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Thursday, 8 July 1920

Mr GABB (ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I say that some of these people were removed to the internment camps upon suspicion. I am entitled to come to that conclusion from statements which were made by the Prime Minister in this House. I wish to be as fair to him as possible, and, though I may not use his own words, I quote similes which he made use of to show that he considered that it might be necessary sometimes to have people interned on suspicion. The first simile he used was in regard to loyalty to a political party. He said, in effect, that it is very hard to prove disloyalty on the part of an honorable member to his party or his leader; that one might feel sure that a certain man was disloyal, but at the same time it might be very hard to prove it. Whilst there may be some truth in that statement, I make bold to say that there is no member of his political party who would be expelled by the Prime Minister or by any leader merely because hesuspected him of disloyalty to the party. I quote the simile used by the Prime Minister as an admission that some of these people, even if there were only two, were interned on suspicion. We know that loyalty to a political party and loyalty to the country in which one is born are not to he compared, and even if only two of these < people who were born in this country were interned on suspicion, I say that they should be given an opportunity to appear before a body in whom they would have confidence, and he given a chance to clear themselves of the stigma cast upon them.

Another simile made use of by the Prime Minister was that of a person suspected to be suffering from small-pox or leprosy. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, "If a man comes off a boat, a doctor may say to him, ' I do not know whether you have small-pox or not. but I cannot take any risks, and must put you into quarantine on suspicion.' " I intend to refer to the case of a man suspected of suffering from quite another disease. So far as my knowledge goes, a sufferer from either small-pox or leprosy is not blameworthy.

Mr West - They are dirt diseases.

Mr GABB - So far as, my knowledge goes, sufferers from them are not blameworthy. A man may contract either of these diseases through no fault of his own. To justify the internment of any man, he should be blameworthy; and so I say that a fairer simile to use would be the case of a man suffering from the disease of syphilis.

Mr Jowett - Oh, no!

Mr GABB - I do not -want to exhibit any mock modesty in this matter. I wish to treat this question seriously; and so I say that it will be a fairer simile to take the case of a man suffering from the disease of syphilis, and assume that we had in operation a practice which, in my opinion, ought to be adopted, and that is the compulsory segregation of those suffering from this disease.

Mr Jowett - Male and female alike?

Mr GABB - The compulsory segregation of any persons suffering from this disease.


Mr GABB - I am coming to that part. I am merely instancing a simile, and have a right, therefore, to suggest a supposititious case. I will suppose that there is a law which provides for the segregation of persons suffering from syphilis, and that a man may be placed in quarantine on suspicion that he is suffering from the disease.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He can be in New South Wales.

Mr GABB - This is a serious matter, and I hope that honorable members will treat it seriously. If they had been confined in an internment tamp, and had had to put up with that indignity unjustly, it would be a serious matter for them. I suppose the case of a man who, on suspicion that he is suffering from syphilis, is placed in a quarantine camp with other persons who are there because they are known to have the disease. I then suppose the adoption of the procedure of emptying the whole camp upon the public when it is supposed the occupants have been cured of the disease. The man suspected of being a sufferer from the disease is turned out with those who have been cured of it, and no effort is made to clear him of the stigma cast upon him by his confinement in the quarantine camp. No effort is made to enable him to take up again his true position in society, and to restore to him the confidence of his wife and family. He is left to come out of the quarantine camp with a stigma upon him; and I assert that there is no difference between the case of such a man and the case of a man who, on suspicion, is placed in an internment camp, and is turned out afterwards with the stigma of disloyalty upon him.

That is a fairer simile to suggest than were those used by the Prime Minister, and, in my view, it indicates the position into which the Government have forced many Australian-born and naturalized people. Honorable members must see that they come out of the internment camp with the stigma of disloyalty upon them.

Sir Granville Ryrie - What were they put into the internment camps for?

Mr GABB - That is what they want to know, and what the Government will not tell them. It is in order to find out what they were interned for that I ask for the appointment of a Select Committee. The Prime Minister in another statement made in this House clearly showed that some of these people were put into the internment camps on suspicion. He said, "I do not think that we made many mistakes." That statement carries with it the admission that the Government did make some mistakes. Of course, we know that they made some mistakes, and I have reason to believe that they made many.

