Motion Moved by The Hon Charlie Lynn MLC in the NSW Legislative Council on 21 September 2006 re the formal acknowledgment of sacrifice by Australian Servicemen and Women.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [3.52 p.m.]: I move:
“That in recognition of the year of the ninetieth anniversary of the Australian landing at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Pacific War and the fortieth anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, this House calls on the President to acknowledge the sacrifice made by Australian service men and women who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy today after the prayer at the beginning of each sitting week in the following terms:
“I acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by the servicemen and women who gave their lives on active service in defence of the freedom we enjoy in New South Wales today.”
Since I proposed my original motion in the House on 4 May we have observed the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan, about which I will speak shortly. Acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land seems to have been introduced around the time of the republican-reconciliation debates during the Keating Labor era. Left-wing academics, inner-city urban dwellers and doctors’ wives were among the comfortable middle-class voices calling for changes to our flag and our system of parliamentary democracy. They also wanted us to say “sorry” for historical wrongs over which we had no influence.
As it turned out, the only thing that changed was the government. I would hope that these ideological warriors of the Left will come to understand that the wider Australian community will accept such changes to our systems, symbols and institutions only when they are treated as equals in the debate and not as a group of uneducated westies or rednecks. It is my view that concentrating on so-called progressive issues for our indigenous people has done them more harm than good. The feel-good factor for the chattering classes in comfortable inner-city environments does not translate into worthwhile sustainable benefits for indigenous people in remote and isolated areas. It has taken the emergence of indigenous leaders, such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine, to get some balance back into the debate, and to earn the respect of the wider community in the process.
The election of one of the ideological relics of the Left to the presidency of this House brought with it some radical but predictable change.
Firstly, our ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen were insulted when representatives of some of the most repressive Communist regimes in the world were invited as official guests to the opening of the House, while our former and current allies, with whom we had spilled blood in conflict with those Communist regimes, were ignored. The next to go was the portrait of the Queen from the public area of the Parliament. The President used considerable vision in the removal of that portrait, given that, because of the position in which it was hung, it was not seen by many who visited the Parliament.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: Point of order: The motion that the Hon. Charlie Lynn has moved is very specific. It deals with a number of anniversaries in relation to battles fought by Australian servicemen and servicewomen. Nothing he has said so far has related to that motion. However, what he has said in terms of the reconciliation process and the traditional owners of the land, and his reflection on the President, is against the standing orders as well as being totally outside the leave of the motion he has moved.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: To the point of order: The motion states that after the prayer at the beginning of the sitting week we acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by the servicemen and servicewomen who gave their lives on active service in defence of the freedoms we enjoy in New South Wales today. That was initiated as a result of the introduction to this House of acknowledgment of the traditional owners of this land. Everything I am saying in this debate relates to that original motion, and I will develop the argument as to why our servicemen and servicewomen, who sacrificed their lives on active service in defence of the freedoms we enjoy in New South Wales today should be acknowledged.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: Further to the point of order: By the Hon. Charlie Lynn reading parts of his motion for the third time he is hardly saying anything relevant to the point of order. He did not argue, and the motion does not state, that it relates to the acknowledgment of the traditional owners. But I also took exception to his reflections on the President and the monarchy in contravention of the standing orders.
The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner: To the point of order: The Hon. Charlie Lynn’s motion refers to Australian servicemen and servicewomen who gave their lives in defence of the freedoms that we enjoy today. Some of those freedoms are not to be found in some of the regimes to which he referred and that goes to the heart of what he is on about. Therefore there is no point of order.
