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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3523


Senator DURACK(3.21) —This report follows a number of allegations and contentions which were made earlier this year, principally by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on a radio program on 13 April called Nazis in Australia and on a television program on 22 April called Don't Mention the War. The contentions in these programs were that substantial numbers of nazi war criminals were allowed to enter Australia and that this in part came about by American and United Kingdom intelligence agencies withholding information from Australia. There were even allegations of involvement by Australian authorities and officers in this matter. It reached an extra- ordinary point when it was alleged in a resolution in the New South Wales Parliament, prompted by the then Minister for Youth and Community Services in the New South Wales Government, Mr Walker, that a large number of nazi war criminals had been knowingly admitted to Australia by the Menzies Liberal Government in the 1950s. Very widespread concern was whipped up at that time as a result of these wild allegations.

It was in that context that this report was commissioned, but it was not commissioned, I might say, until some demands had been made that these matters required investigation. In particular, I refer to speeches in this Senate on 29 May 1986 by my colleagues Senator Sir John Carrick and Senator Peter Baume. In that debate on 29 May 1986 Senator Sir John Carrick said:

It is the duty of this Government either to hold an independent inquiry to the last degree and put these people out of their misery, or get up and say to governments and to broadcasting corporations: `You are committing a terrible crime if you continue to make these accusations against people and races when you have no proof'. I invite the Government, with all the force I can command, to hold an independent inquiry, completely non-partisan, completely free of tit-for-tat.

He pointed out, I think very pertinently, that every political party will have within it remnants of displaced peoples. It was due to the demands for an inquiry in the light of these allegations that I have mentioned, made on ABC programs, made under cover of privilege by Mr Walker, the then Minister for Youth and Community Services in the New South Wales Parliament, and even, as I said, expressed in a resolution of that Parliament, that the Government on 25 June this year invited Mr Andrew Menzies, a former distinguished officer of the Attorney-General's Department, to provide a report. That is what we have before us today, a summary of which has been very fairly made by the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) in the tabling statement which he has just read.

This report is, I believe, an impressive one. It is certainly a remarkable contrast, with its reasoned and sober judgments and its ascertainment of facts, to these wild allegations and innuendoes that were being promoted earlier this year on ABC programs and by Mr Walker and others. It is really a remarkable achievement that so much material, documentary material in particular, has been persued by Mr Menzies for the purpose of this report. It was not part of his brief to make any specific judgments on allegations about any individuals. In fact, he received allegations concerning, he said, about 200 individuals and he has concluded that, of those, there are 70 cases which should be properly investigated. As I said, he did not make, nor did the terms of reference require him to make, the sort of investigation which would lead to any further proceedings against these people. Of course, had that been the case, this report would have taken not months but perhaps years.

The purpose and value of this report is the assessment that is made of the background in which displaced persons came to Australia, the difficulties of having proper security screening of them in the immediate post-war years and the general development of these programs and of the method of security checking. What I believe is fundamental in this whole debate-certainly Mr Menzies makes the point clearly himself-is that there is a great distinction, particularly now in 1986 as against, say, 1946, between an allegation that a person is a war criminal and an allegation that a person may have been a member of the Nazi Party or have been serving in enemy forces, particularly the German forces or those of any of the German satellites. Even in the fairly early stages that sort of distinction was made and Mr Menzies certainly said that at this time we should be simply concentrating on allegations of what amounts to war criminality. There are ample definitions of what that amounts to and I do not need to go through them, but clearly there is a fundamental distinction between allegations of that kind and the sorts of allegations that are freely made confusing that notion with, as I have said, the holding of political views which may be well and truly abhorrent to all of us but which do not involve war crime and which may involve people who had membership of a nazi party in the past or may have served in the German forces. That distinction, as I have said, is at the very fundamental of this inquiry and of the recommendations that Mr Menzies has made.

His first finding, which Senator Evans has read, is that it is more likely than not that a significant number of persons who committed serious war crimes in World War II have entered Australia, that they are now resident in Australia and that there should be action in respect of the allegations. As I said, he selected 70 names against which allegations of this sort are made-not allegations of holding extreme views or membership of the Nazi Party or so on, but coming within a category which he says should be investigated. He has identified these 70 names. I believe it is absolutely proper that those names should not have been disclosed by Mr Menzies. They have been given to the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) and Mr Menzies has recommended what the Minister should do to investigate them fully.