Mr Jowett - Even the electors sometimes make mistakes.

Mr GABB - The honorable member thinks he can "chip in" as much as he likes. The electors made a mistake when they sent him here. The point I make is that there must be some of these people now in the community who bear the stigma of disloyalty upon them. The very fact that they feel the stigma of disloyalty shows that some of them are not disloyal. If a man were disloyal do honorable members think that it would worry him, except, perhaps, in .business, to be called disloyal. I have tested the heartstrings of many of these people, and I know that they suffer intensely at being called disloyal to this country.

Mr Bell - T should not mind being called disloyal. It would not trouble me in the least.

Mr GABB - The honorable member says he would not mind being called disloyal, but if he reflects upon the matter he will admit that if he were born of a race that is being persecuted in this country he would feel it intensely if he were called disloyal.

Mr Bell - If it were true, of course I should.

Mr GABB - I thank the honorable member for his interjection. That is just the point. If it were true he would feel it, and I am satisfied that in regard to many of these people who do feel it, the statement that they are disloyal is not true, and this applies particularly to Australianborn persons who were interned".

Mr Jowett - =Does the honorable member say that none of these people were disloyal?

Mr SPEAKER - I ask the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) not to interject.

Mr GABB - I am coming to the close of my remarks. I feel my heart beginning to patter rather fast, and- 1 frankly admit that it annoys me to think that there should be some Australian-born men who can sit in this House and show no desire to give to other Australians an opportunity to clear themselves of the stigma of disloyalty. That hurts me.

There has been, so far as I know, only one civil inquiry held in regard to these matters. I do not refer to one that was held recently in regard to the deportation of Father Jerger and Dr. Hirschfield. I am not- dealing with their case at all. The inquiry to which I refer was held at Loxton. I quoted nearly the whole of the report of that inquiry in a previous speech in this House, and will not inflict it again upon honorable members. But I desire again to bring under their notice the fact that the magistrate holding that inquiry used these words -

Clearly no inference of actual disaffection or disloyalty was to be drawn from the mere fact of internment.

That is not any "gas" of mine, but the matured verdict of a man trained to receive evidence and weigh the pros and cons. That was the verdict of Mr. Hewitson, who, so far as I know, is a man of entirely British origin.

Mr Bell - That settles the honorable member's argument.

Mr GABB - If we could get.the people of Australia to think in that way it would be all right ; but in regard to certain men

I have been told, " Oh. but he was interned," and that statement has been made as if it were a sufficient answer to everything. It is not a sufficient answer ; but, unfortunately, it is so regarded by some people in Australia who do not know that certain persons were put into the internment camps on mere suspicion. In regard to the evidence at the inquiry to which I have referred, I quoted the remarks of the Judge on one of the military men who gave evidence. While giving him credit for his war duties, as the man had done good service, the magistrate said -

Either his memory was at fault, or he was prepared to make out his case without regard to the truth.

That is a serious statement, and judging by the information which has reached me, the same thing has happened in other cases. The time to speak of that is not yet, but if what I have been told in that regard is true, there will not be many people who in future will condemn me for trying to obtain justice for Australian-born subjects. The only inquiry that has been held has related to the cases of two men, both of whom have been cleared of any suspicion. The acquittals to date having been 100 per cent, of the cases tried, surely that is a reason why the House should appoint a Select Committee so that others may have an equal opportunity to clear themselves. Six of the men who are interned in South Australia were justices of the peace. As a rule, men are not appointed to the commission of the peace unless they have proved to be good citizens, although, at times, political influence does enter into these appointments. To me it is remarkable that men who held such a high status in the community should be interned on on the accusation of, I know not whom, and that their own assertions should go for nought. Some of them were arrested in the middle of the night, and immediately swept into the internment camp. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), in answer to an interjection, said that he differentiated between Germans and Australian-born citizens of German origin. I think we ought to do that, and I ask honorable members, particularly those who fought against the Germans, and who know more of their conduct than I do, to distinguish between the two classes of people, and vote for the appointment of a Select Committee, so that justice may be done to those who, like themselves, were horn on Australian soil.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I formally second the motion.

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