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Friday, 29 March 1946

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) .- The motion before the House raises four issues : First, that aliens of enemy origin have been released to take up courses at the universities; secondly, that the conditions of their release have been -made more favorable than those which apply to Australian servicemen; thirdly, that this is contrary to the spirit and intention of section 4 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act; and fourthly, that this is a matter of grave national importance.

In order to understand this matter, it is necessary to explain what is the policy of the Government regarding the release of servicemen for university studies, and to explain why certain procedures were adopted. The Government presented to Parliament a White Paper on the sub ject of demobilization, the paper being accepted by Parliament, and by members of the forces, with very little criticism. In the plan for demobilization set out in that document, provision was made for a certain number of occupational releases, and release for study at a university was treated as a particular form of occupational release. The Government had consulted with the university authorities, and it, was' learned, that the number of persons attending this year for second and subsequent year courses wa.s comparatively small. That, of course, was the result of what had been done during the Avar to ensure that young men would be available for military service, or for work in munitions factories. In this regard, exceptions were made in respect of certain classified faculties. The result is, that in the second and subsequent year courses there is this year room for an increased number of students. Therefore, the Government decided, as a matter of policy, that all servicemen who had successfully completed one year at a university, and were therefore eligible to begin a second-year course, would become eligible for accelerated release. One strong reason for this was that if the servicemen were not released this year so that they could immediately take up courses at a university, the large number of men and women now in their first year would go forward into the second-year courses, and there would not be room for servicemen. That policy has been applied to all men in the services who pre eligible under the Re-establishment and Employment Act. I shall deal with that aspect later. At the moment I am dealing with the fourth point raised by the honorable member for Gippsland, namely, that this is a matter of grave national importance. Under the decision to which I have referred, 911 men have been given accelerated releases from the services. All who applied for accelerated releases have been released. Of the 913, rn lv 21 are what the honorable member (tills stateless aliens. I emphasize that not one Australian serviceman or servicewomen, or civilian, has been denied the opportunity to attend a university because of those 21 releases. That being so. the claim that this is a. matter of grave national importance' cannot be sustained.

I deprecate the view that, a person, who, after coming to Australia, accepts all the responsibilities of citizenship, including that of volunteering to servo in whatever capacity he is allowed to serve, should be denied opportunities to make himself a better citizen of this country and so rentier batter (service to it, merely because he is not n British subject.

Mr Bowden - So do I; but that has nothing to do with these cases.

Mr DEDMAN - Every man in the Australian forces who was eligible to enter a second, or subsequent, year's course at a university was given the right to apply for an accelerated release; and every one of those who applied for it was released, except a few individuals who were in key positions in the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force. The decision in their cases rested with my colleagues, and honorable members will agree that certain individuals could not have been released. Their numbers, however, would be small. These 21 stateless aliens applied for their discharges in the ordinary way, and were included in the total of 911 who were given accelerated discharges, and were subsequently released. Since these men were granted an asylum in Australia before the war, and all of them served this country in whatever capacity they were allowed to serve, they were fully entitled to the same opportunities for discharge, and reestablishment as other members of the forces. .

Mr ARCHif: Cameron - Notwithstanding what the. law says?

M-r. DEDMAN. - I shall come to that point presently. The claim made by the honorable member for Gippsland that these men were interned in Great Britain is, in respect of many of them, unfounded. His speech gave the impression that, all of them were interned in Great Britain and sent to Australia, and that they joined the forces subsequently. T know where the honorable member obtained his information concerning these men. Some people are capable of using in all sorts of ways information obtained in an official capacity; I do not refer to departmental officers. The impression conveyed by the honorable member's speech was that these m-en were interned in 1940, when great numbers of people in Great Britain were taken into custody. At that time the British Government could not take any risks with aliens, and many persons were interned without: adequate reason. That applied particularly to aliens who had been sent to the Isle of Man- and to the northern parts of the British Isles. Later, their cases were inquired into, by an officer sent to Australia by the British Government for the purpose, and many of them were released because there was no case against them, indeed, in many instances, there was no justification for their internment, other than the fact that the British Government could not afford to take even the slightest risk. A good many of these people came to Australia long before the war began.

Mr BOWDEN -- I .omitted to mention that one of them was a naturalized British subject.

