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Wednesday, 1 November 1967

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Answering the second part of the honourable member's question first, I can give him a complete assurance that the training of national servicemen and regular volunteer members of the Australian Army is identical for the same positions. The Australian Army has always had a very high standard of training. This has been demonstrated by the performance of the present Task Force and by units that served in Vietnam earlier. These standards will be maintained. I did see a report that indicated that there would be about 600 national servicemen in the 3rd Battalion. If this had been correct, the percentage would have been much higher than in the battalions at present in Vietnam. But the report is not correct. In general terms, when the 3rd Battalion goes overseas the percentage of national servicemen in it will be about the same as for the battalions at present in Vietnam - about 50%. At present, the numbers in the third battalion are about 450 members of the permanent army and 422 national servicemen. On the assumption that the Regular Army manpower element continues to grow at the present rate and on the further assumption that the operational commitment remains about as it now is, this percentage in the battalions will be maintained. But a recent review has indicated that it will be possible to place more national servicemen in logistic and support units in Vietnam where in fact the percentage at the moment is well below what it is in the battalions. So there will be an increase in the percentage of national servicemen in these units, and in some cases perhaps significant increases. This will release further regulars for battalion duty and it will also make it possible, I hope, to maintain the rule, under present circumstances and under the type of commitment prevailing in Vietnam, that regulars will go to Vietnam only for 1 year in 3. I think honourable members will recognise that this is a reasonable proposition to apply to members of the Regular Army.

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