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Wednesday, 2 September 1942

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- There is only one aspect of this case to which I wish to refer. 1 associate myself in general with the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and I dissociate myself with the utmost alacrity and enthusiasm from the observation of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that in time of war the homes of decent citizens who are subjects of the Crown may be invaded or they themselves be thrown into prison, even though the place of detention be known by the more euphonious synonym of an internment camp, on the mere suspicion of some person. For my part, I should not be prepared to condemn a dog to his kennel, much less seize a respectable person and imprison him, on the mere suspicion of the honorable member for Wentwortb that some offence had been committed. I do not agree that any person should be so treated. When the honorable member for Wentworth says that there are tribunals available for those who are interned, I take this opportunity to say that I fear that the processes of the law in regard to these tribunals are most sluggish in their operation, and that the availability of these tribunals to interned persons is more theoretical than real. I have in mind the case of a person in the city of Melbourne who is well known to me. He is, indeed, a fellow practitioner. He has been seized and placed in an internment camp in another State, apparently on suspicion - there has certainly been no trial - that he has been guilty of some subversive activity. I take leave to have my own suspicions about the case, namely, that the action of the authorities is absurd and preposterous. I admit that my view is based on quite insufficient evidence, but I do know the attitude of the gentleman in question towards the charges made against him, and I am sufficiently well acquainted with him to know in a general way what his outlook on international affairs is. I know, also, that he was an accredited candidate at the recent federal elections in a constituency not far removed from my own, and I venture to suspect that he is a decent British subject and an honorable citizen. I take this opportunity publicly to ask the appropriate Minister - I suppose it is the Minister for the Army - that the hearing of such charges before the proper tribunal be expedited, so that men may not be punished in advance of proof by long periods of detention without trial. That is the charge which the honorable member for Melbourne has made, and which, I believe, expresses a view which is shared generally by members on both sides of the House. At least I hope that it is. It may be that the Minister, because of his multifarious duties, is not aware of the delays that occur. I intend to bring before him the case of the particular person of whom I am speaking. But what applies to him applies equally to others. I am confident that the Minister will not fall weakly into the habit of following the bad example set during the last war, when it was the regular practice of Ministers to quote as their authority the suspicions of certain highly placed military officers with regard to certain individuals, and upon those ex parte statements to deny to citizens, or indeed to aliens, the protection of the laws of this country. My principal object in speaking at this stage is to ask that those internees who hav applied for trial before a tribunal shall have their appeals heard with the greatest possible expedition. It is foreign to our conception of justice to keep men in prison for long periods without trial, either in war-time or at any other time, even when they are suspected of serious offences. I hope, therefore, that those persons who are entitled to trial by a tribunal established for the purpose will be given a speedy trial and not be detained unduly without having been heard in their own defence.

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