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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21709


Mr BALDWIN (12:47 PM) —I move:

That this House:

(1) notes the efforts of the personnel of the RAAF Contingent Ubon who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War;

(2) acknowledges that these personnel were assigned to provide support operations in Ubon post-June 1965 by the Joint Planning Committee Report 110/1964;

(3) acknowledges this directly affected the Vietnam War in that they provided air and ground defence of the Royal Thai Air Force Base and all assets and installations the United States Air Force (USAF) collocated on the base whilst the USAF 8th Tactical Fighter Wing undertook combat operations into North Vietnam and Laos;

(4) acknowledges that the RAAF 79(F) Squadron were on “Alert 5” status and provided CAP operations in Ubon;

(5) acknowledges that whilst the RAAF servicemen were assigned to the command and control of the USAF 7th Air Force in Vietnam, they remained under Australian control; and

(6) recognises the efforts of those who served in Ubon by the way of the award of the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal (VLSM) to be worn by the amendment of the “Area of Operations” for the Vietnam War effort and by the amendment of the reg-ulations governing the issue of the VLSM.

Today I would like to recognise the efforts of personnel of the RAAF Contingent Ubon who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War. This particular group of veterans is seeking parity with other Australian Defence Force personnel under our system of honours and awards, with its claim that the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal is the appropriate campaign medal for their direct support operational service during the Vietnam War.

The principles that govern awards are often longstanding but were articulated comprehensively and put in place by the CIDA review under the then Labor government in 1993-94 and have been subsequently supported by the current government. The then Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Senator John Faulkner, in 1994 signed the gazettal notice that prescribed the eligibility for the Vietnam Logistic Support Medal. Notably that eligibility was not extended to those posted at RAAF Ubon.

I firstly say thank you to Mark Stockton from my electorate, who is present in the gallery today, whom I have been working with on this matter. Mark has kindly shared his experiences with me about his service. This motion today is to acknowledge that these personnel were assigned to provide support operations in Ubon post June 1965 by the joint planning committee report 110/1964. It is to acknowledge that this directly affected the Vietnam War in that they provided air and ground defence of the Royal Thai Air Force base and all assets and installations of the United States Air Force on the base whilst the US Air Force 8th Tactical Fighter Wing undertook combat operations into North Vietnam and Laos.

It acknowledges that the RAAF 79(F) Squadron were on `alert 5' status and provided CAP operations in Ubon. It acknowledges that, while the RAAF servicemen were assigned to the command and control of the US Air Force's 7th Air Force in Vietnam, they remained under Australian control. To recognise the efforts of those who served in Ubon by way of the awarding of the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal, there need to be amendments to the `area of operations' for the Vietnam war effort and amendment of what governs the issue of the medal itself.

One of the arguments for the awarding of this medal put forward by some of the veterans who participated in Ubon is that, although they were based in Thailand, their actions were directly related to the conflict in Vietnam. In support of their case, they have compiled a range of information relating to their roles during the war. I will go through some of those now. On 25 November 1964, the US Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, stated:

If it were necessary to apply increased pressure on North Vietnam by way of participating in these attacks, it would be very helpful for the United States to have Australian aircraft either participating in these attacks or standing by to protect Thailand, Laos and South Vietnam against expected counter attacks.

Some veterans say that this was a precursor to their direct support of the Vietnam War effort. Following this statement, the US Air Force commenced Operation Rolling Thunder from bases within Thailand and this led to the `alert 5' task undertaken by the RAAF Sabres at Ubon. From April 1965, the first US Air Forces F4 aircraft arrived at Ubon, and that force built up to over 75 aircraft by the end of 1968.

In June 1965 a conference between the US Air Force and the RAAF at Ubon agreed that the RAAF Sabres would undertake the `alert 5' task to protect the Ubon base. The use of force and the protection of forces within Thailand were authorised. This included the protection of US Air Force personnel within Thailand involved in the Vietnam War. Some veterans of Ubon say the role of the ground based defence could not be misconstrued as air defence of Thailand but in fact was in direct support of action being undertaken in Vietnam. They also say that the RAAF at Ubon were included in the mainland South-East Asia air defence system as the Vietnam War escalated and air defence became increasingly important, and that all of South-East Asia was joined into one fully integrated air defence system for the Vietnam War area.

I have spoken to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence about this matter and he has agreed to take a look at the case put forward by veterans of Ubon. The minister has indicated that he will invite the RAAF Ubon Reunion-Recognition Group to a meeting with him and the Directorate of Honours and Awards so that respective information sets can be reconciled. The minister is very willing to consider any new information, particularly information which supports a claim that RAAF Ubon aircraft were tasked to support the Australian national effort in Vietnam or that personnel were required by government policy to directly support the Vietnam effort. I thank him for that, and I am sure the personnel who served in Ubon will thank him as well.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Is the motion seconded?