Senator the Hon David Feeney – Parliamentary Secretary for Defence 19th May 2012

To see the full letter click on the excerpt below:


  1. Craig Ellery says

    It would seem that the process of recognition for RCB has stalled. I haven’t seen any statements by anyone, friend or foe in a long while. Are we waiting for a change of Government or has the cause run its race?

    • Trevor Dixon says


      The reality is that this Government has, in our opinion, made its mind up based on selective and incomplete evidence provided by the bureaucrats and that includes the military ones.

      They have failed to refute that the RCB deployment was strategically based. Why else would the newly elected Labour Government retain the RCB at Butterworth and yet implement its election promise to bring home all overseas troop deployments from Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore?

      And we know from documents discovered from a freedom of information request that the Defence Chiefs of Staff Committee directed that the RCB deployment be “sold” to the Australian public as a joint military training activity with the Malaysians. And yet the Malaysians said that this was not possible because their Forces were fully committed to fighting the Second Emergency against communist insurgents.

      In light of those revelations is it any wonder that we suspect a cover up of RCB’s reality.

      RCB was a strategic deployment by the Australian government under its Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) to protect/defend the Australian assets at the RAAF Base Butterworth (which included the FPDA’s HQ of the Integrated Air Defence System (IADS)) and was a strategic ready-reaction force on call for deployment by the Australian Government as required.

      It was prepared to fight, had rules of engagement and expected to take casualties. That it did not engage a hostile force is proof of its deterrent success.

      It would seem that such a force has to have had “battle” casualties to be considered worthy of a classification higher than garrison duties. Which raises the question: in such an event how would that service be classified?

      This Government will not re-consider the matter. In fact it has overturned the previous Coalition Government’s decision to grant hazardous service. We are sceptical enough to believe that a major factor in the Government’s decision was the potential cost that may impact on their political imperative to reach a budget surplus.

      We will take the matter up with the Opposition. In the meantime we will sharpen our analysis, expose the inadequacies of the bureaucrat’s analysis and their recommendation to the current Government.

      Robert Cross

  2. Kevin Egan says

    Typical of a pollie who thinks they know it all. they keep saying it was no different than serving peace time in aussie. Funny i can’t recall walking around Lavarack Barracks with a loaded SLR or armed CT’s outside or how the local’s (cheeky buggers) would come into our sleeping quarters(huts) and try to steal our gear while we tried to sleep, just about every night someone would yell a obscenity and the chase would be on. Got to hand it to the locals in Malaysia they might be small but by f..k they were quick.To be serious, i think that mister Feeny has it in for Robert and Dennis and i hope you two blokes stick it to him one day, you pointed out the flaws and he did not like it one bit. Let’s not give up the fight.

  3. Mark Stewart says

    For what it’s worth Bob I am sure we were going on war service, we were also told that we would be entitled to the Return Services Home Loan when we came back, that was my first deployment in 1978, that wasn’t mentioned in my second in 1985.
    1/ How could personnel get those loans if they weren’t entitled
    2/ When we were on the Thai border in 1978 there was a bloke who had a UD up on the border, Cuurthoes I think he was placed on 14 days field punishment, I didn’t think that could be given unless it was a deployment.
    3/ If it wasn’t an active zoom why was the golf club cook gunned down by the Handau( Malay Guards) for not stopping and showing his ID.
    4/ What about the drills we did on the island in preparation for getting the RAAF people and families out. Then there was the arms coat piquet’s live ammo and weapons stored together, it was never ever heard of.
    Have we looked at what punishment was dealt out on those deployments.

    And lastly Bob look after yourself mate.

  4. The writer declares that the previous recognition was poorly assessed and lacked any credible investigation into assertions made by submissions. I would have to make a claim that the same lack of proper investigation must also be true in the writers assertions. One example of where his own evidence is questionable is that in 1976 the RCB was deployed extenal to the airbase to protect australian assets on the ground. This asset was a crashed mirage jet. The protection of this asset went on for some time 72+ hours until reclaimed and taken under security back to Butterworth. No local authority intervened, took control or provide aid to this situtation. ROE was issued and weapons deployed. There was extensive physical abuse of personnel with objects thrown, and threats were delivered by the local population. Some attempts were made to cross the cordon, which was effectively rebuffed by the company.

    To say we were on routine barracks defence, infantry training and the like belittles the war like directions given to those deployed at Butterworth. Every person took their role seriously and carried ammunition, with weapons in the ‘Load’ condition. Standing patrols were conducted and specific ROE issued. There was never any direct distinction made to the troops on the ground that this was not war like and only a routine base task.

    So really the writer is just another pollie whoe living standard is not effected by the decisions they make. If we measured their pension and entitlements based on their productivity, I guess they would want a review too.

