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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21710

Mr EDWARDS (12:52 PM) —I am happy to second the motion. I have some support for the motion, and I compliment the member on bringing the motion forward just as I compliment the Ubon medal group who have fought a very long and protracted campaign to have their claims recognised. I might say at the outset that the position of the ALP is today what it was under previous shadow spokespersons Chris Schacht and Laurie Ferguson, both of whom were very sympathetic to the Ubon group. I am pleased to see that the incoming minister has adopted a more responsible and reasoned position to this claim than his predecessor. The group says:

The claim made by ex RAAF personnel who served at the Royal Thai Air Force Base, Ubon Thailand from 25.6.1965 to 31.8.1968 is that their service was a `direct support' role of the Vietnam War effort, undertaken within Australia's `concept of operations' for that war effort! This service to Australia has, so far, gone unrecognised as such and must so be recognised to rectify Australia's military history of the overall Vietnam War effort.

The incoming minister has said that he is prepared to meet with this group. He rang me today and told me what he was prepared to do, and I indicated support for that process. I must say that this contrasts dramatically with the very, very shabby way in which the previous minister—the recently sacked `minister for medals', as she described herself—treated this particular group of veterans.

The other thing that I think must be taken into account is the very strong support that this group has received from Rear Admiral Kennedy. I know that Rear Admiral Kennedy wrote to both Minister Scott and Minister Vale, giving very, very strong support to this claim. In the letter that Rear Admiral Kennedy wrote to Danna Vale in April 2002 he said:

In 1999 I was chosen by Minister Bruce Scott, your predecessor, to assist Mr Justice Mohr in the Review of Service Entitlement Anomalies in respect of South East Asian Service 1955-1975.

I will not read all of the letter, but he went on to say:

I thus became convinced that RAAF service from June 1965 on was in direct support of the Vietnam War and Justice Mohr supported this. Failure to recognise correctly this service is a real injustice.

I find it impossible to understand how the previous minister could come into this House and argue that the Ubon group was in Thailand to help defend Thailand—that is rubbish! The Ubon group was in Thailand to support the Vietnam War. As far as I am concerned, they are entitled to the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal. I have a further letter from Rear Admiral Kennedy, who after writing to the minister in April wrote to her again on 21 September, saying:

Dear Minister,

I wrote to you more than four months ago asking you to look again at the RAAF UBON Anomaly. When may I expect the courtesy of a reply?

Well, it appears that that courtesy was never extended to Rear Admiral Kennedy or to the Ubon group. I simply say this: it is time that we dealt with this issue. There is a solid claim to, in the words of the motion moved by the member:

... recognise ... the efforts of those who served in Ubon by the way of the award of the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal ...

These blokes went away from home, they supported the effort in Vietnam, and I think they have a very, very good case for the recognition of that service by way of this medal.