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Thursday, 26 June 1941

Senator CAMERON (Victoria) . - I have asked in the Senate a- question dealing with internees, for the purpose of combating rumours which I regard as highly injurious and prejudicial to the best interests of this country, particularly with respect- to its war effort. Recently I asked this . question -

How many internees have been released by the Internee Courts of Appeal appointed for that -purpose in Australia?

I received the following reply: -

I regret that I am not in a position to furnish this information, as it is not in the national interest that it should be disclosed.

It is rumoured that quite a number of internees are being releasedby the appeal tribunals. I am not in the position to -say whether 'or not those rumours are true, but I fail toseehowitcouldadversely affectthenationalinteresttodisclosethe information ' sought. If -the -rumours are not denied by. the Government,' they will' gainin strength-,- particularly since- the' . matterhasreceivedsomepublicity.The impressionwillgetabroadthatthose internees: who are possessed of funds, and: who are therefore able to brief counsel' to: ' assist them',, are able 'to obtain- their release, while' others less 'fortunately situated . remainin internment. The Government is asking the. people to make even, greater efforts to assist in the prosecution of the war, but the circulation of rumoursof this kind will not encourage the people to respond. The Government has nothing to lose by being perfectly frank. The public knowthat these tribunals have been established, and that appeals are being heard every day. They believe that some of the internees are being released, so there is no reason why they should not be told how many. The Government is, by its silence, doing much to injure its own cause,. especially when the impression gets abroad that persons of enemy origin, who areunfriendly to Australia, are' being permitted- to go 'free.

Senator,ARMSTRONG (New South Wales) [11.15].- I support the remarks of Senator Amour regarding the chairmen of the recently, appointed parliamentary standing committees. It seems to me that the Government . is trying to placate certain members of the House of Representatives. What qualifications does the honorable member' for Henty (Mr. Coles) possess for the position of chairman of the Man-power, and Resources Survey Committee ? Possibly the Government is trying to induce him to take the first,, or second or third step towards becoming a member of the United Australia party. The Opposition is seeking to co-operate with the Government as far as possible, and it regards the Man-power, and Resources Survey Committee as one of the most, important of all, but the appointment of the honorable member for Henty as chairman, when he has had no previous experience of the work, and is not even a member of an accredited . party in the. Parliament, willlead to fraction. I may mention alsothe appointment of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) as chairman of one of the committees. It was common knowledge that he was disappointed because he' was not- made the Government Whip- in the House of Representatives, sothe Government is possibly seeking' to placate him by giving- him this appointment. I am. sure that the work of the committees will suffer as a result of the action taken by the Government. I hope, that it is not too late for the: Government to reconsider its decision. It should allow the: members of the. committee's' to meet and' appoint their own chairmen.

I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) to the method used by the military authorities in selecting camp sites in New South Wales. The; citizens of many towns, which possess' local advantages and prior claims, cannot understand why those towns have been passed over. One such town from, which complaints have been many and. con tinuous- is Young, represented: in this Parliament by the Postmaster-General' (Mr. Collins). Military officers visited the town, and" afterwards stated' that it did. not. possess the. necessary facilities- to justify placing a camp in that vicinity.' They did not introduce1 themselves to- the local authorities; they visited the town, and nobody knew how long they stayed. or what they- did. Afterwards they made their report. They did' not state in what' way the town- was unsuitable, and the. people of Young regard ' the action taken as very unsatisfactory, particularly as at Cowra, only 27 milesaway, a military camp, to which a mechanized section is attached, has been established, besides an internees' camp for the accommodation of many thousands of persons. Naturally, there is much jealousy between towns when one is given an abundance of Government favours, whilst others starve. Those townswhich are neglected are losing- their population, and enlistments are falling off. 'Some towns are given toomuch, while others, such as Young, although possessing many natural, advantages, receive nothing. I should like the Minister for Supply and Development to bring my remarks before the Minister for the Army, with the request that the military authorities should again visit Young and consult with the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors on this, matter. Their neglect to do so in the first instance has causedmuch local indignation, with the result that many protest meetings have been held. I am confident that if' the course which I advocate were adopted, ' much of this dissatisfaction would disappear.

SenatorLECKIE (Victoria- Minister for Aircraft Production) [11.21].- This morning Senator Aylett asked the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs : -

1.   Can- the Deputy Prices Commissioner in Tasmania fix the price of hay in Tasmania, if the price of hay is not fixed in other States?'

2.   If so, would that not be discriminating, against Tasmanian farmers and against the. State of Tasmania?

I now inform the honorable senator that the Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -

1.   Hay is not a declared commodity and while the Deputy Prices' Commissioner in Tasmania has no legal authority to fix. prices he has intervened to prevent prices rising to too higha level. A similar supervision is being exercised in other States.

2.   See answer to No. 1.

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