  5. Derek Parsons says

    I recall one of the legal briefings prior to deploying to RCB in 1985 with 6 RAR. We were definitely told that we were deploying on active service and as such the OC had the powers of a CO for disciplinary purposes. We also carried live ammunition on QRF and during patrols on the Thai border with 2RMR.

  6. Rick Schroder says

    We were asked by the Thai Government to patrol in a black band area to locate elements that had previously kicked the Thai military asses on deployment in 89, as a consequens more than a couple had received fragmentation wounds as the intensity of training for preparation to carry out this task. I would go into further detail…..whats the point the fools calling the shots wont listen anyway

  7. Geoff Henry says

    We were clearly not at Butterworth as peacekeepers, and had additional training for stretcher bearers prior to departing 1RAR for RCB in 1974 & 1975 as casualties were expected. Comments that there were no casualties could only be made after the event.
    The RCB’s deployment was “sold” to the nation on the pretext of training and this was revealed in the FOI to the RCB committee.
    It was defensive “to protect Australian assets at the Butterworth Air Base” in a country, Malaysia, that was actively involved in armed operations (2nd Malaysian Emergency 1968 –1989) against an insurgent enemy who were being supported by China and North Vietnam. The Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) was fighting under their active service classification.
    Comments by Senator Feeney that “RCB was mostly involved in infantry training activities and the ready reaction and ground defence tasks were only secondary. Notably, in the 19 years from 1970 to 1989, RCB was never required in an emergency ground defence capacity,” are false. During 1974 there were several all night full company alerts and ‘stand tos’.

    It appears the government wants only to see what will support their desired outcome.

  8. The mirage jet crashed on the 1st April 1974. Our platoon under Lt Pike and Sgt Turra were sent to guard the wreakage. One section was situated at the site, one near the beach and the third on the road directing the traffic. I was with the section on the road. Civilians could pass but were restricted to the road only and no stopping. This happened one day after the CT’s fired several mortars at the RMAF base at KL on the 31st March 1974. I saw damage to the jet which appeared to have bullet holes in the tail section. I’ve since found a grainy photo of the wreckage which supports that view although not conclusive. Also, the inquiry into the crash (available on line) investigated the possibility of foreign objects entering the engine so the big brass were entertaining that idea. No conclusions were reached at that time but various components were sent back to Australia for further analysis. I haven’t been able to find that report. It’s possible that those holes were caused by other means than hostile ground fire but at the time we were left with no other conclusion that CT’s were involved. We later met some Malaysian Army soldiers you were on a live sweep through the area. One told me himself that they were looking for the CT’s that shot down the Mirage. We experienced other incidents during our tour which, combined with the above incident, supports our view of objective danger as expressed by Justice Mohr. I outlined those incidents in my email to you Bob on the 18th August 2011. Keep up the fight, we were deployed on active service and the public needs to be told about it.

  9. Doug Mepham says

    I was in Royal Australian Airforce for 22 years and spent two and a half years at Butterworth living in Raaf accommodation with my family and there was a period of time that there was very heavy security at Raaf base Butterworth. There was always service police and army personel on patrol whether it be on the base or base perimeter ,around married quarters ,they had a job to do SECURITY was the main issue, and if live amunnition was provided to these members
    then the situation was very real, if circumstances were as such ,even blind nelly would recognise that there was life threatening activities being investigated . It was the norm to enter the base at one stage, without being asked for your ID ,but then all people had to produce their identification and that was the start of it all.A lot of the family members were not aware of the threat of (CT) Communist terrorist activity as it was kept quiet,no one wanted to cause people to become alarmed . I beleive that it’s time the record were released and Rifle Company Butterworth be Recognised for their involvement in the duties they were ordered to carry out.
    And as another person commented ,the people that make the orders do not understand the realty of the situation .
    These men deserve the right of recognition. Give them a Fair Go.

  10. Bryan Nelson says

    I did two tours of duty at Butterworth, (1975 & 1978) as part of RCB. In 1975 the Malay Air Force took delivery of some F5 fighters, these fighters arrived in crates in the back of an American (Galaxy, I think that’s what it was). Security was very tight, we had standing patrols around the perimeter all carrying live ammunition. On one occusion my section was assigned to guard the area where the Galaxy was parked, normal ROE applied. Early one morning a local peddled his bke towards the Galaxy and one of my diggers shouted at him to stop, he didn’t stop so my digger went to instant and he shouted at him again, he stopped that then. That was not training. I also did a number of standing patrols on the perimeter all with live ammunition.

    In 1975 the MAF were flying live bombing mission from Butterworth with two fighters sitting at the end of the strip with engines going 24hrs a day. The MAF helicopters would bring the dead and wounded back to Butterworth, why, because they were at war.

