CANBERRA – The Turnbull Government has negotiated a late night partial reprieve from the 'kick in the guts' last-minute Vietnamese cancellation of Australian commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
Around 1000 Australian war veterans and their families have travelled to Vietnam to mark the occasion with services, a gala dinner and concert.
Minister confirms veterans will get access to Long Tan site to lay wreaths and commemorate. No medals or uniforms as is standard practise— Charles Croucher (@ccroucher9) August 17, 2016
A wreath-laying ceremony will now held, but no speeches will be allowed. Veterans will not be able to wear uniforms or display medals.
The Australians will also have to visit the site in groups of 100, rather than arriving en masse.
Despite 18 months of planning, the Vietnamese Government withdrew support less than 24 hours before the services, deeming them 'insensitive'.
The cancellation has upset veterans and been described as a 'kick in the guts' by the Veterans' Affairs Minister Dan Tehan and 'deeply disappointing' by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
"Australia has been working closely with Vietnam for the past 18 months to prepare for this event," Turnbull told a reception in Parliament House, Canberra.
"We had sought and received assurances from local authorities in Vietnam –- as we have every year –- that the Long Tan commemorations would proceed."
Overnight, Turnbull held what is being described as a 'lengthy discussion' with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, securing access to the Long Tan battle site for veterans.
"He appealed to him to understand and to emphasise with Australian veterans and their families who have travelled to Vietnam," Tehan told Sky News.
"The message thankfully has hit an accord and we have seen a change of heart from the Vietnamese Government."
"We just want to pay respects in a very dignified and respectful way," Minister Tehan said.
The Australian men and women who died in the Vietnam War numbered 521; 18 in the Battle of Long Tan while 24 were wounded there in the most costly single engagement in the war.
Services are underway around Australia to mark the anniversary, including at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.