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Friday, 27 March 1942

Mr HUGHES (North Sydney) (Leader of the United Australia party) . - The object of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) in submitting his motion to the House this morning was made perfectly clear, first by himself and, since then, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Yesterday the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) made disclosures which, as the Leader of the Opposition said, were without precedent in this country. Those disclosures make such a demand on our credulity that, even now, we can hardly believe them. The possibilities are so catastrophic that the Leader of the Opposition has believed it to be imperative to draw the attention of the country to them.

Like the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I do not pretend to try these people who have been arrested and interned. They will be charged with acting against the interests of the Commonwealth, and will have the right to establish their innocence, if they can do so. The point that I wish the Minister for the Army to realize is that the difficulty of dealing with these matters increases every day. The Prime Minister has directed our attention to the fact that whereas during the first two years of the war not many persons were interned in Australia, during the last three or four months the number of internees has been much greater. The reason is that circumstances have changed entirely during the last three or four months. Until December, 1941, Australians were practically only spectators in the war; now they are participants in it. Before Japan entered the war, Australians sat, as it were, in the reserve, far away from the range of the guns; to-day they are in the front line. In such circumstances, when a person says, "I am in favour of meeting the Japan&se and hailing them as friends and. brothers ", even our traditional adherence to the basic principles of British justice receives a rude jolt.

The real purpose of the Australia First Movement is to prepare the way for the coming of the Japanese. Its members emphasize Australia's right to make a separate peace. What is that but defeatism! What is that but the policy that overwhelmed France! We must never think of surrender. The man who first mentions surrender in this country is a traitor to Australia. So these people stand convicted. Their general purpose is revealed. They sent their spies and shock troops into Western Australia; and they were arrested. They are disclosing the real purpose of this movement. What is the Government doing with the nien who started the movement in New South Wales? They still walk the streets.

Mr Forde - No.

Mr HUGHES - They do. Has Stephenson been interned?

Mr Forde - I am not mentioning names. The bulk of the internments have been in New South Wales.

Mr HUGHES - If the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) assures me that none of these men is still free I shall be perfectly satisfied; but while one of them roams at large I shall not be satisfied. We cannot make war in this fashion - blithering about the Bill of Rights and habeas corpus and things of that kind. This is war; and the man who says he will betray us deserves death. The honorable gentleman told us yesterday that the Government had a little list of the persons whom the movement had marked out for assassination. It is a pity that he did not give that list to us. If my name is on it I shall know what to do. I shall see to it that any of these gentlemen who are not interned wilT not need interning. The position in respect of aliens is difficult; but it ha*to be dealt with. The Government cannot intern all aliens. As a broad general' statement the claim that we should intern lft aliens arrests attention ; it is spectacular and grandiose. But we cannot dothat. However, the Government can do something in the matter. It cannot intern all, but it can and ought to intern, a good many. It now has the responsibility to see that potential traitors - - persons who only await an opportunity to betray Australia - shall be placed where they can do no harm. In northern Queensland there are thousands of these.. They are our enemies. They are sent here to spy out the land and prepare theway for the enemy. They should beinterned. I have already quoted remarks from a speech made by Dr. Goddard and my colleague, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), hasrepeated that extract. Men such asthese are Fascists; they are member? of fascist organizations, and have been selected for this very purpose. I am quite sure that the Government is doing what it can to deal with the situation. However, I urge that while it is guided by the eternal principles of justice for which we are fighting, it must not allow its feet .to be hobbled, its hands to be tied, or its vision to be clouded. We are at war ; and every one in this country should understand that we are at war. Those who are betraying us, or hampering us in our effort to defeat the enemy, must, whatever cover they operate under. te brought before the bar of justice without further ado. I have said what I think should be done in this matter. However, these men have not yet been proved to be guilty. If and when their guilt is proved that will be the time to deal with them.

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