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Friday, 27 March 1942


Mr RYAN (Flinders) .- The Government realizes, I think, the great and growing concern that exists in Australia at present regarding the treatment of aliens. It has received from me, and I know from other honorable members, a large number of representations which reflect, the feelings of large sections of the population. I have been written to about this matter by branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, municipal and shire councils, and other organizations whose concern I share. In this country to-day there are many enemy aliens and naturalized Australians of enemy origin who enjoy unrestricted liberty. Some of them, no doubt, are hostile. One cannot delve into the feelings of all men except with difficulty and, doubtless, many hostile enemy aliens remain at large. A second large section of these people might be described as neutral. They sit on the fence prepared to jump to whichever side they deem best. It is only reasonable to assume that in the event of an invasion attended by some success, these neutrals would do their best to help the enemy if only to save their own skins. The third section consists of those people who have definite pro-allied sympathies. I have had some experience' in dealing with aliens both in this and in the last war, and I propose to offer a few suggestions to the Government as to the manner in which, in my opinion, this difficult matter could best be dealt with. In Germany, and in the other Axis countries, some thousands of allied subjects were promptly interned at the outbreak of war and as far as I know they are still interned.


Mr Blackburn - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said last year that there were a number of allied subjects in Germany who were not interned, and that that fact had influenced the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to enemy subjects in Australia.


Mr RYAN - My information was to the contrary. We may assume that a large proportion of the Allied subjects in Axis countries are interned. In Australia there are many aliens and a large number of refugees who have fled to this country, but they are anti-fascist in their sympathies. That, of course, complicates the position in Australia, and divides persons of enemy origin into two classes. Unless we deal with the matter properly, we may not only do injustice to individuals, but also reduce our own efficiency. The policy adopted by the Government has been to say that all enemy aliens against whom there is any suspicion should be interned, and I admit that a great number of them should be interned. In other words, the onus of proof rests on the Government to show that they constitute a threat to our security before any action is taken. My suggestion is that instead of the onus of proof resting on one side, the Government should accept in principle the internment of all enemy aliens, subject to exemption being granted to those who can show good reason why they should not be interned. I do not contend that it is advisable that the net should be thrown around all aliens now at liberty in Australia, but steps might be taken to do that by degrees. Those who cannot prove that they have good faith towards Australia should be interned.

Another class comprises naturalized Australians of enemy origin. I and other members have received requests that all of these should be interned, but I consider that they fall within two categories. Many of such naturalized Australians are extremely loyal. Honorable members are aware that many Australians of Teutonic origin are among our ;most efficient and loyal citizens. I suggest that naturalized aliens should not be interned unless there is reasonable proof that they are hostile. How far back should we go in making special inquiries regarding the activities of naturalized Australians of enemy origin? From the date when Italy joined the. Axis powers, all Italians who have come to Australia should be regarded as suspect. I know from personal experience that it has been the practice of countries such as Germany and Italy to send their nationals abroad to obtain naturalization in other countries for the purpose of obtaining confidential positions, and thereby acquiring information useful to their homeland. This has been done in all countries, including Australia. As to the activities of Germans in Australia, the time to which we should go back would be 1933, when Hitler came into power. There is no proof that, prior to that date, Germany had welllaid plans for world conquest. I share the views of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) as to the necessity for upholding the traditions of British justice.







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