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Wednesday, 16 September 1942

Mr BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) . - I feel that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has unconsciously done a great disservice to the Australian fighting forces in bringing forward this matter in the terms he has used. This is the first occasion during the war that any responsible member has tried, in this Parliament or through the press, to cause a division within the forces in regard to their political ideas. It would be very dangerous if from this the impression grew throughout the forces that they might be governed by one political thought or another. It would be injurious to our fighting forces overseas, and particularly dangerous within the whole Army organization. It would be even more dangerous if the remarks of the honorable member were published in the Japanese papers. Like the honorable member for Melbourne, I do not know whether Aircraftman Falstein is guilty or not. I might agree with him in saying that probably the accused is guilty to a certain degree, but I think that Aircraftman Falstein started this stupid business by making statements which ought never to have been made by any person who joins the forces of his own free will in order to serve his country side by side with others. He was the first in the whole of the Commonwealth forces to make such a statement to the press, when he said that some of the lads in the camp who cut off half his moustache had done it for political- motives. Whilst we may have laughed at the joke at the time, I thought it was a dangerous statement which only a member like the honorable member for Watson would stoop to make, after taking the oath to stand side by side with the rest of the. forces in a unity which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has asked the public to display. We must realize that we are all in it, and must drop our everyday ideals and come together in the one resolve and determination to win the war and to stand together without dividing the people. If Aircraftman Falstein is due for " clink", to adopt an expression I heard an honorable member use, there is no more reason why he, because he is a member, should be released than any other unfortunate fellow who had no friend in this Parliament. If he is guilty he should stay there. The Minister should exercise a wise judgment in this matter, and Aircraftman Falstein should not, because he is a member of this Parliament, be granted any more concession than the humblest private who has broken the conditions to which he subscribed on enlistment.

Mr Morgan - Was it not a very provocative act for those young fellows to remove half of his moustache?

Mr BERNARD CORSER - WhatI blame him for on that occasion is attributing that incident to political differences between the young men and himself. I am sure that no member of any of the forces would ever be influenced by such a motive. The honorable member for Melbourne has to-night set a very bad precedent, and I hope the censor will put his pen through the honorable member's remarks, so that the matter cannot go any further, especially at this time when our men are fighting side by side in New Guinea and the Middle East. We must out out the evil thought that has been propagated by Aircraftman Falstein and ventilated here to our detriment by the honorable member for Melbourne to-night.

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