Honourable members interjecting—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! There is too much noise in the Chamber. The chair is having difficulty. Order!
Mr TONY SMITH: Thank you. As I was saying, all of us in our electorates would have been part of commemorations in suburbs and towns this last weekend. In Yarra Glen a large number of veterans, their families and members of the community met at the Yarra Glen RSL for a service that followed a mid-morning march. I want to pay tribute to the president of the Yarra Glen RSL, Ted Bowling; the secretary, Mr Ed Bartosh; and all of those at Yarra Glen who organised what was a fantastic service. We had a guest speaker, Brigadier Michael Phelps, who spoke magnificently. The tribute I Was Only Nineteen was performed by Paul William Ray. Pastor Michael Baimbridge was there and, as you would expect, the Yarra Glen Primary School choir was there to sing the national anthem. Tom Steele, the bugler, a local from Dixons Creek was there. The Croydon Citizens Band, and as I have said, the Outer Eastern Melbourne Sub-Branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association were there, and many more were there for a poignant and moving service.
As the previous speaker—and, I am sure, speakers earlier in proceedings today—has indicated, the Vietnam War was a very hot spot in a long Cold War. It was a 10-year-long commitment that saw over 60,000 Australian troops serve their country, 500 losing their lives and thousands physically injured, and we know that many, many more came home with the unseen emotional scares of that war.
We reflected on Vietnam Veterans Day on the Battle of Long Tan, because it was the 46th anniversary of that significant battle that symbolised so much about the service of Australian troops in Vietnam. In the late afternoon, in torrential rain in a rubber plantation just off the Australian base at Nui Dat, Australian troops, significantly outnumbered against the odds, prevailed in that battle.
One person who was not with us this Vietnam Veterans Day was one of the chopper pilots, Cliff Dohle, a local who performed with courage and valour in the Battle of Long Tan. Unfortunately, he passed away just a few years ago and, like all of those in that battle, did not receive due recognition until recently.
As previous speakers have indicated, for the Vietnam veterans the war was painful and coming home was painful. I think former Prime Minister John Howard summed it up five or six years ago when he said with candour that the entire Australian community failed our Vietnam veterans. As the member for Canberra eloquently just said, those veterans, their families and their children sometimes suffered vilification and abuse. Although the war was a controversial war—and it surely was—that was so unfair, because the quarrel was with the government of the day, not the troops who were doing their duty. It also has to be said that what also hurt was the general lack of support in the community for so long. I do not say this to rake over past events, but if we as a nation, in our local communities and in our electorates, can in a combined way resolve that that will never happen again then we will have gone a little way to helping with the healing.