  11. Bryan Nelson says

    I did two tours of duty at Butterworth, (1975 & 1978) as part of RCB. In 1975 the Malay Air Force took delivery of some F5 fighters, these fighters arrived in crates in the back of an American (Galaxy, I think that’s what it was). Security was very tight, we had standing patrols around the perimeter all carrying live ammunition. On one occusion my section was assigned to guard the area where the Galaxy was parked, normal ROE applied. Early one morning a local peddled his bke towards the Galaxy and one of my diggers shouted at him to stop, he didn’t stop so my digger went to instant and he shouted at him again, he stopped that then. That was not training. I also did a number of standing patrols on the perimeter all with live ammunition.

    In 1975 the MAF were flying live bombing missions from Butterworth with two fighters sitting at the end of the strip with engines going 24hrs a day. The MAF helicopters would bring the dead and wounded back to Butterworth, why, because they were at war.

  12. Ric Rees says

    Well Men. This saga has been going on for sometime and we seem to be getting nowhere even with new evidence that suggests that we should get up and win. My suggestion is that after we have exhausted ALL avenues, and if this is without success, then we should approach the Malaysian Government with a submission for recognition from them for the service we have provided them on their soil, even if it was on an Australian Air Base, like our predecessors who were awarded the Pingat Jasa Malaysian Medal for the 1st Malaysian Emergency. We could get a similar award for the 2nd Malaysian Emergency 1970 – 1988.

  13. George Lovett says

    A worthy fight is a good fight, lets stick together on this and suport the RCB review team and each other..

    6RAR formed the Australian component of 28ANZUK Brigade we were stationed in Singapore along with Kiwi and Scottish infantry battalions 1971 to 1973.

    Whilst in Singapore we trained heavily in tropical warfare in the south of Malaysia,they used to truck us into Malaysia through the causeway linking Singapore with Malaysia.The depolyment to Butterworth was at a differnt pitch.Our CO LT Col Drabashe gave D Coy a talk about the deployment and he told us that he was trying to get the service at Butterworth classified as war service.He apparently was in discussions with the powers above him on this.
    He was replaced as CO and we heard nothing more about this.This push for recognition has its beginnings back in 1972.The push came fom a Commanding Office no doubt he also hit a brick wall on this, possibly because at the same time the new labour government had abolished national service and had made an election promise to have all troops home from SE Asia.It would be hard for the new government to sell Butterworth as warlike service and retain combat troops in SEAsia when it was publicly telling Australians that al troops would be coming home.

    As a National Serviceman not only do I feel like I was robbed of my youth by being conscrpited but also this whole RCB saga has been covered up and I feel like a pawn in some big political game of chess.My service along with others like myself was short, hard, intense culminating in RCB service where we were taken to a level of combat readiness, .This is all fine if the service is recognised, but it isnt and it should be rightfully recognised.

    I have obtained a document titled Commanders Diary Notes for December 1972, 6RAR the document sets out the objectives for the RCB deployment for D.Coy
    The objectives stated are”

    1 To provide an Australian Army presence in Malaysia
    2 Supplement normal protective security at the airbase

    The emphasis is on the word “protective” in a military sense the only way an infantry unit can provide protective security is by use of force.The ROE go hand in hand with this objective.
    The document also states that the Company Commander has full detachemry ? command whilst at Butterworth (this relates to discipline)

    Also found another Commanders Diary note regarding mine and booby trap placements, in particular to be aware of indicators.can somebody please explain to me if we were in training mode as they state, why is it that we had to deal with the threat of mine and or booby trap states “friendly forces are being constantly menanced by mine and booby trap placements”. Put these politicians on the front line and see how they would respond.

    • Wolf hirche says

      Cant remember getting live rounds issued in australia. (peace time)
      Certainly had them handed out at Butterworth, Q.R.F. and patrolling with appropriate warning and engagement procedures as in “halt or i’ll shoot” in English and Malay(…Sounds like active Duty)
      Our move over there was called Deployment to RAAF Base Butterworth.
      No one i know of was under 19 years of age as that was the minimum age for active deployment.
      We also signed off on the then, old, Defence Act. (Active War like Duty)
      WE also had to write out wills/in case we got killed..
      If by some chance you stuffed up, going to sleep on Sentry Duty for example, the sentence imposed would be severe. (compared to Peace time training)
      Again Warlike Deployment.
      I remember all those years ago,the question was asked, how come there is no recognition of service for RCB? Answer was “we are not yanks and who needs it”. No one in Australia knew were over there anyway.
      In fact even today, when you ask around hardly anyone out there knows anything about RCB Butterworth. It is a long dark little chapter that never saw daylight.
      Lets hope some justice will come out of this.. NEVER TRUST THE POLLIES…THEY ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN THEIR PAY RISES … there probably wouldn’t be enough money for them if we got recognition.

