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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2019

Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. The Minister will be aware of persistent Press reports in recent months that Australian troops have been involved in action against Communist forces in Malaysia near the Thai border. Some reports have referred to casualties and loss of life in such encounters. Has there been any military contact between Australian units and Malaysian Communists? Have Australian units ever been used in any way for internal police operations in Malaysia? What is the area of operations of the Australian unit stationed at Butterworth on a rotational basis? If these reports are without substance what arrangements can the Minister make for better Press liaison facilities at Butterworth to stop dissemination of these disturbing stories?

Mr PEACOCK (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Minister for the Army) - I have to admit that the only Press report I have seen on this matter was contained in a Sunday journal last Sunday week and this report was erroneous almost in its entirety. It was based on the fact that there was being conducted monthly a company from Australian and New Zealand units within the ANZUK component at Singapore on rotation. It has been the intention as has been stated by me and the Prime Minister, that companies would rotate solely for training purposes around the vicinity of Butterworth and be stationed there, and that each company in turn would be doing this. There has been no engagement in the manner mentioned by the honourable member. There have been no woundings of Australian servicemen because they have not been engaged in this sort of activity. So I can say that, to the extent that this matter was discussed by that particular Press report, the report was erroneous.

The matter of public relations in regard to forces stationed at Butterworth comes under the control of the Minister for Air and he has, of course, a public relations officer there who in that particular report was quoted as giving information that there was a jungle warfare centre and that other countries were committed there. So, in a nutshell, the Australian activities in the area are confined solely to the rotation of companies. This is part of our agreement under the 5-power arrangement with our ANZUK forces there and it is for training purposes. Our forces have not been engaged in any way in the activities mentioned by the honourable member and the only article I have seen reported falsely on this matter.

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