Senator James McGrath on Rifle Company Butterworth – 9 December 2020

“Today, I’d like in particular to pay tribute to the Australian soldiers who have served and those continuing serving in Rifle Company Butterworth in Malaysia, that recently marked the 50th anniversary of its establishment.

In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of the veterans involved in the second Malaysian emergency against communist insurgents between 1970 and 1989 and the protection of RAAF aircraft, families and facilities at the air base at Butterworth.

From 1973, Army troops in infantry company groups were deployed from Australia to Butterworth and had orders from the RAAF commander of the air base to provide a quick-reaction force that could be activated at short notice to repeal attacks by communist insurgents.

The Army troops received intelligence briefings on the nature of the insurgency threat to the air base, carried weapons and live ammunition, had orders to use lethal force should it be necessary, and regularly practised in responding to potential threats.

It is undeniable that our Army troops were integral, with the Malaysian forces, in protecting the air base at Butterworth from the threat of attack by communist insurgents.

Despite acknowledging the threats posed by the communist insurgency and the need to deploy Army troops to carry out protective tasks to assure the safety and security of the air base, the Defence Committee of 1973 made recommendations to the government that the decision to deploy Army troops be presented publicly as being for training purposes, underplaying their real role.

Many Rifle Company Butterworth veterans have since campaigned, to no avail, to have their service recognised as warlike service, given the strategic importance of their role and the threat of conflict in the region.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the extensive efforts by Rifle Company Butterworth veterans, since their involvement, to have their service recognised as warlike service in light of the critical role they played in the defence of Butterworth.

Following the decision to award the VC to Teddy Sheean—which is well deserved and a decision that I support and that everyone in this chamber supports—I would ask the government to consider the Butterworth veterans’ endeavour to claim appropriate recognition for their service.’


The Deception


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