in Thailand.
The most inspiring teams were not Les Bleus but the Wild Boars, and you above all, the all Nations team that rescued them.
You made us so proud, selflessly courageous, superbly, professionally competent.
We could not have better ambassadors showing the best of our Australian values than you.
Of all the dark, primeval nightmares, few can match that of being trapped underground, in the dark with the water rising, the oxygen running out.
A child's worst nightmare was anything but the stuff of dreams for the Wild Boars.
And what nightmare worse for parents to have the kids they love more than life itself, trapped, swallowed up by the Earth, beyond help.
Except, they were not beyond help because, extraordinary deeds were not beyond you.
Your first dives were done without a proper guide rope, and so there was no defined path through those dark waters. You had to feel your way through the twists and turns of a cave system, with the very real threat all the time of being tangled and trapped.
You spent days laboriously moving hundreds of air tanks; pumps, pipes and cables into the cave. With meticulous planning and rehearsals before it was time for the rescue.
You formed an international human chain, and step by careful step, the Wild Boars and their coach were carried to safety.
You worked side by side with the Thai Rescue Team and crews from the United Kingdom, the United States, China and beyond.
It was an extraordinary international effort, if only leaders were as collaborative as you were.
You held up an example to us all.
I spoke to some of you shortly after the rescue and asked, how so many people from all over the world had worked so well together, and you said, it was because everyone was focussed on the same thing; getting those boys out safely.
It's impossible to overstate how dangerous was your task.
This is underscored by the tragic death of the Thai volunteer and former Thai Navy SEAL, Petty Officer Saman Kunan, it’s a terrible loss.
I know that some of you had worked alongside him and had travelled the same sections of the cave system that he had.
It’s to your great credit you found the strength to keep going after his death.
He did not die in vain and his family is in our thoughts and prayers, today.
We also thank your families, you were in danger throughout the rescue effort, and this must have been a huge strain on your loved ones as well.
We pay tribute to the Thai Rescue Team, who coordinated and led the rescue.
The outstanding leadership, shown throughout from His Majesty the King and the Royal Thai Government, and the unwavering support of the People of the Kingdom of Thailand.
I also thank everyone who supported you; officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force, both in Thailand and back home, here in Canberra, some of whom are here today.
We are not surprised to be told that the Thai’s and the others in the rescue team appreciated the very Australian way in which you were always ready to have a go, lend a hand, improvise and never give up.
Yours was a mission of practical love. To save the lives of others, weaker, younger, more vulnerable.
You saved those young men and as you did, so inspired not just your own nation, our nation - but holding its breath, and praying for your success - you inspired the whole world.
On behalf of all Australians, we thank you, and we salute you.
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