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Thursday, 8 July 1920


Mr CONSIDINE (Barrier) .- In supporting the motion I wish to say that very few of the details are within my own knowledge. I have noticed, however, that in Stead's Review certain articles were allowed to appear from time to time without any representations from the Government or the authorities concerned. One statement in particular was that it was only on representations made by the Swiss Consul or the American Consul, before America entered the war, that alterations were made in the treatment of prisoners in the internment camps. I know no more than do other honorable members who have spoken of what were the conditions which prevailed in the camps; but it is within our knowledge that in the press of Australia, especially the Sydney press, statements were made concerning the use ofmachineguns at Holdsworthy Camp. In reference to that matter no report has ever been asked for in this Parliament. I have in my possession a statement signed by, I think, a captain in the German Navy who was interned at Holdsworthy. We know that according to international arrangements officers of certain rank, when prisoners of war, are not to be asked to do certain kinds of menial work ; but because this man refused to obey some orders he was ill-treated. I do not know whether his statement is true; but, according to him, he was blindfolded and taken by a firing party near to a grave which had been dug. He was told that he was to be shot, and placed with his back against the tree. Hestill refused to do what was required of him, and the rifles were clicked. Then the bandage was taken from his eyes, and the officer in charge of the squad saying, "You are a brave man," shook hands with him.


Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is this a dream?


Mr CONSIDINE - That is the statement signed by this person and sent to me.


Sir Granville Ryrie - Where was this?


Mr CONSIDINE - It is alleged to have taken place at Holdsworthy Camp.


Sir Granville Ryrie - If you believe a fairy tale like that you will believe anything; but I do not believe that you believe it.


Mr CONSIDINE -The Minister does not believe that I believe the statement; but such allegations have been allowed to go unchallenged, thus showing that they have a substratum of fact. It is up to the Government to say whether these statements are true.


Mr Jowett - The Assistant Minister for Defence says that they are not.


Mr CONSIDINE - He has not even seen the document to which I refer. The Government were quick enough to use the powers conferred upon them by the War Precautions Act to suppress Stead's War Facts. They acted in the same way in regard to other publications. Only in to-night's Herald I read that they are so much perturbed about the importation of German hymn-books and bibles into Australia that they have imposed a prohibition upon them.


Mr Marr - That has nothing to do with the management of our internment camps.


Mr CONSIDINE - It shows the feeling that is behind this business.


Mr Jowett - Has the honorable member read what is published in to-night's Herald about the Bolsheviks?


Mr CONSIDINE - The honorable member will getmore about the Bolsheviks than he wishes to hear. By proclamation in the Commonwealth Gazette, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has prohibited the admission to the Commonwealth of bibles, prayer-books, and hymn-books printed in the German language and intended for use in the Lutheran Church unless his consent to their importation has been previously obtained. Yet no honorable member will affirm that the safety of Australia would be in any way endangered by the importation of the "good old book" printed in German. The action of the Minister, however, would lead us to believe that if elderly people are allowed to sing Lutheran hymns, or to offer prayers in German, the foundations of the Empire will be sapped. All this only goes to show the spirit of intolerance which possesses the Government. Those who are so fond of telling us about the fights for religious freedom, and who put Luther upon apedestal as a pioneer in that connexion, are to-day preventing Luther's countrymen from reading his sentiments in Luther's language. The idea is absurd and preposterous. When the. Government indulge in such childish antics, instead of acting in the interests of the Australian people, they are really doing something of which the inmates of a kindergarten would be ashamed.


Mr Marr - Was Luther an Irishman?


Mr CONSIDINE - Enough has already been said to show the necessity for an inquiry into the conduct of our internment camps. I come now to the treat- ment of internees and to the need which exists for investigating the circumstances connected with the internment of certain persons. While I was in Sydney some time ago the wife of the gentleman whose case has been mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) called upon me concerning the internment of her husband. She assured me that the whole of their family were intensely loyal, and at no period had there been the slightest suspicion cast upon their loyalty. Yet her husband had been interned apparently for the heinous offence of advocating a different financial policy from that propounded by the then Treasurer of the Commonwealth.


Sir Granville Ryrie - Was that during the regime of the present Government or of a Labour Government?


Mr CONSIDINE - It was during the period that Mr. Watt filled the office of Treasurer.


Sir Granville Ryrie - I suppose the honorable member realizes that twice as many Australian-born Germans were interned by the Labour Government as were interned by the present Government ?

Mr.Tudor. - That statement is not correct.


Sir Granville Ryrie - Forty out of fifty internees were interned by the Labour Government.


Mr Tudor - During the whole of the time that I occupied the position of a Minister in the Labour Government, only four or five persons were interned', and if Senator Pearce has made any statement to the effect indicated by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), he has stated what is absolutely false.


Mr CONSIDINE - It is immaterial to me whether these persons were interned by a Labour Government or by a Government composed of ex-Labour men and ex-Liberals, or even of members of the Country party. The question which has to be decided is, " Are the Government prepared to have this matter inquired into with a view to righting any wrong which may have been done?" The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) cannot shirk the responsibility of the Government by saying, " Please, sir, we did not do these thing; they were done by somebody else." Ministers are now in a position to right the wrong which has been done to certain individuals. Not only were Germans, who were the enemies of the Empire, treated in the way that has been described, but the Government acted in just as arbitrary a fashion towards their allied Italian subjects. At the dictation of the Italian Consul, they seized men whilst they were at their work in the mines at Broken Hill, and sent them by rail to the nearest port, without even first allowing them to see their wives and families.


Sir Granville Ryrie - That was done with the approval of the Italian Consul.


Mr CONSIDINE - Not with the approval of the Italian Consul, but at his dictation. I ask leave to continue my speech on a future occasion.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.







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