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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne.) .- The reply which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) gave to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) indicates a departure in procedure that involves an invasion of the rights of citizens. Certain members of the Security Service considered that they possessed the right to ascertain the identity of a person who sent a particular telegram, and to interrogate pressmen who were associated with its transmission. These disclosures indicate how close methods in Australia are getting to those of the Gestapo. Evidently, some official was annoyed by a leakage of information. A meeting was held in Melbourne, and certain persons who had not been invited to attend obtained information about it, and a newspaper published certain facts concerning it. Although the news was not likely to be of value to the enemy, or to endanger the country, some official in a moment of pique declared that the person responsible must be discovered, so that, if necessary, appropriate action could be taken against him.

Mr SPENDER - I was concerned, not with the newspaper, but with the fact that some person in the Department o the Army, without authority, had rvealed the contents of a secret document to an unauthorized person, and that no steps had been taken to discover his identity.

Mr CALWELL - I am certainly concerned about the right of an official of the Department of the Army to order an investigation for the purpose of discovering certain facts. Those are Gestapo tactics.

I am not happy about the Security Service. The first director-general has resigned, and with all due respect to his qualifications as the Commissioner of Police in New South Wales, I consider that he was not a suitable person to be placed in charge of the Security Service. Nor am I very happy about the appointment of his successor, who is a brigadier in the Army. A rumour is circulating that the Department of the Army is determined to gain control of this organization. If the Army were to succeed in controlling a civil instrumentality such as the Security Service it would be a bad thing for the country. Whilst excellent reasons may exist why the Army should control a section of the work, I see no justification for placing a brigadier in charge of all the activities of this important organization. I ask the Attorney-General for an assurance that he will watch the actions of those who administer the wide and extraordinary powers that are vested in the Security Service. No specific provision is made in the Estimates for this organization. The information is concealed. Perhaps the Government considers that a disclosure of the vote would reveal to the enemy the number of officers engaged in tracking down spies in Australia. But if we can tell the nation how much is provided for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, I fail to see why the expenditure on the Security Service cannot be disclosed. I ask the Attorney-General to ensure that when the Estimates for his department are being compiled in future, the expenditure upon the Security Service will be set out specifically. I am not convinced that it is necessary even to have the Security Service. In addition to it, there are the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, the Military Intelligence Branch, the Naval Intelligence Branch,, and the State police. The personnel of the Security Service includes a sufficient number of generals and colonels to win any war. One member of the staff is Colonel Cohen, a barrister, of Newcastle, who is associated with some of the big coal-mines in New South Wales. Another officer, Major Tyrrell, is private secretary to the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Sir Alfred Davidson. I am not confident that men like them, will not abuse their powers in a crisis, particularly if working class interests are involved. Our civil liberties should not be endangered by entrusting extraordinary powers to this . organization, even in war-time. Under the National Security Regulations, a person may be held in custody for ten days before a charge is laid against him. Some persons have been so held on the most trivial charges. In peace-time, that could not occur, because the person detained would have access to the courts. The Attorney.General might well give consideration to the desirability of amending some of these regulations which give such great powers for detention without, right to obtain bail in order to prepare a defence. He should give urgent consideration to the eventual abolition of this body known as the Security Service. The trouble that occurred, in Melbourne over those telegrams, about some aspects of which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) complained, and about some other aspects of which 1 have complained, would never have occurred if we had not had a few people anxious to use their newly granted powers in order that they might demonstrate what an influence they were in the life of the community. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will give to the committee the assurance, in regard to the rights of_the people, that one would expect from him a3 a Labour member of Parliament. I congratulate the Attorney-General on the manner in which he cleared up the trouble caused by the Public Relations branch of the Army that was the. subject of much press comment on his return from abroad.

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