Speech to Parliament - Eligibility for the Army Combat Badge

By David Smith MP

26 October 2020

House of Representatives

Adjournment Debate

Army Combat Badge

Mr DAVID SMITH (Bean) (19:41): continued...

The other matter I wish to raise this evening is in regard to the service of former Lieutenant Colonel David Brown and other Vietnam veterans in relation to their eligibility for the Army Combat Badge.

Mr Brown is the former head of corps of the Australian Army Public Relations Service and served two 12-month tours of Vietnam alongside frontline personnel.

Mr Brown believes he and others are eligible for the Army Combat Badge due to the nature of their service in Vietnam. He has sought to have their important contributions are recognised.

Unfortunately, the Department of Defence appears to have rejected the reconsideration despite evidence of the
veterans' experiences. For example, a fellow corps member, Peter Thomas, served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, covering everything from motor vehicle workshops to some pretty grim operations. In Pete Thomas's words, 'We'd fly in on helicopters, we'd spend three, four, five or six days with an element of one of the battalions or the tanks or the armoured personnel carriers, we'd get our stories and photos and we'd fly back to base to dispatch all that material.' Mr Thomas said there was often only a single day's rest after doing that before they were sent to the next operation.

More recent conflicts have better recognised the contribution of PR personnel, with members with similar service
in Afghanistan and Iraq appropriately receiving recognition of their service with the Army Combat Badge—yet those who served in Vietnam have not been recognised. Moreover, as the first member for Bean, a seat named after Australia's first war correspondent, I support their request for recognition for the PR corps with the awarding of the Army Combat Badge.

The irony, of course, is that much of the evidence that backs Mr Brown's claim resides in the records of the Australian War Memorial, an institution Charles Bean fought to establish.

It's important that the combat service of those reporting from the frontline are recognised as well as those fighting on the frontline, and it's important to do so with some urgency. The ranks of those that are left are thinning.

I urge the government to reconsider this request and for this injustice to be redressed.