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Tuesday, 4 April 2000
Page: 15218

Mr Laurie Ferguson asked the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 16 February 2000:

(1) Did the Republic of Korea (ROK) offer in November 1951 to award Commonwealth personnel participating in the Korean War the ROK War Service Medal, also known as the ROK Star.

(2) Has he written to a number of organisations indicating that Commonwealth authorities never accepted the offer of the medal by the ROK and that until recently the Department of Defence was unaware of its existence.

(3) Has his attention been drawn to a letter from the Defence Attache of the ROK Embassy in Australia to the Australian National Veterans' Association on 25 February 1993 indicating that the Korean War Medal was accepted by all countries participating in the Korean War; if so, is he able to say whether the statement by the Defence Attache is correct.

(4) If the statement by the Defence Attache is considered to be incorrect, which of the participating Commonwealth countries did not accept the offer of the medal to their personnel.

(5) Has the Government officially approved the wearing of the medal by Australian veterans; if not, on what basis has it refused to do so.

Mr Bruce Scott (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The answers to the honourable member's question are as follows:

(1) Yes, it was offered by the Republic of Korea through the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command. Why the offer was not accepted by the Commonwealth is not known and is being investigated by the Department of Defence.

(2) Yes.

(3) Yes, attention has been drawn to the letter and the statement by the Defence Attache is incorrect. The medal was not accepted by all UN countries that participated in the Korean War as the medal is not worn by all of them. Also, as stated in the same letter, the medal was not issued to all who served in the war and this is indicated by the fact that veterans are purchasing it from commercial sources as no original medal is held by them.

(4) This is under investigation by the Department of Defence.

(5) No. It has always been Australian Government policy in relation to official recognition of foreign awards that only one award will be recognised for operational service in conjunction with any Australian award for the same service. This policy was reaffirmed by the revised and more liberalised Government Guidelines Concerning the Acceptance and Wearing of Foreign Honours or Awards by Australians (the Guidelines) put in place on 22 December 1997.

At the time the Guidelines were presented to Her Majesty the Queen in their draft form, She expressed the view that She hoped that any possible embarrassment by the display of medals resulting more from the generosity of a foreign government than on the member's service could be avoided through strict rules on the wearing of foreign honours and awards. The Australian Government reassured Her Majesty on this point and the Prime Minister gave an undertaking that the wearing of foreign honours and awards by Australians would be carefully monitored and considered on a basis of equivalence, and subject to the over-riding principle of national interest. Accordingly, the awarding of an additional foreign service award for service in Korea could be seen as confronting The Queen's concerns.

Such a policy not only provides satisfaction that The Queen's concerns are allayed, but also retains any Australian service award as the pre-eminent award for that service without being overshadowed by a proliferation of foreign campaign awards for the same service.