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Friday, 29 March 1946

Mr DEDMAN - That is not a fact.

Mr BOWDEN - I have here particulars of a specific case which has occurred. The. man was serving in the Navy.

Mr Dedman - The Navy may have claimed that he was a key man, and could not be released. That is a different matter, but if he was eligible to start his second year at the. university he would, in the ordinary course of events, have been released.

Mr BOWDEN - .He was probably not eligible in point of time, because, he had not actually completed the year, but L say that he had completed the course for the first year. Therefore, his next course would be the course for the second year. In order to 'prove that such action, which I regard as an evasion of the. intention and spirit of the act, is more by design than by accident, I quote a further extract from this letter signed by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and .this quotation neither gains nor loses by being divorced from its context. It is -

Cabinet decided tha.t these stateless aliens, provided they applied for naturalization, shall bo eligible for reconstruction ' benefits on the same basis as other servicemen.

The term "stateless'" is used again, but I believe that there is no legal backing for the use of such a word. If the men are stateless, they are so only by reason of an Australian proclamation, and the term is not recognized by our own immigration authorities. If it is here applied to the members of the Jewish race who left their own country, either voluntarily or compulsorily, in order to escape persecution, it can have no force to-day, because the tyranny which drove then? out no longer exists.

The second criticism which I have to offer relates to the phrase " provided they apply for naturalization". I understand that the law in this regard provides that an alien must reside in this country from three to six years before becoming eligible for naturalization, and I cannot imagine that the period during which the men concerned 'were compulsorily detained in this country would count as a part of the qualifying period. Therefore, this provision about applying for naturalization, which cannot be granted until some years hence, is not acceptable. It would appear that the act is being interpreted by Cabinet decision in its original form, and the intention of the amendment unanimously carried by this Parliament is ignored. The matter calls for elucidation by two Ministers - first, the Minister for the Army, without whose concurrence the releases could not take place; and, secondly, by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, without whose approval the men could not enter a university. The act provides quite clearly that no alien shall be eligible under its provisions, and I maintain that no alien should be allowed to take up a course in a university until the requirements of the last Australian soldier have been met. If the Minister is able to give an explanation to satisfy me and the public I shall be pleased.

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