RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) _ The parents of a U.S. Marine who fled his unit in Vietnam 17 years ago and settled in Australia say they hope he will be cleared of desertion charges and allowed to return home.

''It would be a wonderful Christmas present to know I might see my son soon,'' said Christine Beane of Rutland. ''We're not dying, but we're not exactly young anymore.''

Douglas Beane, 39, who grew up in Rochester, Vt., was arrested Monday by Australian naval police after he applied for a passport at the U.S. Consulate in Canberra to visit his sick father in the United States.

Beane is waiting to see if he will be returned to his homeland to face a court-martial.

Beane's parents have known of his whereabouts for 16 years. Mrs. Beane said a FBI investigator questioned her about her son four years after he went AWOL, and she told the agent where Beane was.

''He said he didn't care as long as he wasn't in this country, but that Dougie should come home and clear himself. We encouraged him to do so, but he was afraid,'' she said.

Mrs. Beane said her son has twice escaped from military facilities. The first time, he escaped from a military jail in Da Nang, but he was later found by the Marines. Then he was sent to a military hospital, from which he escaped. A priest in Saigon helped him out of the country and to Australia.

His mother said at the time he was imprisoned he faced a court-martial on charges that included black-market money dealings and threatening to kill a fellow Marine. He was undergoing psychiatric treatment at the hospital at the time of his escape.

According to his parents, Beane was a chef with the Marines in Vietnam and saw little combat. He was implicated in a black-market ring in June 1969 when $700 in U.S. money was found on him. Servicemen in Vietnam were supposed to use scrip rather than dollars.

His father, Donald Beane, who is disabled because of circulatory and other health problems, said his son was under pressure from military officials to tell about the black market. Simultaneously, he was being threatened by ring leaders not to talk, he said.

''He was just a young kid from Vermont in a foreign nation at wartime under a lot of pressure. He was one of the smallest players in a big black-market ring,'' said Mrs. Beane. ''He was scared and ran. It was survival.''

She said her son was two weeks from completing his tour of duty when he went AWOL.

He only recently began using his real name, she said. Last month, after he married the mother of his two children, he became a legal resident of Australia.