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Tuesday, 30 March 1971

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - by leave - We of the Opposition are not satisfied with the statement which has been made. It is a statement on partial withdrawal of our troops from the war in Vietnam. The only statement which would satisfy us would be one which said that all the troops should come out and that they should all come out now, that the only thing we should have to do with that war tom country is lo aid it in overcoming the damage which we, along with others, have inflicted upon its people.

The Vietnam war, along with the recent invasion of Laos, has been a disaster. There has been no military victory and there could be no military victory. We got ourselves mixed up in the internal affairs of Vietnam. Together wilh the United States of America and the other countries which have been dragooned into this war, we are suffering the consequences of it. Our participation has been immoral, unjust and, I believe, illegal. It has been a participation of which the Australian people will bc ashamed forever. The President of the United States said last year - 1 read this in his official journal - that he was aware that the majority of the American people were against the war. I believe that the majority of the Australian people are against this war. I understand that the New Zealand Government has announced that all its troops will be brought out of that conflict. There will be no half measures. No less should be done by the Australian Government.

The statement read by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) - he is not responsible for it - is a mixture of the double talk and excuses for our conduct which one would expect from the Government. It would be more honest of the Government if it said that it realised that a mistake has been made. Governments are not infallible; sometimes they make mistakes. Assuming the sincerity of the Government, it has long been apparent that this has been a costly error on our part. Our involvement has been not only shameful and degrading, but it has been extremely costly for this country. There has been a heavy cost in lives lost and in injuries from which our troops will suffer for a long time.

Economically this war has been costing Australia a great deal more than the Government is prepared to admit. One of the reasons for the economic difficulties we are in is the enormous cost of this war. During the last Budge; debate I produced in this chamber calculations made at my request by the Legislative Research Service in this Parliament which indicated that the cost of this war was between S400m and $500m a year. That cost was worked out according to sophisticated methods but one would admit that if the cost were worked out according to some rule of thumb calculations it would be about the same. We cannot afford to spend that amount of money. We are in the same position as the United States, which has found that it cannot afford to spend the S30,000m a year which it has been costing that country.

I am pleased to hear that this number of troops is to be withdrawn. However. I think it would serve the interests of Australia much better and T think the Government would stand better with the people of Australia if it were to say that all our troops should now come out instead of trying to drag the matter out in some kind of endeavour to save face. Face should not be saved at the cost to this country of enormous sums of money and, more importantly, at the cost of enormous suffering on the part of Australians. Australians will continue to be killed there and their families will continue to suffer; others will suffer injuries. This is all part of the damage inflicted on the Vietnamese people and this should not have been done. After all, what have these people done which requires us to be mixed up in their affairs, helping to ravage their country and inflicting this immense suffering on them?

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