  14. George Lovett says

    Its a marvelous invention the internet, it allows us to research and to communicate effectively.I have done a little research and have documents titled Commanders Diary Notes – 6RAR for the period 1971 – 1973.

    During this period 6RAR were stationed in Singapore as part of the tri nation 28 ANZUK Brigade.
    There are two documents which are of relwevance to our cause, the first is a document titled CT Mine and Booby Trap Markings and Indicators.the second sets out the objectives for D.Coy deployment to Butterworth in Jan 73 direct from Singapore,

    The argument that I am trying to put across is that whther it was ANZUK Brigade service or RCB service there was an inherant danger which the government knew about, yet it did at the time sell the service as normal training activity.These documents clearly expose the fact that we were placed in harms way with an expectation of casualties.As follows:

    Document a

    Instruction of 5 pages
    Annex N to 6RAR – R841/1/61
    Dated October 1972
    CT Mine And Booby Trap Markings and Indicators

    The first paragraph sets out the purpose of the instruction, which no doubt was issued by intelligence to 6RAR Comand.

    1he purpose of this instruction is to provide a means of identifying CT mine and booby trap marker indicators.

    • George Lovett says

      Sorry, computer malfunction – continued

      2 The markings and indicators described in this instruction have been found throughout South Vietnam and SE asia, a knowledge of which may prevent friendly casualties.

      The instruction goes through a wide range of situations regarding types of markers and indicators however the following highlites the possibiity of danger.

      (n) Vehicle Track Markers. The CT have capitalised on our habit of following old vehicle tracks by placing mines into these tracks.The mines may be under the marker or up to 400m away.
      (p) an M1A1 anti tank mine with approximately 25lb TNT was discoverd under this marker.The mine had been marked with sticks at each corner and two sticks forming an X over the mine.
      5 Placement Procedures. ——————————The best preventive measure so far is to develop in conjunction with local populace an effective inteligence system to discover enemy plans for mining.This will enable friendly forces to conduct ambushes and destroy or capture CT attempting to lay mines.

      Conclusion —————Friendly forces are constantly being menanced by CT mine placementsImproved or unimporoved roads,road shoulders,trails,and any probable avenue of approach are subect to mining.The only doctrine that has appeared concerning the placements of mines requires the CT units to know the location of mines within theiir operating area.Mine indicator are only those which have been reported to date. Many more are suspected and if any new mine indicators or mine markings are found they should be reported as knowledge of these markers by friendly forces will aid in the reduction of mine and booby trap casualties.

      It is very clear from reading this document that anybody whether or not it be with ANZUK brigade or with RCB were placed at risk when operating in training mode in Malaysia.Malaysia was at war internally and we were placed into a country riddled with mine and booby trap placements, the government was aware of this,yet coninued to exploit the situation.It was very poor risk management to say the least.How would they have explained a casualty to the Australian public, it would possibly never have been revealed to the public.

      The second document reinforces the intent of the government to maintain an Australian Army presence in Malaysia knowing full well that Malaysia was at war and that an inherant danger existed not through direct contact with the CT but indirectly through mine and booby trap placements.Have no doubt we were all placed at risk.

      AWM 95
      Item No 7/6/68
      Item 6 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment
      1 – 31 December 1972

      Deployment of D Coy Group to Butterworth – General Instructions.

      The objectives of the deployment is to
      1 Provide an Australian Army presence in Malaysia
      2 Supplement normal protective security of Air base Butterworth and RAAF families when aproved by 29 ANZUK Brigade.

      OC D coy has power of detachmeny command for duration of deployment.
      10 The company is the only representative Australian Army organisation in Malaysia and also on RAAF base.
      11. The company group is subject to the following standing orders.
      a Formation standing Orders
      b Base squadron standing orders
      c 28 ANZUK brigade standing orders
      d 6 RAR company Group staning orders
      e 6 RAR staning orders

      12 The Coy group is also to be fully conversant with the Base Defence Plan.

      Annex B to DCoy
      R 841/4/2
      Dated December 1972


      Prepare for and move to Butterworth using Excercise name of Mountain Stream
      Introduction to Butterworth Air Nase
      Introduction to RAAF
      Introduction to Butterworth / Penang
      The Threat
      Base Defence Orientation
      Mirage Introduction/ familiarisation
      Orentation Butterworth / Penang

      Once again it is clearly obvious that a threat existed , we were lectured on the threat by 65 Liason Group.