Mr DEDMAN - I have here a list showing the date of departure of .these men from their own country. Some of them left as far back as 1933, and others left in 1935, 193S and 1939. Obviously, none of those men could have been interned anywhere before they came here, unless they had been interned by Fascist or Nazi forces in either Italy or Germany.

Mr Hughes -- Where did they come from ?

Mr DEDMAN - They came from the continent of Europe. Previously, most, nf them were residents of either Germany or Austria. They left those countries when Hitler came into power because they did not like the type of government that was being set up.

Mr Bowden - They left a long time after Hitler came into power.

Mr DEDMAN - That could not be true of those who left in 1933. Part V. of the lie-establishment and Employment Act, which deals in a general way with demobilization does not preclude stateless or refugee aliens from being released from the forces on equal terms with other members of the forces. That is specifi- ally provided for in section fi3 (2) which road.? -

The scheme sha.ll be prepared so as to apply. so far a.s is practicable, uniformly to members nf the Military Forces, the Naval Forces and (lie Air Force.

Mr Mcewen - Will the Minister state the total number of applications for release for the second-year course?

Mr DEDMAN - The total number must have 'been 911, because every application submitted was granted.

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - The applications of key men were not granted.

Mr DEDMAN - My information is that all who asked for accelerated release to resume courses at. universities were freed. If the honorable gentleman can cite one example to prove the inaccuracy of my statement - and I frankly admit that I may be wrong to that limited extent - then the. number anight be one less than I have stated. Let me revert now to section 4 of the act which deals with . definitions. The mover of the motion referred to the definition of the term "member of the forces ". Section 4 lays down that the term "member of the forces " does not include any enemy alien who served during the war as a member ' of the Army Labour Corps, hut not otherwise. The honorable member has explained how this amendment came to be included in the act. If my memory serves me right, the wording of that amendment was suggested to me by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). One of the points made by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is that in some letter which the honorable gentleman is able to quote I used the terms " employment companies " in the same connotation as the term "Army Labour Corps " is used in the act, and that I now draw a distinction between them. I point out however, that before these men were ever in employment companies they were in other units of the services. They had volunteered for active service but the army authorities, probably thinking that, because of their origin the position of these men in the fighting forces might be difficult, decided to draft them into employment companies. They had a period of service before they joined the employment companies, and because of that they are technically entitled to release ou the same conditions as are other members of the forces. The most important point, however, and one which 1 think clinches my argument, is that the . 21 persons we have been discussing to-day are refugee or stateless aliens and noi enemy aliens. We find definitions of these twins in regulations issued by the Government. Under the National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations mid also the National Security (Aliens Service) Regulations, the Commonwealth Government has carefully distinguishedbetween refugee and enemy aliens. In regulation 3 of ihe National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations enemy aliens are defined as people who possess the nationality of a State at war with His Majesty, or being stateless, at any time possessed the nationality of a state which is at wai- with His Majesty, but does not. include a refugee alien. Every one of these 21 individuals whose case has been brought forward is a refugee alien who left his own -country because he did noi; like the kind of government in vogue there.

Mr McEwen - Not necessarily.

Mr DEDMAN - He offered his services to fight for this country. He was enlisted and subsequently drafted into an employment company. [Extension of time granted]. Applying the test of the definition of enemy aliens , contained in the National Security Regulations, these 21 individuals whose case has been brought forward by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) are not in fact enemy aliens and therefore they cannot be excluded from the benefits of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party and other honorable members opposite were oozing the milk of human kindness a few days ago over the unfortunate plight 'of those associated with the Yoizuki incident; they apply high humanitarian principles when these suit their, political purposes, but when it comes to the practical application of the spirit of universal brotherhood they take an entirely different attitude. I submit that the motion does not raise, a matter of grave national importance. ] have proved conclusively to the House that these 21 individuals, who have been granted their release on the same terms as other Australians, were not aliens of enemy origin under the definition laid down by the Government in the National Security Regulations, and that they have not been given opportunities which were denied to Australians. They have not, because of their release, been accepted by the universities in such a way as to exclude other Australians, and- the action taken in connexion with their release has not been contrary to either ;he spirit or the clearly expressed intention of the Re-establishment and Employment Act.

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