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Thursday, 8 July 1920

Mr WIENHOLT (Moreton) . - I am sorry that this motion has been moved. Had it been proposed by anybody but the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), I should have said that it had been brought forward for the purpose of making political capital out of the cases of interned Germans. I do not make that accusation against the honorable member for Angas, because I give him credit for being as sincere as is any other honorable member in . this House. But the motion is exceedingly useless. The inquiry which is asked for could do no possible good; at the best it could be only expensive and wasteful, whilst it might be positively mischievous. It relates to a matter that is past and done with. I do not think that even the internees, whose cases have been advocated, would 'thank the honorable member for proposing an inquiry into the reasons for which they were interned. Much of the difference between the honorable member and myself is due to the fact that he is very much more of an optimist than I am. He said that he never felt, at any time during the war, that Australia or the British Empire was in any danger. That view is held by very few honorable members. Perhaps, because the honorable member believed that the British peoples were in no danger, he takes, a different view of the need for internment. To my mind, both Australia and the British Empire were for many years in very grave peril indeed, and while that danger continued internment was a perfectly justifiable precaution. I do not say that it is very pleasant to be interned - I was a prisoner of war for six months - but I am sure that the internees in Australia enjoyed very much better conditions than did Australian soldiers who were in the hands of the enemy. When I was made a prisoner of war, I had been slightly wounded in the hip; my experience commenced with a thirty-days' march without any halt. Only twice during that time was my wound dressed at all. Then for nearly three months it received no "attention, because there was no doctor in the camp. At night the wound adhered to the mattress because I had neither sheet nor blankets. I am not complaining about the treatment; it was all in the game of war, and my hardships were light, compared with those suffered by others. But I think it is ridiculous to endeavour to arouse sympathy for the men who were interned in Australian camps. They, at any rate, knew when and where they would get their next meal; they were reasonably certain that next day they would be sitting at the mess table as usual. That is more than was known by the soldiers serving at the Front. Internment was a necessary precaution during war time, but I admit that it should not in -itself be regarded as absolute proof of disloyalty. I have already fought that battle, and I would take strong exception to the Government saying that internment in itself is definite proof of a man's disloyalty and sufficient reason for his deportation. In regard to that matter we ought to act carefully. One case in which I have taken a good deal of interest has brought upon me a good deal of blame; in fact, I am not sure that I have not incurred thereby, even myself, a suspicion of disloyalty. But when I went to the Prime Minister and asked that before deportation the man's case should be reviewed he was perfectly fair. The case was reviewed in the manner we requested, and one must abide by the result. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and I both represent electorates which include a large number of persons who were either born in . Germany and came to Australia as children or young men, or are the descendants of such. I have previously made plain my position in regard to them, and that attitude I shall never alter. But the honorable member for Angas has admitted that the feelings which were aroused during the war are cooling down, and I ask him whether it is not better, instead of stirring up and perpetuating bitter feelings which will lead to that most abominable thing in a British community - racial bitterness - which, wherever it asserts itself, weakens the Empire, that we should realize that the bad years are past, and now help all sections of the community to live together in friendliness and unity as fellow- Australians and British subjects.

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