      I think it would be important for us to fully exploit the issues that arise from these documents, simply because they are factual and recorded which leave the people like Feeny nowhere to go but other than to listen.


  15. Franz Hagl says


    First of all, I would like to commend all the members of the RCB Review Group, who have provided us with all the information on this issue. Well done on a well researched and executed effort, so-far.

    If as Senator Feeney states in his letter that our duty at Butterworth was classified as peacetime service, then why weren’t we issued with a fishing rod and a tube of sunscreen and informed to have a great holiday in Malaysia for three months at the Australian tax-payer’s expense. Not The Case.

    In 1976 whilst on deployment at RCB I was injured whilst on duty and spent three weeks at the RAAF Base Hospital. Upon my release I was placed on restricted duties and worked mainly in the Duty Room and the Armoury. I remember changing shift at 0730hr in the morning and locking myself into the armoury for the next 24hr period. At 0745hr the Platoon which was currently rostered on Security duty attended the armoury and all members were issued with their personal weapons and “live ammunition”. During my shift I was not permitted to leave the armoury and my meals were delivered to me by the on duty personnel. This is not peacetime service as even here in Australia, armoury and Q Store personnel can come and go as they please.

    As a previous statement that was made in relation to the RCB only being on duty after hours is false. As I can recall we were on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The duty room was always manned and our platoon’s rotated on a weekly basis.

    Now comes the hard part of getting the Government to listen and to finally stump up with the truth as to what the actual deployment was at Butterworth in the 1970’s and 1980’s in relation to the Australian Rifle Company and the roll of the RAAF in Malaysia and the SE Asia region (post Vietnam). There must have been some strategic agenda involved otherwise we would not have been there in the first place.

    So brother’s keep the faith as eventually the truth will be found out.

  16. Michael Tuckett says

    My service in Malaysia was in 1978 with 6RAR as a section commander with some of the proud soldiers that have commented in this forum. I was very proud to serve and I have spent the last few years totally discusted with the propagander that our elected pollies have seen fit to thrust upon us all. This was war like service and the base was surounded by kampongs, which increased the area of threat as the ct’s were very active in these areas. We always carried live ammo and had standard rules of engagement. We were given language lessons to communicate with the ” ememy” if required and I still have some of them embeded in my head to this day” stop or I will shoot”= behenti behenti atu saya temba. Sorry about the spelling. I have just returned from Singapore and Malaya and have been back to the base to try to get some medical docs as our government have misplaced them, as I was injured “whilst on war service” and spent some time in the RAAF hospital. This is not a hospital now and the records have disappeard, funny about that. There is no record of me beeing injured. So how many documents have gone missing?
    On one occassion there was a full deployment inside the base as a CT had entered KP21 an aircraft hanger and was caught by one of our sections and the RAAF dogs. This was real and our pollies need to get of there political backsides and stop supporting the minority and look at the truth. Keep up the good work and fight to the end. I will catch you all around the ridges.

  17. George Lovett says

    Found further information which highlights the RCB role, as follows:

    Commander Diary Notes Ref: AWM95 7/6/50 6TH Battalion Royal Australian Regiment December 1971

    The diary sets out the A coy Training program in relation to the Butterworth Deployment in Jan 1972.At that stage 6RAR had recently replaced 1RAR under the 28ANZUK Brigade formation based in Singapore.
    As follows:

    Page 21 – A coy Training Sylubus January 1972.

    Item 4 – Lecture by base provost officer
    Item 5- Lecture by 65 GL section
    Item 6 – Tour of Butterworth
    Item 7 – Base formation standing orders
    Item 8 – Lecture on security situation in Kedah Province – Wellesley

    Items 11 to 30 set out the training program which involves
    Ambush – Cambush drills
    25M range practice
    Classification shoot SLR/M16
    Classification shoot M60
    Claymore M18A1
    Fire and movement drills
    Contact drills
    Harbour drills
    Close air support drills
    Advance to contact – Ambush – counter ambush – Hasty defence drills

    Item 31 – Rules of engagement

    In summary the statement by Feeney that RCB was training is technically correct, however this must be considered against the background that existed at the time ie
    The security situation in Kedah Province as evidenced at item 8, and the Rules of Engagement as evidenced at item 31.How can a government justfy sending troops into a country under the guise of training when it was fully aware of the security situation in nearby Kedah province and then reinforce this deployment with rules of engagement.I cannot think of any other deployment situation where a government would send its troops into a foreign country and tell the public that its only a training excercise .The government of the day would have expected casualties to arise from the RCB deployment, they werre fully aware in December 1971 that a security situation existed .Yes the deployment did involve training however this is not disimmilar to other active service deployments which carry out training whilst under deployment.
    RCB deployments after this date operated under the same conditions right through to 1989 – 19 years.In my calculation this makes the RCB deployment one of the longest continuos deployments in Australian Army history, which had great effect on Air base Butterworth being attacked and possible escalation of the domino effect.

