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Friday, 29 March 1946

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- This matter should be removed from the emotional atmosphere in which it has been considered. There, are twenty aliens scattered among the six Australian universities. One thousand three hundred and fifty Australian troops who were students in . the same year have been released, of whom 911 are in universities and the rest in training colleges. To-day, the time of the House has been, wasted by the suggestion that, because twenty aliens and 1,350 Australians in their second year have been released, the Government has shown a pro-foreign and an- anti-" digger " bias. The honorable member for Corangamite(Mr. McDonald) told us that military officers frequently refrain from discharging those who have done well in the forces on the ground that they are key men. This problem will always arise in dealing with a large impersonal organization. There are 350,000 persons still in the forces, and they are scattered all over the Commonwealth. Does the honorable member suggest that when an inquiry is made concerning the release of a man, and his commanding officer sends back a statement from the other side of the continent saying that he is a key man, the Minister can immediately authorize the man's release? I recognize that ministerial responsibility is a first principle of government, but we must view these matters with common sense, and in practice the Minister must listen to the commanding officer concerned. Coming back to the facts, which honorable members opposite have studiously ignored in their usual attempt to ride on the soldier's hack, we see the matter in its true light, and realize that there are four points to be considered : First, the total number of aliens released from employment companies for the purpose of taking up second-year courses at a university is twenty. Secondly, of these one' was already a naturalized British subject, which left nineteen who were still refugee aliens. Thirdly, the present priority points for release are 130. Fourthly, of the twenty aliens released, four already had qualified under the points system, the number of their points being i66, 140, 138, and 134 respectively. Thus, only sixteen have been released before their proper time.

Mr Bernard Corser - Where did the honorable member get those figures?

Mr BEAZLEY - From the Department of the Army. Of the others, eleven were within eight points for the required number, and they would have been, released by now in any case. Therefore, this storm in a tea cup concerns five persons who had the following number of points- 102, 106, 10S, 108, 1.1.6. The action of the authorities in this matter has been condemned by members of the Opposition as indicating a bias against the "diggers" in favour of aliens. Let me here refer to the technique of debate as practised by members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said that there were -00,000 persons in the forces, and the Government was giving university training to only 911. 'Consider what a vicious statement that is. The figure 911 refers only to men released for a second-year course at a university. It does not include those released under the points system to begin a university course with government assistance. It does not include either first-year or third-year indents. The statement of the honorable member suggests that all of the 500,000 persons he mentioned as being in the forces are matriculated students ready to begin a university course. When the honorable member for Fawkner was a Minister, he had on his staff a Professor Mauldon, who wrote a book called the Use and Abuse of Statistics. It appears to me that the honorable member studied that section dealing with the abuse of statistics, rather than the one dealing with their proper use. He also ignored the matter of key men in the force?. The Government has ordered the release of men qualified to begin a second-year course at a university, unless there is good reason for retaining them, and I have already pointed out how difficult it is for a Minister in Canberra to reach a decision on that point contrary to the recommendation of the man's commanding officer. Moreover, the honorable member said that, according to Professor Mills, there is still plenty of room in the universities for discharged servicemen. If that is so, then, ipso facto, the presence of a few aliens in the universities is not keeping out men from the forces.

The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) spoke of the undesirable character of many aliens. I do not know whether by that sneer he was trying to make 'an appeal to racial prejudice, and to suggest that there was something undesirable about the twenty aliens under discussion. I do not know the men per- _sonally, but, apparently, the honorable member for Barker shares with the Deity a complete knowledge of them and their affairs.. I believe that his statement represented an attempt to whip up among members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia a belief that the Government was favouring aliens at the expense of returned men, and the honorable member makes this attempt in spite of the fact that there is now a record number of exservicemen studying at universities under the best scheme of assistance to returned soldiers that this country has ever seen. Honorable members are suggesting that, because five persons lacking the requisite number of points have been admitted to the universities, of which there are six in Australia, a grave injustice is being' done to ex-servicemen. I never heard a more absurd statement in my life. Ever since the end of questions to-day the time of the House -has been wasted by honorable members opposite in an attempt to stir up racial prejudice, and to make a base appeal to what they imagine to be the opinion of returned soldiers. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) ought to be ashamed for having raised this matter. In the demobilization of 350,000 persons absolute justice cannot always be done. If any injustice has occurred it could have been rectified by correspondence with the Minister.

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