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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7751

Battle of Long Tan: 52nd Anniversary


Mr TED O'BRIEN (Fairfax) (15:09): My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the government's response to yesterday's commemoration of the Battle of Long Tan?


Mr CHESTER (GippslandMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Deputy Leader of the House) (15:09): I do thank the member for Fairfax for his question. I appreciate his interest in veterans in his community but also in the current serving personnel. It's greatly appreciated. He understands, as I know all members understand, the importance of looking after our service men and women.

Recently I had the privilege to be in Kabul and Baghdad, and I met many extraordinary Australians who were serving in those countries on our behalf. I must say: the thing that strikes me when I do meet with our service men and women is that, although they're extraordinarily well trained, extraordinary capable and passionate about the role they play, they're not supermen; they're not superwomen. They can bleed. They can get broken bones. And, from time to time, their mental health can suffer as well. And it is our obligation, as a grateful nation, to make sure we care for and provide support for them on their return. I must say that, every time I get the chance to speak in front of our serving personnel and our veterans, I start with one very simple point: 'Thank you for your service. I thank you for your service and thank your families for your service.'

On the weekend, we commemorated Long Tan Day or Vietnam Veterans Day. It was a very important commemorative event, here in Canberra, where we reflected on the 60,000 Australians who served in Vietnam. Tragically, 521 Australians died in the Vietnam War, 3,000 were wounded, and thousands more carried the psychological scars with them for the rest of their lives.

There is no greater service to our nation than to put on the uniform of the Navy, the Army or the Air Force and to be prepared to place yourself in harm's way to help those who perhaps can't help themselves. So we, as a nation, I believe—and I'm sure this is a sentiment shared across the chamber—are greatly indebted to those who are prepared to serve in those uniforms.

As MPs, I think we notice every day, as we travel throughout our communities, whether it is in our community halls, in schools or amongst the memorials, the names of the fallen. We see them as we move throughout our communities. And it is important that we honour them with the way we choose to live our lives today. Their values of mateship, of resilience, of integrity, of courage in adversity—that culture of service above self—are things that I think we can all take with us in the roles that we fulfil in this place. I'd suggest that perhaps we can all learn from that great Anzac tradition as we play our roles as members of parliament.

So I say to those Vietnam veterans, and I say to those families who supported them through those very difficult years after their service: thank you for your service. This House is united in recognising you, particularly on Vietnam Veterans Day. Lest we forget.

The SPEAKER: The member for Kingston, on indulgence.