  18. George Lovett says

    When I think about the strategic importance of Air Base Butterworth which had been handed back to the Malaysian government in 1970, the more I wonder at the role played by RCB, especially as I get older.It has been stated before that the RCB role was to protect the Australian asetts at Butterworth but on a bigger scale the RCB also protected the airbase from being attacked – a deterant role and in effect RCB was assisting the Malaysian government in its efforts to control the second comminist insurgency.One cannot imagine if Butterworth Air base had fallen or was destroyed, how the Malayasians would have escalated their efforts to combat the internal insurgency.Possibly, without RCB involvement Butterworth may have fallen to the insurgency and once this occurred would allow a rapid escalation of the domino effect througout SE asia.We know that Nth Vietnam and China were in supoort of the insurgency regime.I could be wrong but the RCB depoyment was a very strategic placement for a lot of reasons.A cartoon comes to mind when I think of RCB, its a tiny sparrow standing its ground against a large eagle the sparrow looks up with a single finger gesture at the eagle as it swoops .

    Duty First

  19. Interested but not impartial Observer says

    Just an idea but it might be illuminating to the membership if the two key documents referred to by Senator Feeney could also be put on the website.

  20. George Lovett says

    Located a document from the AWM site in which it has ” classified” stamped in red at the top of the first page, it details how in November 1972 6RAR were placed into operational mode under the operation name of Operation- “Ringfence” There were 4 levels of alerts Alpha being the highest level through to Delta being the lowest level.Singapore was divided into 5 protective zones .6RAR was required to allocate a rifle company to protect ANZUK assets and families in those zones whenever an alert status was activated.Ball ammunition was to be carried however ammunition for the GPMG M60 was not to be allocated for use within the confines of Kangaw barracks.

    I understand that this has very little consequence for the RCB issue however it gives us an insight into the turbulent political situation at the time in which Singapore feared most an attack by Malaysia.

  21. Little Grunt says

    A related topic which gives us insight into the political atmosphere in Singapore – Malaysia post Vietnam 1972 and which no doubt gave rise to the formation and continuance of RCB beyond this period.

    The document is titled – Basis Of Austalian Defence Policy 1971 which was endorsed by the Defence Committee on the 5th March 1971 as follows:

    1. Successive reviews of the Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy during the past decade (from the 1958 to the 1968 versions) have been carried out against a background of a basically constant threat of communist expansion through South East Asia, and a fundamental long term concern for the security of Australia and her Territories from attack and the threat of attack. Although there have been specific variations in the threat, as during the Indonesian Confrontation period, there has been continuing endorsement of regional security, in conjunction with our major allies, as the basis of Australia’s policy, whilst at the same time appreciation of the need to be able to deter attack on, and in the last resort to defend, Australia and her Territories..

    11. Australia’s long-term strategic interests as defined above suggest the fields in which Australia needs to be active. Avenues for the exercise of influence comprise political and diplomatic activity, trading relationships, economic assistance and other aid in its various forms; and evident military strength, overseas deployments, visits and exercises, and, in the last resort, military operations.
    12. Although Australia’s direct military role is likely to be limited to the region of South East Asia, the South West Pacific and the oceans surrounding Australia, its area of strategic interest extends to mainland Asia and the periphery of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and even more widely to Europe, and North America.
    16. Military support of Australia’s long term strategic interest can be exercised both directly and indirectly; directly by the forward deployment of forces, and indirectly by the existence of a credible capacity for the selective use of force in the region, and above all an assured effective defence capacity. Military aid and training can play an importance part in developing local defence capabilities. Amongst the countries of South East Asia, Australia has a pre-eminent potential in terms of sophistication of equipment possessed and likely to be acquired,
    South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
    30. Up to mid-1973, there is very little likelihood of the United States or South Vietnam suffering a major military reverse in South Vietnam suffering a major military reverse in South Vietnam of the sort which would again make Vietnam the major issue in American politics. Beyond mid-1973 an assessment must be stated in the form of several speculative alternatives.
    31. North Vietnam might conceivably be forced to call off the war in the South because of a military setback, manpower shortage, economic difficulties, a collapse of morale, or a split in the leadership. However, we believe this is the least likely of the possible contingencies. North Vietnam’s main assets under its dictatorial regime have always been unity, determination and patience, and it would require a significant combination of what appear, at this stage, to be unlikely circumstances for these attributes to disappear, particularly since the United States disengagement must provide new encouragement to Hanoi. Sufficient material aid is likely to be forthcoming from China or the USSR to permit North Vietnam to continue the war. North Vietnam has been forced since 1968 to accept a longer time frame for reunification. There is a chance, but certainly not a probability, that later in the decade North Vietnam could defeat the South militarily, particularly if all United States air support to Vietnam were cut off. Under a Republican administration some United States air support will probably be available up to at least the middle of the decade (by which time the Vietnamese should be able to cope with in-country tasks with the exception of heavy bombing) and possibly thereafter.
    35. North Vietnam also has ambitions in respect of Cambodia and Laos, in view of their significance for the prosecution of the war in South Vietnam and her desire to establish ultimate hegemony over them.
    The north-east, the north and the border areas, where ethnic minorities are being exploited, remain a source of subversion, unrest and armed insurgency,
    48. Notwithstanding that the threat to Thailand remains essentially that of communist-inspired insurgency, the Thai Government has proved reluctant or unable to take the determined political, administrative, social and military action in border areas necessary to reduce such dangers. It is also clear that the present American administration, committed to the Nixon doctrine and subject to the constraints of domestic pressures, will be reluctant to become deeply involved in insurgency. We should continue the existing Australian policy of encouraging Thai sensitivity and effective counter-action in relation to the threat of insurgency.

