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Friday, 27 March 1942

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - Some time ago a broadcast from Tokyo astounded certain Australians by stating that there was afoot in this country a movement which was destined to work in conjunction with Japanese forces when they landed here. The head-quarters of this movement was said to be in another part of the British Empire. When this statement was reported in the press, it caused consternation amongst those of us who were studying the trend of events within Australia. The next news that we had of this organization was announced yesterday, when the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) informed the House of the internment of certain Australians of whose treasonable activities he had certain documentary evidence. This traitorous movement, the like of which has never been known in Australia before, must cause the Government and people great concern.

Mr Falstein - What about the New Guard? That was a treasonable organization, and the honorable member was a member of it.

Mr HARRISON - My honorable friend has never had the spunk to belong either to the Red Army or to the New Guard. He is neutral in everything. I listened with a great deal of interest to the statement that was made this morning by the Prime Minister. Had it been made yesterday there might have been no need for the Leader of the Opposition to submit this motion for the adjournment of the House. But the Government gave no indication yesterday that positive action would be taken against these persons who have been accused of treason.

Mr Forde - The House was informed, in answer to a question which was asked to-day, of the action which the SolicitorGeneral had recommended to be taken.

Mr HARRISON - It was an inspired question.

Mr Forde - It was not inspired.

Mr HARRISON - The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and the Prime Minister both said that we should not prejudice the case of these men, and they referred to British justice. I agree with much of what the Prime Minister said, and, if he had spoken earlier, he would have lifted a great load from the minds of honorable members on this side of the House. The case has now been prejudiced, hut not by honorable members on this side of the chamber. It was prejudiced by the publication in the press of the statement made by the Minister for the Army, together with the names of certain persons who were stated to be leaders of the Australia First Movement. Justice is often perverted in courts of law because of publicity that is given to cases through the newspapers, and by other means. I say that this case has already been prejudiced, but not by any action taken by members of the Opposition.

Mr Forde - Does the honorable member suggest that the Government has disclosed the names of any persons in this case?

Mr HARRISON - No. The Minister's statement yesterday was clear, but it said either too little or too much. If the accusations had been founded merely on suspicion, the Government would have had a clear right to intern these people. But they were supported by documentary evidence of plans to assassinate prominent public men. If such documents are in the hands of the Government - andI have no doubt that they are - stronger action than internment should have been taken immediately. The persons implicated in the plot should have been indicted before a criminal court.

Mr Forde - The Government has interned them as a firststep; it will prosecute later.

Mr HARRISON - Internment would have been satisfactory on the ground of mere suspicion. But the Minister stated that he was in possession of certain documents. The existence of such evidence warranted an indictment of the parties to them.

Mr Forde - The Attorney-General's Department is considering what further action should be taken, and the Government will act as soon as its recommendation is made.

Mr HARRISON - Honorable members opposite have stated that the case has been prejudiced by the action of the Leader of the Opposition in moving for the adjournment of the House. We were concerned yesterday. about the Minister's statement regarding the internment of these men, because we know the Labour party's policy with regard to capital punishment. We were afraid ' that the Government would take no further action against the men.

Mr Forde - This movement was at work before the present Government came into office, but previous governments did not secure evidence of its subversive activities.

Mr HARRISON - (Specific action could not be taken without proper evidence. Evidence has now been made available to the Minister, and he has taken prompt action. I commend him for doing so, and I have no fault to find on that account. In fact, he has done a rattling good job. Nevertheless, I consider that he should have either withheld some of the information which he gave to the House yesterday afternoon or indicted the persons concerned before a criminal court. A democracy offers greater opportunities for treasonable activities than does any totalitarian country because of the freedom which it gives to its citizens. Therefore, it behoves us to be exceedingly careful so that we shall not give licence to members of movements which spring up in various guises almost overnight as tie result of the activities of enemy agents. It is time that we adopted totalitarian methods in our fight for existence against totalitarian states, so that at least we may have, at the end of the war, the liberties which we now enjoy. We all know what happened in Holland, Norway, and Malaya, and we know what is likely to happen in Australia if the activities of hostile aliens be not curtailed. We must adopt methods entirely different from those to which we were accustomed in times of peace. We must be ruthless in our treatment of persons suspected of subversive activity. We should intern them, collect evidence, and then indict them before a criminal court. In the event of their guilt being proved, we should be absolutely ruthless in inflicting upon them the appropriate penalties. I am in agreement with much of what the honorable member for Bourke said to-day. but last night he said that we should not indulge in ruthlessness because it was opposed to civilized practices. I say to him that when we are fighting an enemy who uses jungle methods of warfare, we must use jungle methods also. When the barbarian commits atrocities, as he has done, we can tame him only by employing methods that will make him realize the full weight of the forces that ari arrayed against him. Therefore I say to the House that we should be ruthless in stamping out all enemy activity. When proof is produced that men of our own flesh and blood have engaged in treasonable activities, we should impose the full penalties of the law upon them. The Minister for the Army prejudiced the case against the members of the Australia First Movement when he made his statement to the House yesterday afternoon without having first laid definite charges against them in a criminal court.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

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