The Hon. Peter Primrose: To the point of order: I am loath to interfere on the basis that I believe we were reaching some degree of consensus, and that has been my point all along about what form this debate should take. However, I remind the Hon. Charlie Lynn that one of the freedoms members do not enjoy is the freedom to contravene the standing orders. If the Hon. Charlie Lynn wishes to make such aspersions against people outside this Chamber, that is a matter that can be addressed by the due processes of this House. But I would urge you not to allow the Hon. Charlie Lynn to make reflections on members of this House, the monarch or, indeed the Governor General or Governor, in seeking to influence the House to vote in one way or another
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Patricia Forsythe): Order! I have heard sufficient on the point of order. The member may, by way of background for his motion, refer to Aboriginal land rights and the acknowledging of the traditional owners of this land. However, I caution him about reflecting on the President and the monarch. The standing orders are very clear on that.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: I was congratulating the President on moving the portrait of the monarch to a place where it is seen by everyone who enters and leaves this place. That is a wonderful thing.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: It is not a reflection.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: No, that is correct. However, in speaking on behalf of servicemen and servicewomen, the Returned Services League and the Vietnam Veterans Association, I remember the outrage when this Parliament was opened and the high commissioners of North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba were invited into this House as official guests and the representatives of our allies were ignored.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: Point of order: Madam Deputy-President, you probably know that the Hon. Charlie Lynn is ignoring the warning you gave him about reflecting on the President.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Patricia Forsythe): Order! The Hon. Charlie Lynn is reflecting on the President, and that is contrary to the standing orders. Such reflections cannot be made unless by way of substantive motion.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: As I said, one group of people in our community should also be acknowledged by our parliaments, our local councils and our educational institutions. That is our servicemen and servicewomen, who sacrificed their lives in defence of the freedom, peace and prosperity that we have in this country today. Since I first spoke on this motion on 4 May we have commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan. Honourable members will recall the conflict in Vietnam and the conscription program in place at the time. I was conscripted into the army with thousands of other young Australians. Like them, I voluntarily served the governments of the day, both the Liberal Government and the Labor Government. That was a sad period, because it was the first time in our history that our servicemen and servicewomen returning from active service were betrayed by a small minority of radicals who campaigned against us and mocked us when we arrived home. That is probably one of the most disgraceful chapters in our history. I will record the reflections of Major Bill Wallace, who spoke at the battle of Long Tan commemorative service on 20 August this year. He stated:
‘Colonel John McRae, a Canadian Medical officer in WW I (formerly Professor of Medicine at Macgill University) was the composer of “In Flanders Fields”, which he had written in 1915, but was not published (at first anonymously) until 1923. He died of wounds in May 1918, and on the night before his death said to his doctor this quote from the last stanza. Tell them this, “If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep”. Today we honour those who sleep and help them to sleep peacefully.
‘In recognising that 18th August is the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan (this being the 40th anniversary of that battle), the headline battle from the Australian involvement in the Vietnam conflict, it was not the largest in which the Australian forces were engaged. But it has come to symbolise the conflict in the Australian community.
‘However we are here because this day was appointed by the Parliament of Australia, on advice from the Veterans, to honour the service of the 50,000 Australian servicemen and servicewomen who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1972. So we gather here not to reflect specifically about the few hundred Australians and New Zealanders who fought the Battle of Long Tan, but all those who served. We are honouring also those who fought at Bien Hoa, in War Zone D, FSB Coral and Balmoral, Binh Ba, Baria, Dat Do, along Route 44, in the Long Hais, Mai Tao Mountains, Hat Dich, Tui Tich, Xuyen Moc, The Horseshoe, The Light Green and the Long Green, in the Courtney Rubber, and along the Song Rai. Not forgetting the heroism of the AA TTV Members in 1 Corps and 2 Corps which resulted in the awarding of many honours including the Victoria Cross on 4 occasions. We must also honour the service of the members of 1 Australian Logistic Support Group in Vung Tau whose efforts kept the combat elements in the field supplied with all the materials needed to wage war, repaired all the damaged equipment, and mended wounded and diseased bodies. And we remember those who served at HQ MV in Saigon, keeping contact with Australia, and co-ordinating the activities of the Australian forces with those of the allied nations.
‘We must also remember the members of the RAAF whether flying Hueys with 9 Sqn out of Vung Tau, with Wallaby Airlines flying their Caribou aircraft to all parts of the country, with the Canberra bombers, destroying enemy installations, isolating the battlefield and disrupting enemy supply lines, or with the C130 Hercules taking men and supplies to and from Vietnam, especially providing those special medical evacuation flights which had a 10 year unblemished record. We also remember the service of the members of the RAN ferrying men and materials from Australia on “The Vung Tau Ferry”, HMAS Sydney and on HMAS Jeparrit, conducting combat and fire support operations along the coast on the DDG Destroyers, the clearance divers keeping the harbours secure, or the pilots of Fleet Air Arm either with the Assault Helicopter Coy at Bear Cat or on attachment to the RAAF Units.