    continued “

  22. Little Grunt says


    Malaysia and Singapore
    62. The Government of Malaysia is moving towards greater emphasis on non-alignment in its foreign policy and self-reliance in defence. It is actively seeking to improve its relations with China and advocates, as a long term ideal, the neutralization of South-East Asia, guaranteed by the Great Powers. This move is not regarded by the Malaysians as inconsistent with their association with the Five Power arrangement or the presence of ANZUK forces, but has probably been stimulated by their disappointment with the consultative nature of the arrangement, by a recognition that the arrangement may be of only temporary value, and by growing Malay nationalism and distrust of Singapore. For similar reasons, Malaysia is moving towards closer co-operation with Indonesia, including defence co-operation; and would regard this co-operation, too, as not inconsistent with a non-aligned status.
    63. Any further move towards non-alignment will be influenced by an assessment of American, British and Chinese intentions in the region, and of the reliability of traditional allies, and by domestic political attitudes. The Malaysian Government recognizes that, in the short term at least, the chances of obtaining any convincing Chinese or Soviet guarantees for the neutrality of the region are remote, and we believe Malaysia still finds value in a continued ANZUK military presence.
    64. The immediate effect of its foreign policy is that the Malaysian Government desires the Five Power arrangement to be inconspicuous. In the longer term the disposition of Malaysia (and Singapore) to move further towards non-alignment, with or without Great Power guarantees, could strengthen. If it should do so gradually, and in a context of multi-lateral arrangements in the region which could give increased validity to the non-alignment of individual countries, Australia’s interests would not necessarily be jeopardized. Australia should adopt constructive policy attitudes to any such trends recognising that one implication would probably be that the forward deployment of our forces would cease.
    66. Singapore’s particular fears are of conflict with Indonesia and with Malaysia, and the possibility of their coming together in a pan-Malay alliance, which Singapore would expect to carry anti-Chinese overtones. Until now, Singapore has relied almost exclusively on the ANZUK presence for defence against external aggression, but Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has recently made clear that he does not regard the new Five Power arrangements as a sufficient guarantee of Singapore’s security in the longer term. He is accordingly rapidly building up Singapore’s armed forces. At the same time, Lee appreciates that the presence of ANZUK forces may be expected to stabilize at least to some extent the communal situation in Malaysia from which, in disturbed circumstances, political currents adverse to Singapore’s interest could very well spring; and to inhibit anti-Singapore moves by Indonesia, which values its relations with the ANZUK powers. Lee also believes that the more world powers are involved in the region the greater the prospect for security; and it may be to this end that he has been contemplating the extension of maritime facilities to Soviet naval ships, or he may, as he has said, be employing a stratagem designed to
    get a firmer ANZ commitment to Singapore.
    68. The Australian military presence has political significance as an indication of continuing Australian interest in peaceful co-operation between Malaysia and Singapore. It contributes to confidence by providing the local Chinese with a small measure of reassurance that the presence of allied forces will inhibit Malay extremism, but to this extent the military presence may be unwelcome to Malay nationalist elements. The presence also provides the Malaysian Government with some military re-assurance against the contingencies of external attack and externally promoted insurgency. It also provides a framework for the pursuit of the admittedly difficult objective of facilitating defence co-operation between Malaysia and Singapore, and it supplements the forces of the two countries in some of the fields in which they are deficient, particularly in air defence. It further provides a basis on which to improve the efficiency of Malaysian and Singaporean forces by participation in training programmes and combined exercises. Furthermore and although each country is tending to go its own way in the development of its forces, our presence seeks to release them to some extent from the immediate compulsion of engaging in an urgent and expensive build-up of sophisticated weaponry. In the region generally our presence provides a useful basis for Australian political and diplomatic influence. It is not opposed or resented by the Malaysian or Singaporean Government, or by those of Indonesia, Thailand or the Philippines.
    69. The Australian military presence in Malaysia/Singapore should therefore be sustained in present circumstances. But we should watch very closely the trend of relations between Singapore and Malaysia, since, while the presence of Commonwealth forces in Malaysia/Singapore might itself help to deter the two Governments from the ultimate extremity of attacking each other, deterioration of relations beyond a certain point would undermine the feasibility of Australian and other Commonwealth forces being used for common defence. The implications for Australia of a possible future refusal by Malaysia to allow the predominantly Chinese ground forces of Singapore to be employed in combat in defence of Malaysia needs to be kept under review.
