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Thursday, 8 July 1920

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - A few months ago, when this matter was raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), I availed myself of the opportunity to express my sentiments. I cannot understand why the motion should have been referred to by the mover as unpopular. I do not admit that it is. If it be unpopular to give justice where justice is due it is a bad state of affairs for the country. Any unpopularity that surrounds this endeavour on the part of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) can be duc only to misrepresentation of the subject. The mere wording of the resolution is sufficient to disarm all suspicion and illfeeling. Honorable members opposite have interjected regarding the war services of honorable members on this side who are supporting the request for this inquiry. I believe that those remarks were made in a jocular spirit. ' It is quite irrelevant whether those who support the motion served at the Front or not. As for the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I do not think he touched the matter at all. He said it was past and done with, and that it should be allowed to rest. That is all very well from his point of view. Perhaps the attitude of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) in regard to this subject, from the beginning, may be such that he does not want it resurrected. I will say no more with respect to that; but this matter is not done with. In the interests of justice, it is not going to be allowed to rest. In the interests of fair play to these people, who are living in Australia under a cloud, having a stigma upon them, it is not going to be dropped. I ask the honorable member for Moreton how this subject can be regarded as past and done with in the eyes of those who have been treated, not as Australian-born citizens, but as lepers, or worse? This motion asks, among other things, that any native-born or naturalized subject who, by statutory declaration, affirms that he has reasonable grounds for believing his internment to have been the result of untruthful information, maliciously furnished, shall have the circumstances investigated.

Mr Hector Lamond - He can secure that now. It has never been refused to one who has taken that stand.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Tha t statement is absolutely unfounded.

Mr Hector Lamond - There has not been a case in regard to which such a request has been made that has not been inquired into. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) did not cite a single case in which an inquiry was demanded.

Mr Gabb - It is useless to demand an inquiry.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If what the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) says is true, there can be no objection to the appointment of a Select Committee.' When this subject was originally before the House, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said he had no objection to the proposition. Today I expect to hear a favorable reply from the Government. I have received letters concerning men who were interned, who are prepared to make statutory declarations in. regard to their innocence, and who claim an inquiry. If names are wanted, I will furnish them. I have one case, particularly, in mind. It is that of an Australian-born citizen of the second generation who was a district councillor. While occupying that position, he promulgated the most comprehensive scheme for the repatriation of soldiers that has yet come under my notice. During the war, he went on the public platform and advocated enlistment. He and his family have subscribed to the war loans in generous fashion. However, there are always some people who bear enmity against their neighbours. The Prime Minister has stated that among the internees were some who found themselves there because of information supplied by the secret service. In the district to which I am referring, the secret service was represented by men who bore personal enmity against this Australian-born councillor. His accusers were animated by motives of personal spleen. They made false statements, and their victim was interned as a result. That is his firm belief to-day. The Prime Minister himself has said it is possible that mistakes were made.

Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - It is a good thing it was possible.


Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - Possible to intern these men.


Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - Does the Government always do things wrongly ?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps there are cases in which men were rightly interned, but what has that to do with the cases of those who were wrongly interned ? Surely the latter have the right of trial. It is one of our boasted ideals that every man shall be deemed innocent until he has been proved guilty. Here was onewho had been openly loyal. Upon his internment he asked for an inquiry. Through his solicitors, the matter came before the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), but the reply of the Department was that the internee would not be given an opportunity to prove that the case against him was based on false evidence; that he would not be given a chance to disprove those statements on which he was interned; but that he would be given an opportunity to furnish evidence of any acts of loyalty which he might have performed. Is that a fair thing?

Mr Hector Lamond - I do not think that is the whole case.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will give the whole case. He was not allowed to tender any evidence to refute the charges upon which he had been interned. Those charges were never made known to him. Even to-day he does not know what they are. He saw that the only thing open to him was to furnish evidence of his acts of loyalty; so he provided it. His scheme of repatriation was placed before the authorities. It was shown, on his behalf, that he had taken part in recruiting campaigns, and it was proved that he and his family had subscribed liberally to war loans. All this, however, was of no use. The one thing for which he had asked was that the charges levelled against him might be made known; but he was informed that no inquiry would be granted, and that no statement concerning charges would be made. That is the whole case.

