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Wednesday, 2 September 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) . - Some months ago several people in New South Wales were arrested and interned as members of the Australia First Movement. At the time of their arrest, statements were made that they had been guilty of high treason and had planned to assassinate Cabinet Ministers and other personages. Subsequent events proved that as far as these members of the Australia First Movement interned in New South Wales were concerned, there was no foundation for the assassination charge. Because I do not know all the facts, I am not in a position to comment on whether they were guilty in any way of subversive activity, but it would appear that the charges were levelled in a moment of hysteria and were based upon certain information which was disclosed by an agent provocateur in Western Australia who had been associated in that State with some people who claimed connexion with the Australia First Movement.

Mr Archie Cameron - And who had been associated with the Communist party before that.

Mr CALWELL - Yes, but it may be that he joined the Communist party for the purpose of fomenting trouble in that organization.

Mr Archie Cameron - How does one foment trouble in the infernal regions? It is already there.

Mr CALWELL - I have no time for the Communist philosophy, but I believe that that person joined the Communist party not because he believed in its philosophy, but in order to create trouble. At any rate, he was a rather disreputable individual socially, and it was upon his statements that the people in Western Australia were eventually arrested. There was no association, according to a recent press statement of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), between the people in Western Australia and the people in New South Wales. Some of the people in New South Wales have been released. I have been advised that the tribunal presided over by Mr. Justice Pike, and including in its membership, Mr. Watt, Bt.C, stopped the proceedings half way through the appeal of one man, and told him that there was no case for him to answer. That man has since been released. The Attorney-General said that a statement would be made to Parliament outlining what the Government intended to do about those who had been interned and released and, presumably, about those who still remain in custody. I aus no more associated with the Australia First Movement than I am with the Communist party, but I have the conviction that justice has not been done to many, if not all, of those persons who have been arrested, and action should be taken speedily to satisfy the public mind that nobody is remaining in internment in New South "Wales, just because he happened to be wrongly interned in the first instance. The position cannot remain as it is. Those persons have to be either brought to trial on the charges levelled against them or released - honorably released - and, if they have been wrongfully arrested, recompensed for whatever legal expenses they have incurred in trying to establish their innocence.

Mr Blackburn - In some cases the expenses have been enormous.

Mr CALWELL - Yes, and the greatest difficulties were placed in the way of their relatives interviewing them or even seeing them. They were held incommunicado for a very considerable period, and, if they have been wrongly dealt with, the Government ought to be prepared to pay compensation to them. At any rate, this method of arrest and internment is a procedure which can have very dangerous consequences. As one who knows something of what happened in the last war, I am particularly desirous that nothing like it shall happen in this war, but it is quite possible that in this waT things will be done even worse than were done then. I hope that at a very early sitting of this Parliament the Attorney-General will make a complete statement of the position, and say explicitly what the Government intends to do in this matter. These cases cannot be allowed to drag on interminably and, if there is no better evidence to justify the internment of the people in New South Wales than there was to secure the conviction of the people in Western Australia, I am satisfied that justice is not being done.

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