There are some exceptions. A few names have been mentioned by Mr Menzies and put on the public record and I think Mr Menzies has performed a valuable service in dealing with those people. However, no doubt there are others who should also be dealt with early in the piece by further investigations because other names have been mentioned in other contexts, notably by Mr Walker in his totally improper statements and allegations he bandied about for political reasons in the New South Wales Parliament in the debate to which I have already referred. It is important that we note the context of this finding because the report is a very interesting discussion about the way in which the post-war migration program to Australia was put in place and developed in those early years, both during the period of the Chifley Government and subsequently during the early days of the Menzies Government, is a great reminder of those times and of the grave problems that literally millions of people were then suffering in Europe. The account of the displaced persons scheme and how it worked is very interesting. One of the interesting facts that emerge is Australia's great contribution, made on humanitarian grounds, to the relief of this European tragedy which affected so many people.

I think we should be very proud of the fact that the report shows that Australia accepted over 170,000 people under the displaced persons program. That total was second only to the United States of America, with its far greater resources, of people received under that program. I think the Canadians were about the third highest contributors to the alleviation of the suffering of so many hundreds of thousands of people. Of that 170,000 people who came to Australia, Mr Menzies has identified about 70 who are still living in Australia and against whom allegations should be considered. He did not find that these people are guilty of any war crimes, but he has looked at the material and decided that they should be investigated.

When one considers all the allegations that have been made against worthy Australian officers, departmental officers who were sent to Europe after the war and who had to battle with the sort of conditions prevailing there at the time and described in this report, I believe that that is a very considerable testimony to the dedication of Australian officials who worked in Europe at this time. There have also been these allegations-certainly this was part of the reason for the report-that United States and British intelligence services improperly, and I suppose for their own ends, unloaded on to Australia a number of war criminals, even, it is even said, with the connivance of Australian authorities and particularly the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Mr Menzies has found that there is no substance in those allegations. He found:

. . . no person admitted into Australia under arrangements with the United Kingdom or United States intelligence agencies, to the knowledge of Australian authorities, appears to have been the object of charges or allegations as to commission of war crimes, although there is a possibility that . . . former employees of such agencies may have entered Australia without the knowledge of Australian authorities.

He said that there is no evidence-this is very important in view of the allegations-that ASIO was involved in the entry of any of these persons into Australia. He found that ASIO officers did have a contact with a number of persons after they had come into Australia but he found that ASIO was not involved with the entry of those persons. These allegations that were wildly and recklessly made earlier this year, and no doubt on other occasions, that Australia had acted in some form of complicity with overseas intelligence agencies to smuggle war criminals into Australia are without foundation. He found no evidence whatsoever that an Australian officer had knowingly allowed any war criminals to migrate to Australia. He also found that the review did not establish any policy of any Australian government to allow or assist the entry of known or suspected war criminals into Australia and that there was no evidence that any Australian official was involved in any proposal to resettle the notorious and infamous Klaus Barbie in Australia, which was another allegation made recently.

I think I have said enough to indicate the value and the importance of this report. As to the recommendations of the report, Mr Menzies has suggested that there ought to be a special unit established in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to undertake the investigations of these allegations against the 70 people named. He believes that those people should be given the full rights of any Australian citizen under our legal system and not be charged unless there is adequate evidence to establish a prima facie case. He said that they should be charged in a civil court and not a military court under the War Crimes Act, which should be amended to enable that to be done. That also seems to be a very proper recommendation to be made. There may be some case for the appointment of a special prosecutor in these cases. I would think this would be a very significant additional burden on the Director of Public Prosecutions, with all his other tasks. However, that is something we will have to consider and no doubt the Government will also consider.

As to the very sensitive area of extradition, I am pleased to note that the Minister has made reference to this question in his statement and noted that the review indicated that the question of entering into special new extradition arrangements with countries with judicial systems different from our own is particularly sensitive and one for the judgment of government. I am pleased to note that the Government's own disposition would not be to enter into a specially negotiated new extradition arrangement in the case of a country with a markedly different judicial system. It should also be noted that under our existing extradition Acts questions of whether the person can have a fair trial or would be detained or restricted in his personal liberty by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions are matters which have to be given consideration by the Attorney-General before extradition takes place, even in a case where there is an extradition agreement in place.

Many of these displaced persons came from countries which are now under communist dictatorships of one sort or another in Eastern Europe. The vast majority of them have made a marked contribution to Australia over the last 30 to 40 years they have been here and they have become most worthy and honourable citizens of this country. It would be of great concern to those people in Australia if they felt that there was a possibility that Australia might send them back to be dealt with-I hesitate to say properly tried-by a communist dictatorship. This would apply even if there were a prima facie case against such a person. I am pleased that the Government has shown recognition of the sensitivity of that question.

I hope that the Government will-I am sure it will-take careful note of Mr Menzies' recommendations, most of which seem to be very sensible and well aware of the serious questions and of the rights of individuals, as one would expect of a former senior officer in the Attorney-General's Department of Mr Menzies' calibre. We in the Opposition express our gratitude for this report. We are pleased that the Government acted on the demands that this matter should be properly investigated. This report will enable the debate on this subject to be carried on in a much more rational way than seemed possible earlier this year.