‘But why do we remember these Veterans? What is so special about being a Veteran? The answer quite simply is that these are the only servants of the Australian Nation who have had to be prepared to die to implement national policy. No others are required to make this commitment. When undertaking this service to the nation, these men and women are deprived of any of the personal rights which properly protect our freedom and democracy. When you don a uniform, you lose the right to refuse a lawful command at every level from the CDF to the lowest recruit. If the Government says that this is what is required, the defence force has no alternative but to say “Yes Sir”. This is why the nation does not have occasions such as this to remember the service of government employees who work in the ATO or in the Diplomatic Service. Only Veterans have been required by the Australian Nation to make this ultimate commitment. Only Veterans have been required to be prepared to die in the service of the nation.
‘This makes all Veterans “special”. However, to the veterans it appears that the nation has forgotten this and has allowed Veterans issues to become part of party politics. Veterans believe that if the maintenance of the Defence Force is the premium on the Nation’s Insurance Policy, Veterans are the payout on that policy, and as such are above politics. To provide appropriate support to the veterans is a national obligation, and must progress from being considered “adequate” to being appropriate before those who did not come home will be able to rest peacefully.
‘But we are here today specifically to honour the Veterans of the conflict in Vietnam. Why are these Veterans specially honoured? What is special about being a Vietnam Veteran?
‘For the first time in Australian History a war was lost. There was no return of conquering heroes to a grateful nation. The attempt to prop up the corrupt military dictatorship in South Vietnam failed and the reunification of Vietnam under the North Vietnamese Government is now a permanent fixture. Australia fought this war with limited political aims, mainly to convince the United States that we were a true and valuable ally, and that the US should fill the vacuum created in SE Asia by the British decision the withdraw to Europe. It could be argued that this also has failed and that Australia is still pursuing a foreign policy to achieve these objectives.
‘It is now beyond dispute that the intelligence advice to the government before the decision to deploy combat troops was taken was that the war was not winnable. Yet the decision was taken which cost the lives of 501 young Australians.
‘As the ADF knew this, the motivation for the soldiers deployed to Vietnam was based purely on mateship, pride and professionalism. When they returned, none of this was recognised.
‘The soldiers felt betrayed by the nation because of this, and buried themselves back into the community. But the recognition that was given to the men after WW II was not afforded to them. Allowances were not made for the effects of war on these young men. I remember when I was a boy that a man’s shortcomings would be tolerated because he was a “Returned Man”. This did not happen in Australia in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Happily it is now being done, but for a great many, the damage is irreparable.
‘During the Vietnam War, the nation was not at war. Other than the families of the soldier, no-one in Australia was required to make any sacrifices. As a result, after the war, veterans issues quickly disappeared over the political horizon, and with some minor exceptions this continues to be the case today. Veterans feel betrayed. The Minister for Veterans Affairs is no longer a stand alone figure, having dual responsibility as a junior minister reporting to the Minister for Defence. Recently the Minister made an important announcement regarding issues about which Vietnam Veterans feel passionate. This media release was widely circulated in the veteran community but ignored in the media.
‘The Prime Minister will attend dinner with the Long Tan Veterans in the Great Hall but will not grant the national president of the TPI Association 10 minutes in his office. Politicians are happy to accept the recommendations of an independent tribunal to fix their own salaries and conditions, but accepted less than 20% of the recommendations made by Justice Clarke who had been appointed to independently review veterans’ entitlements. The electorate accepted without question the spin that the veterans were being looked after, (albeit only after a backbench revolt in the lead up to the election in 2004).
‘Besides the Veterans, the casualties of the Vietnam War have been our beautiful and long suffering families. The one positive is that it is now accepted, although not yet at the policy level, that war has an effect on families. The divorce rate in Vietnam Veterans is almost twice the national average, and the effect on our children has been horrendous.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods laughs. This is not something to laugh about; it is a very serious issue among Vietnam veterans. I cannot understand why the Hon. Jan Burnswoods would turn her back on this debate and laugh at these statistics. The address continued:
‘It has been confirmed that in the tragedy of youth suicide, sons and daughters of Vietnam Veterans are over represented by a factor of 3.5. This is not a fact for which the Prime Minister apologised in Parliament on Wednesday. This needless waste of so many wonderful young people continues and is largely ignored. Happily, things may well be changing.
