Tuesday, 25 August 2020
Vietnam Veterans' Day
Tuesday 18 August, as we all know, was Vietnam Veterans' Day. We remember the 521 Australians who died and the 3,000 who were wounded. Overall 61,000 Australians took part in that war. The war involved Australia for about 10 years. It was a long, protracted war. It started in 1962, when we first sent advisory personnel to Vietnam. It wasn't until 1965 to 1970 that we upped the ante. At any one time our maximum was 7,500 troops. I remember that period well. We had national service and conscription. I was a 20-year-old. All young boys who turned 20 had to put our data into the department. It went on a marble, the marble went into a barrel, and if your marble came out you were conscripted. My marble did not come out, but some of us may remember a great cricketer for Australia, Doug Walters. His marble did come out, and he served as a nasho—national service—for his two-year term.
It was because of that that I got to play cricket against Doug Walters. He was up in Shoalwater Bay, which is in my neck of the woods. There was a big bushfire in Tasmania—it burnt from top to bottom—so as a fundraiser Australian cricket organised Australia 1 versus Australia 2. So Doug had to come back from Shoalwater Bay. As he did, he knew the sports master at Rockhampton Grammar, a guy by the name of Mike Hussey. He was more a tennis player than a cricketer. Mike invited Doug to play with the masters against the students, because he knew the students had the wood on the masters. Doug played for the masters. He didn't get me out. I didn't get him out either, but the masters won the game, thanks to Doug and the recruitment of Mike Hussey on the side. He was a beautiful flow-on batsman. He was too good for us, I can tell you. That was beside the point.
Then Doug did a term in Vietnam. That was the recruitment. It was a very controversial thing at the time. When Gough Whitlam got into power in 1972, he squashed it. The night of the election, the National Service guys who were at Townsville Army base ready to go—
I'm reluctant to interrupt the member, but, in honour of our Vietnam veterans, particularly those who gave their lives and the 3,000 wounded, I ask, by leave, that the member have a 30-second extension of time.
Thank you, member for Hunter. With that, the troops came out of the Army camp at 12 o'clock that night. The election was declared, Gough Whitlam won the election and they said, 'That's good enough for us. Gough said, "No more conscription,"' and they just walked out the gate.