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Friday, 12 September 1969

Mr LYNCH (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) (Minister for the Army) - I have seen several Press reports alleging that the new system of mail deliveries to and from our troops in Vietnam is not as satisfactory as the system which was previously in force. As the House will recall from an answer I gave during question time some weeks ago, under the new system mail is consigned to Vietnam direct between Australia and Saigon instead of through Honolulu as was previously the case. I recognise, of course, the importance of mail to our own troops. The honourable member and the House may be assured that every step is being taken by my Department to ensure that there will be no delay to the troops in the field under the new system. I have paid careful attention in recent weeks to current mail schedules. I can say, for example, that mail which closed at the Sydney General Post Office on 24th July arrived at the Post Office at Nui Dat on 25th July; that mail which closed on 26th July arrived on 27th July; that mail which closed on 27th July arrived on 29th July; and that mail which closed on 29th July arrived on 30th July. This means that there were four deliveries in 6 days and three of them were effected on the following day. At this stage I have not seen figures - they are not available - relating to the return mail from Australians in Vietnam. lt is true that under the new system experience has shown that there will be fewer deliveries per week but I am assured, in quite explicit terms, by my Department that under the new system no mail will be delayed in comparison with the system previously in force and that in fact some mail will be expedited. The only case in point which 1 have, to indicate dissatisfaction on the part of troops, and about which I have sought signal advice from Vietnam, concerns delay in the delivery of four letters. This matter is under examination by my Department. I can assure the honourable member that I do net treat this matter lightly. I realise the effect that it has on the morale of the troops. I am satisfied myself at this stage that there is no avoidable delay. However, if the honourable member or any other honourable member can provide me with information of any specific cases of delay in delivery I will have them investigated immediately.

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