‘Despite world-wide recognition of the effect of dioxin exposure on the health of individuals and their offspring, the Australian Government hides behind a limited scientific opinion, and refuses to revisit this issue. Although it is too late for our children, there are signs that it is being recognised that war affects families and that programs are being developed to attempt to limit these effects. One could say that this is just an extension of occupational Health and Safety which is mandatory on all employers.
‘Vietnam Veterans feel betrayed. In 1969 when I was placing my life on the line for this nation, the special rate of pension paid to permanently incapacitated servicemen was 90% of average weekly earnings. TPI’s did not receive welfare. The neglect of all governments since, which has been accepted by the electorate, has resulted in those people now being welfare dependent. When the automatic adjustments are made next month, for the first time welfare will constitute more than 50% of the income of most TPI’s, and the special rate of pension will be about 40% of the average weekly earnings. Of the 40,000 Vietnam Veterans still alive (5,000 have taken their own lives—10 times as many who died during the conflict), 18,000 are now classed as Totally and Permanently Incapacitated. They feel betrayed as since 1997, all Centrelink Benefits and Parliamentary Superannuation payments have been indexed at the more advantageous rate of MTAWE which has been a serious disadvantage to veterans. I return to my earlier comment that Veteran entitlements should be appropriate, not adequate.
‘This is why Vietnam Veterans are “special”. Mainly for reasons we would rather have ignored or wish had not occurred at all. Whilst there are 40,000 of us still alive, the nation has a chance to make amends, not merely by public expressions of sorrow and gratitude, not by glittering dinners and ceremonies at the fine memorials which have been built, but by changing things which affect the everyday lives of veterans.
I found this poem by James D. Young which captures the spirit of my address in a fine anthology of Australian Military poetry.
The Folly of War
The cannons roar, the bullets whine,
The soldiers’ dreaded fate,
The reason why, not clear to see
Thoughts of logic, far too late.
Where hide the ones who make the war
Who fashion all the rules,
Not for the battlefield
This honour—left to fools.
Yet fools we are, we men of arms
Who hold our honour high,
While those who make this world of war
Care not that soldiers die.
Vested power to politician
Who, for greed, would sell their soul,
But never they in gunshot sound
For them, no bells do toll.
Never yet in history’s time
Were problems solved by force,
Still Man must pay the devil ‘s price
The biblical rider, on a pale horse.
Where men of science boldly tread
No man has been before,
Yet humanity prospers not a whit
When it comes to the folly of war.
To extrapolate from the words of Colonel John McRae in May 1918:
‘You as the Australian Nation have not kept faith, and those who died are not yet sleeping.’
I commend Major Wallace for that fine speech to the veterans at the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan commemorative service held in Ballarat on 20 August this year. The address adds weight to the need for us to try to heal the wounds felt by many veterans, particularly Vietnam veterans, who were betrayed by their own people back here. It was not the veterans who started the war; it was the politicians who committed them to war. The veterans simply served their nations as they have always done. If people had wanted to attack the politicians who sent them to war and demonstrate against them, we would have acknowledged that. But to attack the soldiers, as they did, after the Vietnam War was an absolute disgrace. These radicals also tried to hijack Anzac Day ceremonies during the Vietnam War.
An article in a 1981 newspaper under the heading “Ugly, violent Anzac Day” reported:
‘Police and demonstrators clashed violently at yesterday’s Anzac Day march in Canberra’.
Who was demonstrating? A bunch of left-wing, radical women, who were campaigning about women raped in war. They were simply trying to grab some very cheap publicity. Federal Labor member Ken Fry described it as “the blackest Anzac Day ever” because these people, who had campaigned against the veterans, tried to then ambush Anzac Day ceremonies. It was also reported in a 1981 newspaper:
‘The national president of the RSL, Sir William Keys, was unavailable for comment after the march. But on Friday [he said]: “The women can march or demonstrate or protest whenever they want at any other time or place. We do not interfere with their occasions or rights. Why do they want to interrupt ours?’
It was an absolute disgrace. When a motion such as this is moved normally the first thing the Left do is seek to discredit the motion, and I anticipate that. The first thing they do is change the word “commemorate” to “celebrate”. Nowhere in my contribution have I used the term “celebration of war”—and never will I. But I will use “commemoration”, in commemorating the deeds of our servicemen. Changing the word from “commemorate” to “celebrate” allows the Left to suggest that we are trying in some way to celebrate war. As I said, anyone who has fought in war would agree that it is not something one would celebrate.
