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Wednesday, 23 March 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT - When this statement was brought to my attention I made it my business to become acquainted with some of the facts surrounding the matter. The statement was obviously incorrect as to the facts. The honorable gentleman either had been quite careless in the preparation of his material and in making the charge which he did make or had chosen to overlook what were readily verifiable facts about the continuing assistance that Australia has been giving to this country for a considerable number of years. We first began giving non-military aid to Vietnam in 1954 under the Colombo Plan and we have continued to give it since 1956 through the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, Vietnam being a protocol State under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. The total value of non-military aid provided to Vietnam, to 30th June 1964, under the Colombo Plan and the S.E.A.T.O. aid programme, was $A7,255,000. The total under the Colombo Plan was more than $A5 million. This covered the cost of railway carriages, earthmoving equipment, sulphate of ammonia, buses and hand tools, the training of 175 Vietnamese students in Australia and the provision of 36 experts for work on development projects. Under the S.E.A.T.O. aid programme the total value of non-military aid to Vietnam, to June 1964, was more than $A2 million, which covered the cost of telecommunications equipment, tents, barbed wire and fence posts and other items.

Mr Peters - I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do you rule that this question has been asked without notice?

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