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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2775


Senator McGAURAN(10.38) —I wish to refer to a question that I asked the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories (Senator Richardson) today in Question Time in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel. The question I asked was in reference to the establishment of an end of war list. I asked the Minister whether he would approve a request for an end of war list. I wish to reverse a perception that he gave in his answer. The perception would be that the decision of the Minister for Defence in the McMahon Government, Mr Fairbairn, to reject the establishment of an end of war list was endorsed or carried on by the Minister for Defence in the Whitlam Government, Lance Barnard, for the same reasons. However, following a freedom of information request, I have received documents which I believe reject that sort of perception.

The decisions made by Mr Fairbairn and Mr Barnard were made for different reasons. Minister Fairbairn's decision followed a request by the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force to establish an end of war list. Mr Fairbairn rejected the establishment of an end of war list on the grounds that the hostilities in Vietnam were still going on and that Australian troops were still in South East Asia. However, he did not rule out the establishment of an end of war list in the future. A request was also directed by the three armed services to Mr Barnard. His reasons for rejecting the establishment of an end of war list were different from Mr Fairbairn's because the troops were back from the Vietnam war zone. The Minister rejected the proposal on the grounds that it would be seen to be celebrating the war. What I thought of that reason I dealt with in my second reading speech. It was purely a political decision by Lance Barnard and was in no way, I believe, fairly based. But above all, unlike Mr Fairbairn, Lance Barnard completely ruled out the chance of an end of war list. So the Fairbairn and Barnard decisions were different. They were different men, from a different time in politics and, above all, they had different reasons to reject the end of war list. So I ask the Minister to reconsider the answer that he gave today.