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Friday, 12 June 1970

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Honourable members will cease interjecting.

Mr PEACOCK - Let me finish the answer because it is of the utmost importance. 1 do not want any unwarranted emotion introduced by honourable members opposite. The Army's minimum standard of acceptable unaided vision is that which would enable a soldier without spectacles to distinguish a stationary object such as a man at approximately 125 metres. With movement, this distance would be greater.

The Assistant Director of Medical Services in Eastern Command advised me at the time I received the representations that this man was medically fit. He had been asked specifically to look at this matter in relation to the question of spectacles and in relation to the man's vision without spectacles. Taking into account the 3 earlier examinations that had been made, I had to reach the decision that on 4 occasions the man had been found to be medically fit. On the basic requirement that I have just enunciated, I had no option but to see that he went with his unit to Vietnam. It is a matter for regret that his father believes that the boy could not see more than 4 feet in front of him without spectacles. But it is quite clear-

Mr Griffiths - I have some matters - -

Mr PEACOCK - Well, I know that the honourable member has matters on this point We have discussed them and the honourable member knows as well as I do that I am concerned not only about this soldier but also about general policy in regard to servicemen who wear spectacles. But I am discussing only this incident at this time. It was stated also by the honourable member for Sturt that the spectacles required by this man were available in only 1 capital city. Again, prior to making my decision, I questioned whether this was so. I was advised that it was not so and that they were available in South Vietnam and throughout Australia. We did, of course, supply the soldier with 2 pairs of spectacles at the time. I have nothing further to add because I have not read all of the allegations made by the honourable member for Sturt, but I shall do so. Little opportunity has been available, because of the sittings of the Parliament, to examine the Hansard report but the specific allegation, which received some publicity, about the distance which this soldier could see was something that I believed should be clarified and I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify it.

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