Our involvement in other wars has also been brought up in debate. Our involvement in the Boer War in 1899, our involvement in the Boxer Rebellion and in the Sudan in 1885, and our involvement in the Maori wars in 1863-64 were brought up as examples of why we should not be proud of previous service. I have never proposed that.
The Hon. Peter Primrose: Point of order: I understand that the Hon. Charlie Lynn is speaking to a motion as written and that he has indicated his intention to include in the motion the words “including the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan”. I believe that is an appropriate amendment, but I understand he needs leave to move the amendment before his time for speaking has expired. That is why I am interrupting him at this point. I ask that he be given leave to incorporate that clause in the motion prior to the conclusion of his contribution.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: I thank the Hon. Peter Primrose for reminding me of that. Accordingly, by leave, I move:
‘That the question be amended by inserting after “Pacific War” the words “the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan”.‘
I remind the House that this motion is about the involvement of Australian servicemen and servicewomen and that we honour that in our words. The Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion and the Maori Wars were not our wars. We were not an Australian nation; we were a British colony. We became an Australian nation on 1 January 1901 and from that time our involvement has been in World War I—and I reflected on that in a previous debate when I spoke of the wonderful leadership of General Sir John Monash and the involvement of Australian troops—and World War II. Australian troops fought first in the Far East, the Middle East, at the battles of Tobruk, El Alamein and so forth, then in the south-west Pacific along the Kokoda Trail, at Milne Bay, Lae, Finchhafen, Bougainville and so forth. After that they fought in the Korean War and then the Vietnam War. These are the engagements for which I believe the sacrifices of Australian servicemen and women should be acknowledged in this Parliament. I hope that eventually they will be acknowledged in all parliaments, including the Federal Parliament, and in all local government councils after the acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [4.21 p.m.]: I strongly support the motion moved by the Hon. Charlie Lynn. We know this is very much a personal issue for him as he has spoken on related matters many times in this House. I congratulate him on his efforts and on his sincerity in his attempt to have these additional words spoken at the beginning of each day of Parliament. The Procedure Committee, previously called the Standing Orders Committee, has been established to consider such matters. Changes to the procedures of the House should not be simply voted on in the House as stand-alone issues but should be referred to the Procedure Committee. It is an all-party committee that can give serious consideration to how proposals may affect the running of the Parliament and how they fit in with the present procedures. After the committee has reached consensus on an issue the matter can be dealt with in the House and passed without any sense of animosity or disagreement. I agree with all that the Hon. Charlie Lynn has said and support his objective. I have foreshadowed an amendment that I understand has been considered by Government and Opposition members. I have also discussed it with the Hon. Charlie Lynn. I move:
‘That the question be amended by omitting all words after “That” and inserting instead, “the Procedure Committee inquire into and report on the desirability of the President acknowledging after the prayer on the first sitting day of each week the sacrifice by Australian service men and women who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy today; and related matters.’
If the matter is referred to the Procedure Committee forthwith, we may reach agreement on the best way to deal with the issue. But it is a matter for the House, bearing in mind that some members have expressed strong views for and against the proposal. The amendment is intended to transfer the debate to the Procedure Committee to be discussed in a calm and rational manner. The committee can then bring a recommendation back to the House in due course. Obviously, according to the rules of the House, other members can speak on the matter when I conclude my remarks. I do not want to draw out the debate but I agree with the Hon. Charlie Lynn that there should be some way in which this House acknowledges the sacrifices made by Australian service men and women who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy today. How that is finally done is a matter for the House. I hope that the Procedure Committee can bring forward a recommendation that is supported by all parties.
The Hon. Rick Colless: Point of order: I am a little confused about what Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile is trying to achieve. From what he was saying it seems to me that he wants this debate to go to a committee and then come back to the House. To me, what he has moved would seem to make perfect sense if it were to be voted on at some stage and then go to a committee. But I do not see that it can be sent off to a committee and then come back to the House for the debate to continue.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Kayee Griffin): Order! I was about to clarify that point with Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile. If the member wishes to have that amendment dealt with immediately, there will obviously be procedural issues to consider. Usually, amendments are dealt with at the conclusion of debate on the question before the Chair.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE: To the point of order: I am happy for it to be left to the end of the debate, if other members wish to speak to the motion.
