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Wednesday, 2 September 1942

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - I am in complete accord with what the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has said on this matter, but I say further that, whilst the honorable member forWarringah stated that the Opposition wanted to know the grounds on which members of the Australia First Movement in New South Wales were interned, it is possible that a full disclosure may not be made in open Parliament.

Mr Spender - Why not?

Mr HARRISON - I cannot see any reason why the grounds for the internment of these people should be revealed in open Parliament. If there is suspicion that any individual is likely to prejudice national security, there is no doubt that he should be interned.

Mr Calwell - Even on suspicion.

Mr HARRISON - Yes, even on suspicion, because the laws of this country have provided a tribunal to which an interned person may appeal to establish the fact that he has not been rightly interned. If there is the least breath of suspicion with regard to a person, considerations of national security dictate that no chances should be taken with him, but he should have the right to appeal to a tribunal, and, if a tribunal recommends, on the evidence placed before it, that he be released, he should be satisfied.

Mr Spender - Whose suspicion - any military officer's?

Mr HARRISON - There is a duly constituted intelligence and national security organization on whose reports internments are made. The honorable member for Warringah, when Minister for the Army, used that organization to the full. The evidence that is made available to military intelligence and the national security organization is the evidence on which internments are made. What I am more concerned about, and what this House should be concerned about, is the statement that was made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) with regard to these internees. I cannot agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) when hesays that these people should be released, and that they should then be given the right of an open trial. It is impossible, in time of war, to bring into open court every person interned because he thinks his internment is not justified.

Mr Spender - No one suggested that.

Mr HARRISON - The honorable member for Melbourne suggested that these people should be either released or brought to trial in open court. They cannot be brought to trial in open court, because, if that were done, the whole of the ramifications of national security and military intelligence would be disclosed to those people who wanted to know our under-cover men and our espionage system. There is in existence a tribunal composed of eminent legal men capable of sifting evidence; and, if the evidence placed before the tribunal be such as to warrant the release of interned persons, they are released. For national security reasons, the evidenceis not given in public. It is unfortunate that the Minister for the Army should have made the statement that he did. From his place in this House, he should attempt to justify what he said on the occasion referred to. That is as far as I am prepared to go. I am not in accord with the suggestion that these men should be brought to open trial. In time of war, many innocent persons suffer; the sufferers are not confined to internees. That is the fortune of war. The Minister has caused suffering to certain persons who may be innocent, and therefore he should attempt to justify bis statement.

Mr Forde - I did not mention one name.

Mr HARRISON - I do not accuse the Minister of mentioning names, but his statement caused certain names to be mentioned in this House. Some honorable members on this side have mentioned names, which the press has published, and therefore the cases of such persons have been prejudiced. It is unfortunate that some persons were interned without sufficient evidence being available; but they can now he released only by a tribunal. The point at issue is the responsibility devolving upon the Minister to attempt to justify his statement.

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