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Friday, 9 July 1915

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - This morning I was asked to give notice of a question which I desired to put to the Minister, and I have done so ; but, to make the question easier tc answer, I wish to say a few words about its subject-matter. What I desire to know is if the Dr. Ernst Carroll, who was mentioned in last night's Melbourne Herald as having given certain information concerning Australians interned in Germany, is identical with a man who some years ago resided in Australia under the name of F. J. Ernst, and, becoming a professor in the Hobart University, was entitled to call himself doctor? I do not know what the duties of the Commonwealth Trade Commissioner in Switzerland are, but if they be of any importance, it is inconsistent with our general policy regarding alien enemies that they should be discharged by a German.

Senator Bakhap - Is not Ernst a Swiss, born in a German-speaking canton ? I know the gentleman to whom the' honorable senator refers.

Senator O'KEEFE - I had an acquaintance with him extending over several years, and have reason to know him perhaps better than the honorable senator can. My acquaintance was so close that, although I will not say, under cover of parliamentary privilege, what I would say were he here to answer himself, I may mention that my knowledge of his character is such that I think that the Department of External Affairs ought not to allow him to occupy any position of trust and responsibility on behalf of the Commonwealth. When in Tasmania he used to call himself a German, and was known as F. J. Ernst, and if his name is now Carroll, there must be a reason for the change. After Ernst left Australia to reside in Switzerland, he acted there in some capacity for the Commonwealth, though I know that while here he had no great love for the British Empire.

Senator Bakhap - Quite so.

Senator O'KEEFE - If the Department of External Affairs knew about Ernst what is known to residents of Tasmania, it would not for a moment after the outbreak of war have countenanced his acting as an official representative of the Commonwealth. I make these statements with reluctance, because one does not like to attack a person in his absence, but the position seems to warrant plain speaking. The matter was brought under the notice of the Minister of External Affairs some months ago, and I and others were then given to understand that this gentleman's tenure of his office would be terminated because of his nationality. Whether he is. or is not what he was believed to be during his residence in Tasmania, the fact that he then called himself a German - and that all who knew him believed him to be one - should debar him from acting for the Commonwealth, now.

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