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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (20 August) . . Page.. 2491..


MR CORNWELL (continuing):

Battle of Long Tan

MR PRATT (5.32): I rise in this adjournment debate to speak to the commemoration of the battle of Long Tan. The commemoration took place on Sunday at the Vietnam Veterans memorial on Anzac Parade. Senator Reid, Annette Ellis, the Chief Minister and I attended. A significant number of Canberrans have a connection with the Vietnam war through their involvement in that war or as widows and families left behind.

The commemoration of the battle of Long Tan reflects on the entire Australian experience in the Vietnam war. The battle of Long Tan occurred on 18 August 1966 in the Phouc Tuy province of South Vietnam. An 80-man Australian force, ambushed by 2,500 NVA and VC troops, exhibited extreme courage. The battle took place in a rubber plantation, on a dark afternoon in pouring monsoonal rain. The enemy were extremely brave too in a way they continually hurled themselves at the small but brave Australian force.

The battle was savage. It went for four or five hours. Eighteen Australians were killed and about 25 on that wretched afternoon. Fifty per cent of the Australian force were shot. This should give us an understanding of the measure of the desperation and bravery.

As Brigadier Mark Evans of the ACT RSL and Peter Ryan, the president of the Vietnam Veterans Association, said so movingly on Sunday, Australian soldiers at the time were often sneeringly referred to by certain members of the political elite as a bunch of losers. They were not losers. These were men who inspired the Australian nation. For those who look at the details of what occurred, that inspiration lives on. These men were achievers. To these men, to Vietnam veterans in general, to widows of those who did not return and to their sons and daughters, I extend my personal regards and express my admiration. We here in the Assembly should be doing the same. Can I perhaps on behalf of the Assembly salute these men for what they did and what they believed in at that time.

Belconnen Magpies

Justice Michael Finnane

MR STEFANIAK (5.35): I congratulate an excellent Aussie rules football team in my electorate-the Belconnen Magpies-for a very good home-and-away season and wish them all the best for the upcoming finals. They have been somewhat unlucky in recent years, in getting to the grand final and not winning it. They are still chasing their first premiership. Hopefully this year they will bring home the first grade premiership flag. But I congratulate the first grade team and the club on a good season to date.

I also put on record here-I have done so publicly already-my congratulations of District Court Justice Michael Finnane for a landmark sentence in the particularly horrific pack rapes in Sydney. I think it really hit a nerve with the community. I think it helped restore a lot of faith in the judicial system. It certainly was a big sentence, but I think entirely appropriate, given the particularly nasty nature of the crimes. There has been immense community support for, and appreciation of, that sentence.

It probably brings into focus the need for further improvements to be made in sentencing processes not only in New South Wales and the ACT, where we could sure do with it, but throughout Australia. It will probably ignite a very positive debate which hopefully


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