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Thursday, 1 April 1971

Senator O'BYRNE (TASMANIA) - My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I draw his attention to the world cable service of the 'Australian' of today's date which states that President Nixon intends to increase the withdrawal rate of American troops from South Vietnam, that it is expected that the withdrawal rate will be increased from 12.500 to 15,000 per month and that the President will be completing his assessment of the situation in South Vietnam this week. In view of the fact that the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, said publicly that Australian troop withdrawals from Viet nam would be a matter of one out all out, what factors operated to change the Government's mind in deciding to pull out only some of the troops? Will the Government take the public into its confidence and say now when ail our troops will be withdrawn?


Listed on the notice paper for debate is a ministerial statement which deals with a significant phased reduction of our forces in Vietnam, commencing in May. At this point of time 1 do not think I have anything to add to that statement, bearing in mind the honourable senator's question. lt may well be that at a later hour of the day. if we dispose of certain Bills, we will be debating this statement. I think that would give Senator O'Byrne the opportunity to speak on the subject if he so wishes. The present situation is that the statement has been made by the Prime Minister. On his behalf, I have made that statement here, ft is on the notice paper. Subject to our functioning here today, it may well be that we will be debating the statement.

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