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Wednesday, 2 September 1942

Mr RANKIN (Bendigo) .- This is a case of much ado about nothing. I believe that these few cranks - for I think they are cranks, who were not extremely dangerous to the community - are of no consequence compared with the safety of Australia.

Mr Spender - Would you put a man in prison just because he is a crank?

Mr RANKIN - If a man is suspect in time of war, there is every reason to intern him.

Mr Spender - Suspected by whom?

Mr RANKIN - Suspected by the properly constituted authorities.

Mr Spender - The "properly constituted authority " might be the honorable member, or for that matter, anybody.

Mr RANKIN - That is correct.

Mr Spender - That is pretty tough.

Mr Abbott - Why not resort to the methods of Louis XXV.?

Mr RANKIN - There are properly constituted authorities to judge whether a man is a danger to the community. I believe that accused persons should have the right of appeal to a tribunal.

Mr Spender - That is an amazing concession by the honorable member.

Mr RANKIN - Such a tribunal has already been provided.

Mr Rosevear - The cases are heard in secret.

Mr RANKIN - Naturally they are heard in secret. Why should the rights of these twenty cranks be considered against the security of seven million persons? In war-time, we should not take any risks of that kind. In every nation that has been attacked and overthrown by the Nazis, there have been Quislings, traitors and fools who sought personal aggrandizement by making a pact with the enemy, or who hoped to save that section of the community which they represented.

Mr Pollard - So does the Country parity.

Mr RANKIN - The Country party has some justification for thinking that it can achieve results for the country that the Labor party will never achieve. In my opinion, the Minister would be very unwise to interferewith the functioning of the properly constituted tribunal which was appointed to deal with these cases. The chairman, as the result of his legal training, is accustomed to sifting evidence, and has an unbiased mind.

Mr.Calwell. - Look on this side of the House for such a man.

Mr RANKIN - The honorable member for Melbourne would not be my choice. It is essential that in war-time, the interests of a few individuals shall not be set against the safety of the nation. Some people are worrying about the internment of these few cranks, when they should be worrying about the welfare of Australians who have been interned in Japan and Germany, and of our troops who are enduring the rigours of prison camps or who are fighting for our right to exist as a nation. Why should we waste the time of the House in discussing the internment of a few cranks?

Mr Spender - The honorable member himself is delaying the House.

Mr RANKIN - If I were as verbose as the honorable member for Warringah possibly he would be justified in making that interjection. As a tribunal has been created to hear the appeals of these people against their internment, I say without hesitation that it is absolute rot for us to waste the time of the country in discussing this matter.

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