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Thursday, 22 July 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - I shall be very .brief. ;ThI Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has moved the adjournment of ' the House to protest against " The continued operation of the War Precautions Act, and the deportation,, without trial, in times of peace, of persons resident in the Commonwealth." The honorable member, who was a member of , the Government which brought that Act into existence, told me only ten minutes' before the .House met that he proposed' to take' this action, and I have thus had but little time to refresh my memory by reference to Hansard. 'My references to the records, therefore, must necessarily be of- a -fragmentary character. ' It was generally agreed by the party to which I and the honorable member at the time belonged, that a War Pre- cautions Act was necessary.

Mr Tudor - Hear; hear !

Mr HUGHES - A certain section of the party, however, voted, against it.

Mr Tudor - The original Act was carried without any opposition whatever.

Mr HUGHES - The honorable member voted for it. -. I find., that, on a proposed amend'm'ent of a clause that might be termed the. most .objectionable of all the. provisions of the War Precautions Act (No. 2). of 1915 'a division was taken on the motion of the honorable member for Bourke '(Mr:- Anstey) and that there were only' five votes recorded for the "Ayes." Those. : who voted for the amendment were the .honorable member for. Melbourne. (Dr. Maloney), Mr. King O'Malley. (who then represented Darwin), the honorable 'member for Batman (Mr. Brennan)', and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath).

Among those who voted for the clause as it stood were the following members of the then Labour party: - Mr. Burns, Mr. Carr, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), Mr. Dankel, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Hampson, Mr. Hannan, Mr. Jensen. Mr. Lynch, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Parker Moloney), the honorable member for Mar,anoa (Mr. Page), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), Mr. Spence, Mr. Thomas, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), Mr. Webster, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), Mr. Yates, and myself. I quote these names only to show that an overwhelming majority of the Labour party at that time affirmed the basic principle of the Act, and did so in the face of representations madebythe honorable member for Bourke in regard to the effect of this legislation,which, compared with those just made by my honorable friend, were as a thousand candle-power light to a tallow dip. The Labour party supported this form of legislation with their eyes open.

So much for the genesis of the Act. The authors of it were the Labour party. It could not have been carried without their support; and only five of its members voted against the principal clause to which I have referred. Speaking last week, I said that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) had not changed; that in 1915 he was where he is now.

Mr Brennan - I supported the original War Precautions Act. I did not vote against it.

Mr HUGHES - But I am speaking of the. Act of 1915. When speaking to the motion submitted last week by the honorable member, I called attention to the change which came over the attitude of the Labour party;and I may be permitted, perhaps, to point out that that was one ofthe first indications of that change expressed in terms of legislative activity. The Labour party was responsible for this Act, and I have not the slightest doubt that if that party, with the policy upon which it was returned by the people in 1914, had been inoffice to-day, it would have found the same reasons for continu-. ing it that the present Government have found.

All that has been said by the Leader of the Opposition was said with very much greater force by the honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for Batman in 1915, yet the honorable member voted for the objectionable clause. I shall, therefore, direct my remarks to that phase of the motion in which complaint is made of the application of the War Precautions Act to deportations. The honorable member asked why we applied the Act, now that the war was over, to the deportation of persons resident in the Commonwealth. The answer is very simple. These men could not be deported during the war. They were interned during the war, and the reason is sufficiently obvious. If I were asked why the case of the particular gentleman about whom my honorable friends opposite are so much concerned, has been dealt with at so late a stage,- I would say that it is owing to the mistaken weakness of this Government, who listened time and again to representations made by honorable members opposite--

Mr Brennan - I rise to order. The Prime Minister offends my sensitive ear by breaking the ruling so solemnly propounded yesterday by Mr. Speaker that we were not to discuss the particular case just mentioned by him. Mr. Speaker even warned us at the outset of to-day's proceedings that we must not discuss it. If the Prime Minister is to be allowed by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker to discuss that matter, then we must all be allowed to deal with it.

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