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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18693

Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (2:03 PM) —First of all, I join with the Acting Prime Minister in recognising Vietnam Veterans Day. It is the 37th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. Whilst the Battle of Long Tan was not the only significant battle in which Australians fought during the Vietnam War, like Gallipoli in the First World War and the Kokoda battles of the Second World War, it has achieved a symbolic importance. While we recognise those who did fight and fall at Long Tan, we also recognise those who fought in all of the battles of that bloody war.

Long Tan was one of the heaviest actions in the war. Australian troops fought against overwhelming odds for more than three hours; 18 Australians died and 24 were wounded. When the battle ended there were 245 slain Vietcong. At the end of the battle, Australian forces had gained military dominance over the Phuoc Tuy Province. It was an outstanding feat and it exemplified the finest and outstanding traditions of heroism and mateship in the Australian Army.

Like many Australians, I opposed the Vietnam War, but I never opposed the troops. Few who participated in that war came out of it unaffected—and we only need to recognise the circumstances. If you had seen them at the welcome home to the troops from Iraq, being able to share in the pride and satisfaction of their families that the troops have returned home as heroes, and then contrasted that to the circumstances in which they came back in their time, it is a graphic reminder to them.

We should not forget that. We cannot turn back the past, but we can remember them today. Now that the war is long over, let us increase our efforts to promote harmony and mutual understanding in not only recognising the bravery of the Vietnam vets and commending them on their day but also working with the people of Vietnam and, in particular, many who now proudly call themselves Australian citizens.

In relation to Ian Henderson, I join with the Acting Prime Minister on this very sad occasion. It was not so long ago that the House spoke about Ian—back on 3 March when his illness first became known to all of us. The House wished him well then and wished him a speedy recovery. He made that recovery, but sadly the disease came back and this time fatally.

Ian was a great person, a great friend, a colleague and also a work colleague in a former life. Whilst Ian died as a journalist, he actually served the Labor Party as an elected official of our organisation. His talents were admired and respected by all who worked with him, and that I think is attested most strongly by the lasting and enduring relationships and friendships that Ian had with former colleagues on this side of the House.

In his final days Ian was visited by my colleagues Bob McMullan and Wayne Swan and also by Bill and Dallas Hayden. It was Bill Hayden who as opposition leader gave Ian Henderson his start with the Labor Party. Bill had two applicants for the job. He could not split them, so he employed both. One was Ian, and the other was Wayne Swan. Ian rose to become deputy national secretary of the ALP, where he played a key role in Bob Hawke's victory in 1983. He later made the switch to journalism, first to the Canberra Times, then to the Australian and recently to ABC radio. It is a testament to Ian that, despite his background on one side of politics, he won respect and admiration from people on both sides of the House and beyond for his talents as a journalist.

However, Ian's proudest moment came through his involvement in South Africa's first multiracial election, when he worked for four months helping Nelson Mandela become the President of South Africa after his incarceration. On his wall at home Ian has a poster of Mandela and a photograph of hundreds of South Africans patiently queuing to vote. For Ian, that picture showed what politics was all about. It was a picture that encompassed in many ways his own lifetime devotion to fighting to make Australia a better and safer place. It was that same fight and determination that he showed in his struggle with the disease that eventually took his life. On at least two occasions Ian's family were told he was unlikely to live through the night, but he constantly defied the doctors. He repeatedly rallied and refused to give up the fight until the very end.

I met Ian's father Albert recently. Albert was a member of the Newcastle City Council for 22 years, including five years as Deputy Mayor. He was immensely proud of his son's achievements. On behalf of the entire Labor Party, I express my deepest sympathies to Ian's partner, Fiona Hamilton, his parents, Albert and Norma, his sister, Lesley, and his niece, Kristy. Albert, Norma and Fiona have requested that in lieu of flowers a donation be sent to the Leukaemia Foundation of New South Wales. We mourn a great colleague, a great friend, a great contributor. This House will be the lesser for his going.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!

The SPEAKER —I recognise the Treasurer and indicate to the House that I will be extending similar indulgence to the member for Fraser.