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Wednesday, 20 May 1970

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Some considerable time ago an attempt was made to unify the regulations that apply to the 3 Services because they appeared in different places in a number of different regulations. A tentative draft of revised and unified regulations was promulgated last year or even the year before - it was before the last election - and a number of journalists indicated that they believed the revised and unified regulations would give them reduced access to servicemen compared to the situation that had previously existed. When this became evident my predecessor indicated that the rules that had been applied would continue to be applied; in other words, the tentative revised and unified draft was put aside for the time being. It was felt however that there was still a need to codify the regulations as they affected the 3 Services because of marked differences in the interpretation of the regulations and because if the regulations as they now exist were applied strictly to the letter as they appear to read they would virtually prevent anyone from talking to a serviceman and getting an answer of any kind. For quite some considerable time discussions were held within my Department and between my Department and the Service departments concerning a revised draft. The revised draft has been discussed in Press circles and has been sent out to the Services. I think that in Vietnam it has already been promulgated and is in use. lt has not reduced the access to servicemen in any sense at all. It should tend to increase it. I will immediately find out what stage the new draft has reached and what is its current status. It will not be a classified document. Copies will be available to honourable members and to members of the Press. It had been my intention to see that it was made available. I should have pursued this matter more vigorously before this, but 1 must confess that other more urgent matters looming in front of mc have got in the way of my doing that. I will try to bring it to a conclusion. The drafting has been completed. I hope that the public media w:11 believe that it is a reasonable attempt to bring unity to the approaches of the 3 Services in this area.

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