    72. Communal conflict is exclusively, and counter insurgency is primarily, a Malaysian responsibility, and both are accepted as such by the Malaysian Government, which has already deployed operationally almost half its growing ground forces with police field forces to contain the existing insurgent threat in both West and East Malaysia. The Malaysian Government has domestic political reasons not to call on foreign forces except in extremes. Nevertheless should the level of insurgent activity continue to increase, and communal conflict also occur, Australia could receive requests for combat assistance on grounds that the situation was beyond the capability of local forces. Known Australian reservations in relation to conflict in East Malaysia would be likely to lead to Australian combat forces being requested to operate in the Thai-Malay frontier area.
    73. An Australian response would need to be conditioned by our assessment of the seriousness of the threat, if any, to Australia’s interests, by our existing commitments and the need to sustain the credibility of our policies; by our assessment whether the situation was beyond the control of local forces; by whether the insurgency was externally inspired and promoted; by the likely effectiveness and duration of any Australian combat support, by the extent to which we might be required to deploy additional forces; by a judgment of whether in making our forces available we were releasing Malaysian forces for action in the communal field which we could not approve or appear implicitly to endorse; by the actions of our ANZUK partners; and by the extent of military or political support we would have from the United States. Australian support on the ground might best be directed at improving the quality of Malaysian military performance.
    74. Although one of the objectives of our military presence in Singapore/Malaysia is to discourage the two countries from engaging in a premature and competitive build-up of sophisticated weapons (para 68 above), this is not to say that we do not wish them to seek self reliance in defence. Thus our own programme of defence aid to these countries is directed and should continue to be directed, towards helping them reduce deficiencies in their armed forces which our military presence at present helps to offset. But we would certainly hope for a progressive reduction of our aid programme during the decade as the military capabilities of the two countries expand.
    Regional Defence Capabilities
    153. Insurgency is expected to remain the main threat to the security of the nations of South East Asia during the coming decade, and, as indicated earlier (para 23) it is the American view that they have the manpower, and a good proportion of other resources, to cope with insurgency. The implication is that ground forces should come from the region. But the as yet unanswered question is whether they have, or could develop, the necessary combat capability. A second question taken up in paras 156-158 below is whether there is the political will to military co-operation.
    154. A study of the capabilities of the armed forces of South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan shows that, leaving aside North Vietnam and Japan, the ability of most of the countries to field ground combat forces for counter-insurgency operations is developing. There have been considerable improvements in the South Vietnamese forces, and further improvement is forecast. In Cambodia training assistance and military aid will be required in large quantities. Any improvement in the forces of Laos is unlikely. Thailand has the potential military capability to handle the internal threat, but more effective Thai Government action will be necessary. Malaysia is progressively increasing her forces, but the effectiveness of her ground forces has been diluted by expansion and their overall standard is poor with some unit exceptions. The Army and Police Field forces in their present stage of development would have great difficulty coping with a situation in which widespread racial violence was exploited by communist insurgents. They would probably be able to ensure the survival of the Government and Administration but we can conceive of a situation in which restoration of law and order throughout the country would be beyond the capability of the local forces. Singapore’s forces are capable of handling any foreseeable internal security threat unaided. Their capability to defend Singapore against external attack is steadily improving but is far from maximum effectiveness. Singapore is also steadily improving the capabilities of all arms of her forces. There is no foreseeable improvement in the comparatively small Philippines army, which however can handle the present low levels of insurgent activity. The Indonesian forces have suffered in recent years from the results of inadequate logistic support, aging equipment, and reductions in military expenditure. The army remains, nevertheless, adequate to contain the internal threat and there are prospects of improvement in some elements of the army and air force in the next few years.

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