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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr SPENDER (WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why have not these other people been prosecuted!! I remind the Minister of the statement which he made to the House when these persons were interned. A considerable period has elapsed since that time.

Mr FORDE - When these persons were interned, both the Prime Minister and I said that the Solicitor-General was examining the papers, and that some time would elapse before that work would be completed, and prosecutions launched. We also said that action would be in accordance with recommendations made by the Solicitor-General.

Mr SPENDER - Does that mean that no members of the Australia First Movement who has been interned other than those in Western Australia will be prosecuted ?

Mr FORDE - I cannot say. This matter is being handled by the AttorneyGeneral's Department.

Mr ROSEVEAR - Is the real reason why members of the Australia First Movement in other States besides Western Australia have not been brought to trial the flimsiness of the evidence against them- Mr. SPEAKER.- Order ! This is developing into a cross-examination which is contrary to the rules of the House.

Mr ROSEVEAR - Well, I shall have to get at the facts in another way. I ask the Minister for the Army whether the comments of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Sir Frederick Jordan, about the application of the internment regulations and the difficulty experienced by people once they have been interned by ministerial direction in obtaining release are the real reasons why the Minister invites the members of the Australia First Movement to go before a tribunal where they will have no chance?

Mr FORDE - The regulations under which internments are made have been in operation since the outbreak of war. People are interned in Australia when, in the opinion of military intelligence, there is evidence of subversive activity. Whether they are members of the Australia First Movement, enemy aliens, naturalized British subjects or Australian-born subjects, persons who are interned are entitled to lodge objections to internment. Objections are heard by special tribunals. Enemy aliens appear before one kind of tribunal and British subjects before another kind of tribunal which is invariably presided over by a judge of a Supreme Court. After having heard an objection, the tribunal recommends to the Minister for the Army either the continued internment or the release of the person concerned. Certain interned members of the Australia First Movement in Western Australia have been prosecuted. I shall confer with the Solicitor-General in order to ascertain whether in his opinion there is sufficient evidence to justify the prosecution of other members of the movement. The overwhelming majority of the many people interned in Australia have not been prosecuted at the instance of the Commonwealth Government. The military intelligence officers and security officers, on whose recommendation people are interned, are specialists in their work. They make their recommendations according to the information they have been able to obtain. The Government, whether it be this Government or any other, does not intern people for political reasons.

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