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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2681

Mr KING (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. I refer to those crew members of HMAS 'Sydney' who are desirous of not participating in the exercise as announced by him yesterday. Is he prepared to give the House an assurance that there will be no recriminations against those who wish to opt out of the exercise? Does he agree that if options are given it is a breach of the fundamental obligations of servicemen entered into on recruitment? Finally, is not the Government itself therefore responsible for inciting men to break these service obligations, thereby destroying the effectiveness of the armed forces?

Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) (Minister for Defence) - I did see the report which appeared in the Press suggesting that 12 .personnel had elected to opt out of the exercise which, as I stressed yesterday, is in fact a naval exercise. If they opt out, and I have had no official confirmation of this, it would be under the normal circumstances and the regulations which now apply. In any exercise involving naval personnel, or indeed, personnel anywhere in the Services, they would have the opportunity, for various reasons, to make application through the normal channels not to participate in that exercise. If it is substantiated .that the 12 personnel referred to have sought to opt out of the exercise then they would be doing so through the normal channels. I have indicated to this House that in the circumstances there are probably reasons why some of the personnel - perhaps for political reasons or conscience^ - may seek to opt out of the exercise. If they do that, I can give the honourable member an assurance that it will be done through the normal channels. Their applications would be considered in .the normal way. I also give the honourable member an assurance that there would be no recriminations if their requests had been examined and accepted by the naval authorities.

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