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Wednesday, 27 November 1985
Page: 2421


Senator TATE(10.30) —I wish to apologise to the Senate for the use of highly disorderly language in interjecting in part of a speech delivered by Senator Lewis this evening, but I wish to say in self-defence how I was provoked by a remark he made in the course of that address to the Senate which was to the effect that the Whitlam Government had brought home veterans from Vietnam without a fanfare, as though that was the major sin of Australian governments against Vietnam veterand. I think it is fair to say that the Australian community as a whole was so divided and exhausted by the domestic ramifications of the particular conflict abroad that it was not psychologically able to create a conducive atmosphere for the reception of Vietnam veterans on their return, as they should have been greeted as soldiers returning from a job which they had been required to undertake by their Government.

The question is: Which Government sent them? That is what stuck in my throat and I make no apology for this. There was no mea culpa from Senator Lewis about the government which sent those veterans, including my school mates, into the jungles of Vietnam in order to kill, to be wounded and slaughtered and to bear the physical and mental effects immediately and over the long term in relation to that particular conflict.


Senator Lewis —The way you brought them home was absolutely disgraceful. You brought them home as if they had done something wrong. If you want to attack us, attack us; but don't attack the troops. That is what you did-your government-Whitlam.


Senator TATE —The Opposition sent them into Vietnam. Senator Lewis's political movement sent them to Vietnam. I am proud to be part of a political movement which brought them back from Vietnam. That is the point I am making. I believe that the mood of the Australian community is now different from that which prevailed 10 years ago.


Senator Grimes —How old are you, Lewis? Why weren't you there?


Senator Lewis —I was too old.


Senator Grimes —I served for six years in the citizen forces, which is more than you did.


Senator Lewis —That is exactly what I did.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! There is too much background argument.


Senator Grimes —You did it because you had to. You could have gone to Vietnam, but you didn't. You are gutless. You didn't go like the rest of them. There was a whole swag of them over there. You were old enough to go and you didn't go.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Grimes and Senator Lewis, cease your argument. I call Senator Tate.


Senator TATE —The cenotaph in Hobart has been marked with the titles of the post-World War II conflicts including that of the Vietnam war, largely at my instigation and that of the Vietnam veterans, with the co-operation of the Lord Mayor of Hobart, for the Anzac Day ceremony this year. In fact, I believe that for the first time this year in any capital city, a Vietnam veteran, David Beresford, led the march through the streets of Hobart to the cenotaph. I believe from my experience at a dinner of the Vietnam Veterans in Launceston two Friday nights ago that the self-esteem of the Vietnam veterans is restored and at a very high level and the camaraderie and general good will which prevailed at that dinner is a testimony to the fact that the healing process has reached a point where the Australian community as a whole can better deal with the Vietnam veterans within our midst. Indeed, the Vietnam veterans feel once again part of the general community.

I do not believe that that healing process is helped by the cheap political jibes of Senator Lewis about the Whitlam Government bringing those veterans home. I am pleased to have been part of a political movement that achieved that, not part of a political movement which sent them into the jungles of Vietnam.