COLONEL VO DAI TON
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN
[6.31 p.m.]: I endorse the comments made by my friend the Hon. David Clarke about the contribution that Colonel Vo Dai Ton has made to Australian society since his arrival in Australia as a refugee of the Vietnam War. Colonel Vo Dai Ton has a distinguished military record. He is one of the heroes of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, having been on many Special Forces missions behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War—a most hazardous operation.
Colonial Vo Dai Ton sought refuge in a number of refugee camps during the withdrawal of the American troops and the fall of Saigon before he was eventually given a home in Australia. That took a number of years. With the release of Cabinet papers in January last year, 30 years on, we know that the Whitlam Government did everything it could to deny safe haven to thousands of refugees from Vietnam who were left languishing in refugee camps in Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines. It must have been a terrible time for those refugees knowing that nobody in the world wanted them. Everybody in the world wanted to fight in their country but nobody wanted them. It is a black mark on our history that we could have ignored such people to appease the Communists.
After World War II we were all taught about the threat of Communism. Those of us who were educated in Catholic schools, whilst we did not understand it, were made well aware of Communism. Australia's policy at that time resembled the domino theory: we should take the fight to them rather than wait until they reached our shores. To be fair, that was not Labor's policy at the time but rather the personal policy of Gough Whitlam to appease the Communists. I am amazed that there is a building dedicated to Gough Whitlam in Cabramatta.
The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO:
He was a great member out there.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN:
He was a member out there, but he did everything in his power to stop these people from coming to Australia. When you are talking about humanity, you should not mention the name Gough Whitlam, because according to released Cabinet papers he did his best to stop South Vietnamese refugees from coming to our shores—one of the most inhumane decisions taken by any Prime Minister in the history of this country. It was not until Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister and his Liberal Government looked at the plight of the refugees—and because we had fought side by side with them against Communism—that they were offered a safe haven.
Colonel Vo Dai Ton, was a great leader during the war, and he used those leadership qualities in the refugee camps to keep the hope of his people alive. Under Prime Minister Fraser, Colonel Vo Dai Ton and his family were brought to Australia, but knowing what an evil force Communism was he returned to his country, where he was captured. He served 10 years in re-education camps, but even with the best brainwashing techniques in the world the Communists failed to break him. Because of pressure applied by the Australian Government he was eventually brought back to Australia and reunited with his family. Now, as an elder of the community of Cabramatta, he has taken a leadership role to mentor the young people who take freedom somewhat for granted. Colonel Vo Dai Ton is a reminder to all that freedom is not something that we should take for granted. I have great pleasure in endorsing the remarks of the Hon. David Clarke in honouring the contribution that Colonel Vo Dai Ton has made to our society.