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Monday, 10 September 2012
Page: 10093

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (16:19): As the previous speaker indicated, the intensity of the debate in this country about this war was at a level only seen previously in the First World War. Perhaps because our federal member, Tom Uren, who had been a prisoner of war, was one of the leaders of the war debate from the beginning, the area witnessed meetings with Jim Cairns, Gordon Bryant and others who initially were very unpopular in Australia due to their opposition. I have many recollections of that period—the demonstrations in Canberra against visiting Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky, and the 1966 elections. I have never seen such intensity at the polling booth between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party in my political life. It really did nearly get to fisticuffs at the polling booth at that election. One thing that people do agree about is recognising the service of those people who did go to Vietnam.

Recently, in my electorate, President John MacDonald, Secretary John Lees and other members of the Vietnam Veterans Association again recognised this day. Each year they hold a dinner the week beforehand and then on the day have a very significant attendance of people. I think it is partly demographic. There are a few army bases nearby and the population profile and the settlement patterns mean that Vietnam veterans are particularly prevalent in that area. Over the years I have had the opportunity of being involved with other people who have been very active in this front. Granville, of course, is the centre of the Vietnam Veterans Federation, in 8 Mary Street Granville, where I previously had my state electoral office. Tim McCombe, of course, has received the Order of Australia for his work on that front. Equally, in Granville the RSL club has contributed and John Haines, the Vice President of the New South Wales Branch, has done so much as a Vietnam veteran to try to increase Australia-Vietnamese understanding and to basically help underprivileged people in Vietnam.

The local Macarthur branch has this event each year commemorating the 521 Australians who died and the 60,000 who served. This year John MacDonald spoke extremely well about the Australian Army Training Team's arrival in 1962, its work and its role as the harbinger of more extensive Australian participation in that war. Of course, the Vietnam Veterans Association has an important slogan: 'Honour the dead but fight like hell for the living,' perhaps does give their emphasis that they not only want to commemorate those who gave so much but to make sure in contemporary Australian society the issues are on our minds, whether it is post-traumatic stress disorder or, as the previous speaker on this side of the House spoke about, the question of health studies that not only look at the soldiers themselves but also their families. These are matters that the Macarthur branch does drive home. It is not only, of course, the Vietnam Veterans Association but the two local sub-branches at Ingleburn and Campbelltown. Ray James, through the Ingleburn branch, has been very active not only on this front with the Vietnam veterans but also in commemorating Korea and making sure that the memorial gardens and museum effort out there at Ingleburn are first-rate. So I want to join with the other speakers in recognising the heroic effort of the Australians at Long Tan against huge numbers, persevering and achieving so much, and I would like to join with other Australian groups that recognise this day each year.