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Tuesday, 23 March 1965
Page: 35

Senator WRIGHT (TASMANIA) - I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question on the same subject as that raised by Senator Cavanagh. It is in relation to a reported air raid by South Vietnamese aircraft, with an escort of American, jets, on a station said to contain munitions and assemblages of soldiery north of the 17th parallel. Will the Minister, if not now, then as early as possible, put us in possession of definite facts that will ensure us an opportunity of making a judgment, as representatives of this democracy, on whether these activities are calculated to carry undue consequences and whether they are justified by events? I am expressing no view on the question, but I ask, with all the rights I have, for immediate and definite information, so that the judgment of this nation can be an informed one. I ask, too, whether the Minister will give immediate attention to reports on the use of phosphorus bombs in North Vietnam and inform me and the Senate whether or not the use of such weapons - if they are in fact being used - is in accordance with the rules of warfare. I use that term with abhorrence, but I think it will be understood.

Senator PALTRIDGE - Senator Wright has asked two questions. The first refers to the nature of American strategy and tactics in Vietnam. I think any consideration of this problem must start from the proposition that the Americans are in South Vietnam, at the request of the South Vietnamese, to maintain the democratic state of South Vietnam. The tactics used in pursuit of that objective have, I think, been explained to the American public at length by the American President, and frequently in advance of many of the actions which have been taken. I do not know whether there is anything that should be added to what has been said by the American President in support of the action that has been taken, but I will certainly examine the records and confer with my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, to see that Senator Wright and the Senate generally are not deprived of any information which might be regarded as necessary for a proper consideration of this very important matter.

The other question relates to a matter raised earlier by Senator Cavanagh. I can do no more than to repeat what I said to him. As soon as I have the facts, I shall be in a position to say something about that matter.

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