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Friday, 27 March 1942

Mr SPEAKER - Is the motion supported ?

Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,

Mr FADDEN - The disclosures of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) about treasonable activity by members of the Australia First Movement came as a severe shock to this Parliament and to' the whole of Australia. The fact that twenty persons have been arrested is nothing unusual, but charges of an. intention to establish in Australia a Quisling government to co-operate with and give assistance to the King's enemies, to sabotage vital defence works, and to assassinate certain unnamed individuals are without parallel in Australian history and in British history, at any rate since the Guy Fawkes plot. Arrests of this description must be followed by trial for treason. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said that the matter is being investigated by the AttorneyGeneral's Department and that appropriate action will be taken ; but the Opposition's view is that immediate action ought to be taken, and that it should be the maximum action in view of the seriousness of the charges. Mere internment of persons believed to be guilty of treason is utterly unsatisfactory. Public opinion is stirred on account of the presence in this country of a number of aliens whose allegiance is openly questioned. The handling of the alien question since the outbreak of war has been characterised by the usual British consideration for the individual, but that can no longer be tolerated, especially in view of the success which has unfortunately attended the Japanese drive southward. It is no longer a question of the rights of individuals. The safety of the nation is at stake, and if people of our own race have been so base as to enter into commitments to the enemy, or to conspire to do so, they should be tried for their lives. Swift retribution to those who have earned it may deter all other foolish people who may be tempted to seek personal safety at the expense of national security. According to the Minister for the Army, the military authorities have for a considerable time been investigating the activities of the Australia First Movement. In view of his revelations, it is surprising to learn that on Saturday, the 14th March, the Prime Minister in a short-wave broadcast to the American peoples declared " We have no qualms and there is no fifth column in Australia ". The investigations to which the Minister for the Army alluded yesterday must have been in progress when the Prime Minister made that broadcast. I am moved by the latest disclosures to say that it is time that the Government took steps to exercise a considerably greater degree of vigilance over the activities of the numerous organizations of which one has heard from time to time since the outbreak of war. Among these bodies is one styling itself the New South Wales Legal Rights Committee. This body held a meeting in the Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday last and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the principal speaker was Alderman F. W. Paterson, of Townsville. Will the Prime Minister institute immediate inquiries about Mr. Paterson ? Is he the gentleman who was convicted and fined at Townsville last year for utterances in contravention of the National Security Act? If so, does the Prime Minister consider it advisable to allow him such latitude as he appears to enjoy?

The time is opportune to link the disclosures made yesterday with the position of aliens in this country. Generally, since the outbreak of war and, especially, since Japan started its southward drive, which has brought Australia into imminent danger and has overrun parts of our island territories, the people of Australia, particularly in Northern Queensland, have been gravely concerned about the position of aliens. Queensland is not the only State with alien population,but in the northern townships of Queensland there is a concentration of enemy aliens, and I submit that action should be taken to put a curb on their activities. The necessity to control our alien population becomes greater when we learn that it has been found necessary to arrest and intern twenty of our own people. All enemy aliens should be immediately interned. At least, steps should be taken to remove them from coastal districts.

Mr Martens - Would the honorable member intern all enemy aliens?

Mr FADDEN - Yes, the lot of them.

Mr Brennan - Where would the honorable gentleman put them?

Mr FADDEN - What an argument! It is equal to saying that because internment camps are full, no further internments should be made. I know that the problem is difficult. Since the outbreak of war. it has had close examination. Japan's entry into the war, however, has made the position acute. The disclosures made by the Minister for the Army show how acute it is. I have made frequent press statements to the effect that people who have information indicating subversive actions by enemy aliens have the duty to place it before the authorities. I know that much untruth has been spoken on this subject; unthinking people have exaggerated the position; but the fact remains that there is an aggregation of enemy aliens in certain localities of Australia which can only be described as danger points. Those enemy aliens would be an army to help the Japanese if they landed in this country. The position of enemy aliens should he considered in parallel with the activities of the Australia First Movement. My considered opinion is that -

(1)   Immediate action should be taken by the Government to intern aliens in Australia, excluding nationals of our allies and friendly nations.

(2)   Effective measures should he taken to investigate and restrict the activities of female enemy aliens.

(3)   An independent commissioner should be appointed to inquire into and report upon all naturalization certificates granted during the last five years.

(4)   In cases where the commissioner finds any circumstance which he considers suspicious, the person concerned should be interned.

The ranks of all people who have become naturalized Australians in the last five years should be combed. Many reasons exist for people to become naturalized citizens of this country. An alien cannot become the owner of land in Queensland, unless he is naturalized. Naturalization is necessary before an alien can obtain the benefits of the Aus tralian pensions system. In orderto exercise the franchise, an alien must become naturalized. There are, therefore, many inducements for aliens to become naturalized. In the altered circumstances, it is advisable that recent eases of naturalization - applications which have been granted in the last three or five years - should be thoroughly examined in order that we may play safe. The safety-first principle must be adopted, and I hope that the Government will take immediate steps on the lines I have suggested in order as far as possible to minimize our risk and eliminate those elements in our midst whose activities are not in the best interests of Australia's security and the winning of this war.

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