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Monday, 22 March 2004
Page: 26875

Mr Bevis asked the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 27 November 2003:

(1) Further to the answer to question No. 1115 (Hansard, 9 May 2000, page 16905), is it the case that the terms of reference of both the End of War List Review and the SEA Review, despite the general nature of their words, specifically avoided the Long Tan awards issue.

(2) Is it the case that the Tanzer Enquiry advised that the Long Tan and SVN Awards submissions were outside its Terms of Reference.

(3) During the battle, did the Battalion Commander send a message to the armoured relief force en route to the battle, to return two vehicles to a Col Joy and Little Patty Task Force Concert to pick up and to halt the relief column and wait for him at the river Suoi da Bang; if so, was that order countermanded by the A Company Commander who forced the Armoured Commander to proceed and relieve the situation at the battle area.

(4) Did the Battalion Commander finally arrive at the battle site when the battle was over and after the last shot had been fired and was it at this point that he actually took command of the scene.

(5) Further to the answer to part 10, is it a fact that the awards were not in accordance with the recommendations of the Commander of D Company, Lt Col. Harry Smith.

(6) Will action now be taken to ensure that the recommendations of Lt Col. Smith are acted upon.

(7) Who was the commander of the 1st Task Force.

Mr Brough (Minister for Employment Services and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member's questions is as follows:

(1) No. The matter was investigated as part of the End of War List - Vietnam. It was recommended that decorations are best made by the commanders on the spot, who had a better knowledge of the totality of the circumstances surrounding an incident or event than those who conduct a review some 30 to 35 years later and may be guided more by emotion.

(2) Yes.

(3) The original Task Force order to send a relief force of an infantry rifle company mounted in armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to Long Tan included the Commanding Officer (CO) 6 Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) party. At that time, CO 6RAR was in his command post at Nui Dat. After picking up A Company 6RAR, the CO of the APC Troop received a radio message to pick up the CO 6RAR party. He despatched two of his APC to pick them up, prior to leaving the Nui Dat area. While en route to the battle area at Long Tan the Officer Commanding APC Troop received a second radio message (while his APCs were crossing the Suoi Da Bang Creek) for the APC Troop to halt so that the two APCs with the CO 6RARs party on board could catch up. Officer Commanding APC Troop claims to have made the decision to disregard this order. However, Officer Commanding A Company 6RAR also claims to have made the same decision (both officers were speaking on different radio nets). After crossing the flooded creek, the APCs were engaged while moving by a Viet Cong recoilless anti-tank rifle and the Officer Commanding APC Troop and Officer Commanding A Company had a disagreement over delay in clearing the area before continuing to move.

(4) The CO 6RAR arrived with the APCs at the scene of the battle before the fighting had finished. However, he did not assume command of the area of the battle until after the firing had concluded.

(5) Commanders of a higher level than Lieutenant Colonel Smith had authority to amend recommendations.

(6) No.

(7) Brigadier O D Jackson.