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1. The Defence Force Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (the Tribunal) is
established under the Defence Act 1903. Its functions are set out in s 110UA of the Act. The
Minister may direct the Tribunal to hold an inquiry into a specified matter concerning
honours or awards and the Tribunal must hold an inquiry and report, with recommendations,
to the Minister.
2. On 11 March 2010, the former Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support,
the Hon Dr Mike Kelly AM MP, referred the matter of recognition for members of Rifle
Company Butterworth (RCB) for service in Malaysia between 1970 and 1989 to the Tribunal.
The terms of reference for this inquiry are set out in full at the commencement of this report.
3. This reference was undertaken by the following members of the Tribunal:
Mr John Jones (Chair)
Dr Jane Harte
4. The principal applicant was the RCB Review Group on behalf of individuals who
served with the RCB in the period 1970 to 1989.
5. In its written submission and at its appearance before the Tribunal, the RCB Review
Group sought the following entitlements:
a. Qualifying service for veterans’ entitlements;
b. Clasp ‘MALAYSIA’ to the Australian Active Service Medal (AASM);
c. Returned from Active Service Badge (RASB); and
d. Clasp ‘MALAYSIA’ to the General Service Medal 1962 for those who served
in RCB until 14 February 1975.
6. The Tribunal also received 29 other written submissions, including one from an
ex-service organisation and one from the Department of Defence. Of the individual
submitters, 15 were in favour of upgrading the Australian Service Medal (ASM) with Clasp
‘SE ASIA’ to AASM with Clasp ‘MALAYSIA’ or ‘SE ASIA’ and three against. Three
ex-Royal Australian Air Force members sought inclusion of members who served at the
Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth in any consideration of the RCB. One
submitter requested consideration of post 1989 service and five simply provided a statement
to the Tribunal without specifying what they sought.
7. The Tribunal heard oral evidence from five individuals, as well as a group
representing the RCB Review Group and two representatives of the Department of Defence.
The claimants contended that they are, or should be made, eligible for the AASM and the
associated benefits because the service they rendered was ‘warlike service’.
8. The RCB came into being in 1970 after the Australian Government decided to station
a company of infantry at Butterworth Air Base on a rotational basis, following the withdrawal
of British forces from the region and the relocation of the Australian and New Zealand
infantry battalions from Terendak in Malaysia to Singapore. Butterworth Air Base is located
on the Malayan Peninsula. Confrontation with Indonesia had ended in 1966 and there was no
stated conflict between Malaysia and any other nation at that time. There was some internal
unrest in Malaysia led by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), whose leader was Chin
Peng. The level of this unrest varied over the years and between locations within Malaysia.
Chin Peng signed a peace treaty with the Malaysian Government in 1989.
9. The RCB companies were initially provided from Singapore for about one month
each. In 1973 rotation from Australia began with each company spending about three months
at Butterworth. No enemy attack ever took place at Butterworth Air Base.
10. In considering all the material before it, including relevant official records, the terms
of relevant awards and entitlements and the material and oral evidence provided by the
submitters the substantive findings of the Tribunal are:
a The service rendered by members of the RCB in the period 1970 to 1989 is
properly recognised by the award of the Australian Service Medal (ASM)
1945-75 with Clasp ‘SE ASIA’ or the ASM with Clasp ‘SE ASIA’;
b The Tribunal has no jurisdiction in matters of veterans entitlements and has no
power to declare service as ‘qualifying service’ for the purposes of the VEA;
c The Tribunal has no power to bestow eligibility for the RASB which is awarded
automatically with the AASM 1945-75 and with the current AASM;
d The end date for eligibility for the General Service Medal 1962 with Clasp
‘MALAY PENNISULA’ is 12 June 1965. No Clasp ‘MALAYSIA’ exists for
this award. The Tribunal finds no justification to recommend the extension of
the end date or the creation of a new clasp; and
e There is no justification for extending the eligibility period for the Australian
Service Medal with Clasp ‘SE ASIA’ beyond the current end date of
31 December 1989, which was requested in one submission.
11. The Tribunal makes the following recommendations:
Recommendation 1: No change be made to the medallic entitlements which currently attach
to service with Rifle Company Butterworth in the period 1970 to 1989; and
Recommendation 2: No change be made to the medallic entitlements which currently attach
to service with any other unit of the Australian Defence Force at Butterworth in the period
1970 to 1989 or since 1989.
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