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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2734

Mr BENNETT (SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to alarm expressed by the Macquarie University Students Council as to the safety of some 300,000 political prisoners, civilian detainees and prisoners of war in South Vietnam who they believe are likely to fall victims of political and personal injustice? Will the Prime Minister clarify Australia's position in relation to these detainees, some of whom are detained subsequent to action oy Australian personnel? Further, will he clarify what action Australia proposes to take in relation to all political detainees in Vietnam?

Mr WHITLAM - My attention, of course, has been drawn to this general subject from many sources, although I do not remember any particular statement from the Macquarie University. The question of political detainees in South Vietnam and in other countries of our region is a matter which naturally concerns a very great number of our fellow citizens. I have to say that it is not a subject upon which the intervention of outside governments is very often effective. Still less, of course, is it welcomed. We have to be quite certain that anything that we do officially in another country will not embarrass or jeopardise the people who are detained or their relatives. We, of course, give our support to any international action which is suggested in bodies like the United Nations or its organs. But in general I think we have to rely on reports and efforts by the Red Cross above all in this matter. I would not like, in answer to a question without notice, to express a view on the propriety or incidence of political detention in South Vietnam or in other countries in our region.

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