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Thursday, 28 March 1968

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I take the opportunity of this Grievance Day debate to mention several matters that I think are appropriate. The first matter relates to you, Mr Speaker. Without being offensive to you in any way, I wish to say that a number of people have commended me for introducing a type of dress reform into this Parliament. I assure you now, as I did in your office when you sent for me after 1 had worn a safari coat in this House, that I had no intention of downgrading this institution. I have been wearing the safari coat in my electorate during the oppressive weather that we have experienced in recent months. This kind of weather has occurred particularly in Canberra and I thought that the coat was appropriate to the existing climatic conditions here. That was the reason why I wore it in this chamber.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It was more appropriate than a wig is.

Mr JAMES - That could be so. I perspire freely and I am aware of the fact that heavy perspiration is a contributory cause of a very irritating disease, dermatitis, which, as all honourable members regret, has caused the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) to be absent from some sittings of the Parliament. Over-dressing, therefore, contributes to the onset of this complaint. I understand that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr

J.   R. Fraser), who has been absent from the Parliament in recent weeks owing to illness, suffers at times from a type of dermatitis also. It is my wish that I should not suffer from that complaint, and that was one of the reasons why I wore into the chamber a garment of the type that I now display for the benefit of honourable members. I find it very comfortable. It is made of a drip dry material and it is readily washable in a washing machine.

Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - Is not that a different coat?

Mr JAMES - It is not the one that I wore the other day, but it is similar. I believe, Mr Speaker, that you ought to consider allowing clothing of this kind to be worn, particularly in oppressive weather such as we have experienced recently, so that honourable members might not develop a condition that would lead to their absence from the Parliament through illness. Dermatitis, as I have mentioned, results partly from wearing clothes that are not appropriate to the climatic conditions. I believe that safari coats such as the one I wore into the chamber should be recognised by you, Sir, as appropriate dress in this House in hot weather. Garments such as this are commonly worn overseas, especially in parts of Africa where the climate is not as hot and oppressive as it has been in Canberra and other parts of Australia in recent times. In Uganda and elsewhere in Africa, this kind of garment is worn by respected and responsible citizens in parliamentary chambers and in courts. We all know that courts insist on a high degree of dignity in the type of clothing that is worn. There may be some of the political principles adopted in African countries with which we do not agree, but I fail to see how we could disagree with their advanced views on appropriate dress in hot climates. I trust, Sir, that if I again find the weather as oppressive as it was on the day when I wore my safari coat in this chamber, you will take a more tolerant view of my actions. They will not be intended to reduce the standing of this institution, but rather to inspire a more advanced view as to what clothing should be worn by Australian men in hot weather. I hope that the wearing of more sensible attire in this institution would lead to some kind of dress reform.

Mr McIVOR (GELLIBRAND, VICTORIA) - What were the mini skirts like in Africa?

Mr JAMES - They are not as popular as safari jackets of the kind that I wore the other day.

The next matter that I want to mention is one that greatly concerns honourable members on this side of the chamber and me in particular, Mr Speaker. The Press has given considerable publicity to it and it was mentioned here this morning by the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch). 1 refer to the actions of the military police in arresting an Australian Army officer immediately on his return from Vietnam after 18 months service. I am informed - I am taking steps to substantiate my information, which comes from a fairly reliable source - that the officer in question has been arrested for allegedly sending back to Australia from Vietnam classified material and also weapons and ammunition. I understand that he had brought back and previously had sent back, certain documents that substantiated the allegations that were made by Opposition members in this Parliament last week and the week before in relation to water torture atrocities in Vietnam. I am told that if these- documents, which are alleged to be classified material, are revealed to the community and the officer is permitted to make a statement to the people of Australia through the Press, it will be seen that some of these documents substantiate the view that water torture treatment of prisoners in Vietnam by Australian servicemen - something that we all would regret - is not confined to an isolated instance but that it was the general procedure of Australian soldiers to treat suspected members of the Vietcong or the National Liberation Front in this manner when captured. I understand that a lot of the documents bear this out. I would like the Minister for the Army or some other responsible member of the Government either to deny or to confirm that the actions of some Australian Army personnel in Vietnam would not be shown in a very favourable light by documents that were brought back to Australia by the officer for the purpose of preparing Press articles or writing a book, should he so wish, describing his experiences in Vietnam.

I am informed that some of the firearms or weapons that he is alleged to have sent back or brought back to Australia, which were mentioned this morning by the Minister for the Army, were only pistols that had been used by captured members of the National Liberation Front or the Vietcong. In World War I and World War II, it was the custom of the overwhelming majority of members of our defence forces in the battlefield to seek out souvenirs. Almost invariably, these were weapons which had been used by the enemy and which our servicemen brought home as personal souvenirs. If this were not so, Sir, it would be difficult to understand how so many enemy weapons from the two world wars could be displayed in the Australian War Memorial directly across Lake Burley Griffin from Parliament House. I believe that the possession by the officer in question of classified documents has been featured in an attempt to give spice to the allegations that he has committed a very serious offence, though he has done no more than any other soldier would dj in bringing back weapons as souvenirs in accordance with the usual practice of members of our Army, Navy and Air Force. Our servicemen brought back to Australia Japanese swords and pistols that they obtained when we were fighting the Japanese in World War II. Exactly the same sort of thing was done by our military personnel in World War I. Therefore, I trust that the most humane treatment will be meted out to this officer, who was prepared to pay the supreme sacrifice in fighting in one df the most filthy and most hated wars in the history of mankind.

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