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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21714

Mrs HULL (1:07 PM) —It might very well be asked why the Labor Party, the opposition in this case, did not change this issue in the 13 years of their rule, particularly in 1993 when we saw the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal regulations declaration come out, signed under Senator John Faulkner. It is very pertinent that this should have been rectified by them at the time. Not wanting to play politics, as others have in the House today, I want to merely look at the issues associated with the member for Paterson's motion. I think he needs to be commended on putting this motion forward.

I would like to acknowledge the contribution made by our defence forces during the Vietnam War and the sacrifices made by our servicemen. I personally believe that all those who offer their services and who are deployed overseas in any battle—even in the earlier wars on Australian shores—need recognition and are entitled to recognition. Such recognition should be given to the people who served in Ubon. I certainly welcome the minister's offer to have discussions with the RAAF Ubon Reunion Recognition Group because I think this is one step forward to certainly overcoming some of the issues of recognition that the RAAF Ubon Reunion Recognition Group would like to see resolved. Also, I welcome the fact that the Ubon people will get, hopefully, a formal briefing on what information was particularly at hand in determining entitlement for the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal, and also on the assessment process that took place with respect to Ubon. It is my understanding that the minister is very willing to consider any new information, particularly any information which supports the claim that RAAF Ubon aircraft were tasked to support the Australian national effort in Vietnam or that personnel were required by government policy to directly support the Vietnam effort.

My electorate of Riverina is home to all three arms of the Australian defence forces and I am extremely proud to represent the many dedicated service men and women who live and work on our bases. Of course, many of the people who served in Ubon clearly would have trained at RAAF Base Wagga Wagga. Just recently I spent some time with Dr Peter Ilbery at the Uranquinty recognition memorial day discussing what role Uranquinty played in the Second World War. I think it is most important to bring this to the table, simply because it is the recognition that Dr Ilbery wanted and has received for the way in which Uranquinty was part of the process and for how it fared in the training of pilots who served overseas. It is a very proud day and a very proud moment for these people. What you see here is a sense of pride, a sense of wanting to be recognised as having served and having been served in this process in Ubon, and a desire for that to be recognised with a medal, and I think that is most important. I understand those feelings because, having a service base in my electorate, I find that I have all of these representations constantly. RAAF Base Wagga Wagga is home to a large section of our defence community. It is one of the city's largest employers, with around 1,200 personnel working, studying, socialising and living at RAAF Base Wagga Wagga. It is the largest ground training base in the RAAF, and support and training activities are carried out on the base.

The issue that I particularly want to raise is the support that the member for Paterson has provided to the Ubon service. He has brought this issue to the table in fairness and in decency, and the minister has responded to the member Paterson. To his credit, he has gained an enormous amount of latitude with respect to trying to finally put this issue to rest after all of these years—something, as I said, that any other government at the time could have done many years ago. Again, I commend the member Paterson on what he has been able to achieve in bringing recognition to the plight of those people. (Time expired)