Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 08, 2023


Vietnam War Anniversary

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:33): I rise to speak today about the 50-year anniversary of Australia's withdrawal from the Vietnam War. At a recent event I attended, Mr Bill Denny AM, South Australia's RSL Ambassador, spoke about Australia's withdrawal from the Vietnam War.

To begin, I want to briefly outline why Australia participated in this war. Prior to World War II, the Australian government still looked to London for diplomatic guidance. However, this reliance was undermined by the events of World War II, and Australia's confidence was rattled by three events that all occurred in February 1942: (1) the surrender of the British base in Singapore; (2) the Japanese invasion of New Guinea; and (3) the bombing of Darwin by Japanese planes.

In 1951, Australia, New Zealand and America signed the ANZUS Treaty, developed largely in response to Cold War threats such as the rise of communist China. The terms of the treaty stipulated that if one of the three signatories was attacked, the others were required to assist. Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War was largely driven by a fear of communism expanding in Asia, as well as Australia's desire to align itself with the United States.

From 1962 to 1973, more than 60,000 Australians served in the Vietnam War as part of an allied force led by the US. They fought alongside South Vietnamese government troops against the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, also known as the Viet Cong, which is a communist-led insurgent force.

When the US committed combat troops in March 1965, Australia followed at the request of the US, and when the US boosted troop numbers in 1966 so did Australia. After the US began to withdraw troops, Australia also followed. Australia's withdrawal from Vietnam was proclaimed by the Governor-General on 11 January 1973. The Vietnamese people fought on bravely for a further two years without help while the Viet Cong was gaining support from China and Russia.

To mark Australia's 50-year anniversary of our withdrawal from Vietnam, Mr Bill Denny spoke at that event and he said:

With this anniversary we may see many Australians talking of reconciliation and the forging of a closer relationship with our former enemy. Some may even seek to cast the war as a mistake and look to embrace the People's Republic of Vietnam as a friend…political considerations might mean a closer relationship is beneficial, but we must never forget that the People's Republic of Vietnam is a communist country and that the people of Vietnam do not enjoy the same freedoms we enjoy in Australia.

For the 50-year anniversary of Australia's withdrawal from Vietnam, I would like to put on record that we must make sure our Vietnam veterans' service and sacrifices are recognised. The Vietnam War was the cause of great social and political dissent in Australia. It raised extraordinary passions amongst Australians. Despite these tensions, all our Vietnam veterans served their country with courage, carrying out the job they were given with a deep sense of duty and professionalism. Our veterans need our encouragement to do all they can to ensure the truth of the past continues to be told.