The Hon. DAVID OLDFIELD [4.30 p.m.]: I move:
‘That the amendment of Revd Mr Nile be amended by inserting after the words “Australian servicemen and women” the words “, in particular those’
I support the Hon. Charlie Lynn in everything he is attempting to do. My amendment makes a slight change to what he is suggesting, in that the current proposal rightfully takes into account all those who have given their lives in defence of the country. I seek to include not just those who have given their lives but to acknowledge the sacrifice of everyone who has served. It includes not merely those who died in the service of Australia but those who were wounded and those who suffer consistently as a consequence of their service upon return even though they may not have been wounded. Great sacrifices have been made in the course of war by those who were captured and became prisoners of the various countries that we were at war with, be that with Germany in the First World War and Japan in the Second World War.
The intention of my amendment is to include the service of all those who have served in the defence of Australia and to acknowledge their sacrifices in that service, rather than those who, unfortunately, also gave their lives in service. What the Hon. Charlie Lynn is doing is most appropriate. We recognise all sorts of things in this House. In particular, on so many occasions in different places in public life we recognising what are said to be the traditional landowners of Australia. However, Australia as we know it today_regardless of any traditional landowners or anybody else would not exist in the form of this Parliament, our democracy and justice, and everything else that we enjoy without the service not only of those who gave their lives but also those who served bravely with them, the men and women of the Australian armed forces.
It is very appropriate for this service to be acknowledged. I thank the Hon. Charlie Lynn for bringing this issue to our attention. We should at all points acknowledge that Australia would not be a place of freedom today without those who have served. My amendment includes everyone who has served, alongside those who unfortunately made the supreme sacrifice of giving their lives in the defence of Australia so that we can live in the free democratic country that we are so fortunate to live in and be citizens of today.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [4.33 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Hon. David Clarke, the Hon. David Oldfield and Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for their contributions to the debate and for their support. This motion is about commemorating service. I want to make it clear that it is certainly not about celebrating war. I thank the Hon. David Oldfield for his thoughtful amendment. Whilst we remember and acknowledge those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and died in war, there are many living victims who are living with both the physical and psychological scars of war. I refer, in particular, to the Vietnam veterans. Earlier I gave some horrific statistics about the impact of the Vietnam War on veterans and their families, such as the divorce rates and the illnesses facing the children of veterans, which have now been proved scientifically.
I refer also to the feeling of neglect, particularly by totally and permanently incapacitated [TPI] pensioners, who are now virtually welfare-dependent. A very good Vietnam mate of mine, John “Jethro” Thompson_who is well known in the veteran community was serving in a minefield and was blown up in a mine explosion. He lost his right leg at the hip, he lost his right arm, he lost a lot of his left arm and he suffered severe internal injuries. Even today his body is still full of shrapnel. He defied medical science and survived because of his very strong mind and very strong will. He has dedicated his life to assisting Vietnam veterans who have not been able to put up with the psychological betrayal of the Vietnam War.
Jethro was recognised in the Australian Honours List, an honour that was very well deserved. He has lived with those injuries and scars for most of his life, but as a TPI pensioner he does not receive any additional benefits. However, he is more concerned about others than he is about himself. He is living testimony to the term “selfless sacrifice”. Governments of all persuasions should revisit their policies in regard to how we look after TPI pensioners. I remember years ago, before I got into politics, that Jethro was president of the TPI association and there was a proposal that TPI pensioners would revert to being normal pensioners at age 60 or 65. He made a brief submission in which he stated, “I look forward to being a normal pensioner at age 60 and getting my arm and leg back.” Of course, he never received a response, but he still has that sense of humour.
I seriously believe that acknowledgment of service will go a long way towards healing some of the anxieties and psychological wounds that our veterans feel. As the Hon. David Oldfield pointed out, we acknowledge the service of many individuals and organisations in this House. The acknowledgment of our veterans should be included on a formal basis immediately following acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land, an acknowledgment that I endorse and support. The addition of this acknowledgment would be a great way to start each parliamentary week. It would remind us of the duty that we have to our indigenous people and to our servicemen and women. Once again, I thank all honourable members who contributed to the debate.
Amendment of the Hon. David Oldfield agreed to.
Amendment of Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile as amended agreed to.
Motion as amended agreed to.