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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 261


Senator McKIERNAN —My question, which I direct to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, relates to a Press release issued last weekend by the Opposition spokesman on Veterans' Affairs in which he stated that during the parliamentary recess he had personally become aware of, and indeed inspected, reconstruction work at the Kanchanaburi war cemetery in Thailand. Will the Minister inform the Senate of the true facts of the situation?


Senator GIETZELT —I am aware that Mr Fischer has been busy over the Christmas recess period visiting many exotic parts of Asia, including the Philippines and Thailand, and that when he was in Thailand he discovered some difficulties with respect to war graves at Kanchanaburi that had been disturbed by workmen acting on behalf of the public authorities in October last year. I say `discovered' quite advisedly because I had issued a Press statement about that matter at the time the incident occurred and noted the apologies of the Thai authorities. I answered a question on this matter that was asked of me by Senator Robertson, the Government Whip. However, it appears that those important matters had escaped the scrutiny of Mr Fischer at the time. So during his holiday period, at taxpayers' expense, he discovered the issue which had been well and truly resolved. The graves that had been disturbed during certain demolition work carried out by the Thai authorities have been repaired. In fact, I advised Senator Robertson about that matter on 11 November last year. I therefore find it interesting that Mr Fischer should be commenting on these matters when he is silent about all of the other things that might be happening in respect of my portfolio.