Mr Hector Lamond - No; there is another chapter.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the honorable member will have an op portunity to make known that other chapter. An inquiry was refused. At some later period a number of returned men from his district presented themselves to me, and asked me to introduce them as a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in order that they might elicit the nature of the charges made against their interned neighbour. We waited upon the Prime Minister, and the returned soldiers made reference to the internee's loyal services. At the conclusion of the deputation, I said to Mr. Hughes, "Do I understand that this man must go down to the grave without ever knowing what charge was made against him?" The Prime Minister replied. " That is so." Comparatively recently this man presented himself as a candidate for election to the local shire council, but he found himself the victim of the stigma which is now and always hanging over his head. Yet the honorable member for Moreton says, " Let the stigma remain."

Mr Wienholt - I did not say, "Let the stigma remain."

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What the honorable member said was, " Let the matter rest."

Mr Wienholt - Hear, hear!

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This ex-internee is now adjudged unworthy to represent his fellow countrymen upon a shire council. He is boycotted.

Mr Hector Lamond - By the people on the spot, where all the facts are known.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is all due to the stigma, which, he asserts, is absolutely unfounded, but which, apparently, he may never remove. The honorable member forIllawarra (Mr. Lamond), I feel sure, will not say in his calm moments that if this man and others of his neighbours are innocent they should never be given an opportunity to prove it. Whether it were popular or not I shall always be found taking exactly the same stand as I do to-day. But, so far from being unpopular, it ought to be the reverse. Surely it ought tobe a privilege for every member to take his stand on the side of justice and fair play in a country that prides itself upon its liberty-loving principles. The honorable member forIllawarra has urged that no cases have been cited. I will now quote the case of another man who was interned, and therefore was interested in the deputation to the Prime Minister. This man had a son at the Front. He volunteered this information, or it was supplied on his behalf at the time of his arrest, but owing, no doubt to the underhand methods employed, and because of personal animus of members of the secret service, amongst whom the man lived, it was some considerable time before he could get this simple statement of fact through to the Defence Department. He now has in his possession a letter from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), to show that when it became known to the Defence authorities that he had a son at the Front, he was released, and admitting that if it had been known at the time he would not have been interned.

Mr Brennan - That is the first instance I have heard of the Defence Department listening to reason.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Unfortunately, it took a long time for that simple statement to reach the authorities; whereas, if everything had been above board 'it should have been known next day.

Mr Hector Lamond - It was largely his own fault at the beginning that it was not known.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is wrong, because the statement was made at the time of his arrest. The honorable .member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) might be quite right in affirming that some people deserved to be interned, but I am not dealing with that aspect of the matter at all. I say that if for good reasons 1,000 were interned, surely there could be no objection to an effort being made to secure justice for a tenth of that number if they believed they had been interned wrongly. Quite a number of these people declare that 'they know of no reason for their internment, and, naturally, they feel the stigma that at- "taches to them. They are suffering in business and public life because of it, and they believe that if they had an opportunity ofsubmi feting their oases before a proper tribunal they would be able to prove their innocence. I regret to think that even one member of this House would say that such men are not entitled to a chance to answer such a charge. I do not want to labour the question, and so I will conclude by saying that I believe many of them are suffering an injustice, and that they were intoned because of false reports furnished to the authorities by other residents animated by personal bias. I have ample evidence to prove this statement right up to the hilt, and it is the duty of this House, and particularly of every honorable member who saw active service at the Front, in what he regarded as 'the fight for liberty and f air play, to see that fellow citizens - because many of these interned men are Australian-born citizens - get that British fair play for which they fought.

Mr. BELL(Darwin) T5.55].- Very few words will suffice to put my view of the question. The honorable member who submitted the motion made an appeal for justice on behalf of Australian-born citizens who were interned during the war period, and he made a special appeal, as did the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, to those who have served overseas. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) made some veiled accusations of ill-treatment of internees, but when I asked him, by way of interjection, to cite a case, he said he would defer doing so to a later date, giving as his reason his belief that some of these people were afraid to come forward and tell what they knew.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - You will admit that my cases are pretty genuine.

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