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Thursday, 27 May 1915

Mr JENSEN (Bass) (Assistant Minister) .- In reply to the inquiry made by the honorable member for Bendigo, I wish to explain that the item of £97,000 for expenses in connexion with interned enemy subjects is made' up of the cost of creating camps, supplying food and clothing to enemy subjects, and paying them1s. per day when they work. I have the number of interned Austrians in Australia, but do not think it advisable to make it public.

Mr Riley - Why not?

Mr JENSEN - It is not desirable at this juncture to publicly mention the number interned; but I circulated amongst honorable members, for their private information, a few days ago, a statement on the subject.

Mr Hampson - What is being doneby these interned enemy subjects who elect to work?

Mr JENSEN - They are clearing camps, building, and doing ordinary work necessary in connexion with the camp.

Sir John Forrest - In Western Australia they do not work at all.

Mr JENSEN - Then they receiveno pay. Coming to the question of censorship, I wish to inform the Committee that the Minister has not issued any instructions to any censor to prevent the publication in the Commonwealth of the report of any speech made by an honorable member, except where its publication would disclose certain information that we do not desire to be circulated outside Australia. We do not censor any criticism of our administration. It is only in respect of statements likely to give the enemy certain information which we do not desire shall reach them, that the censors have the right to censor any speech made in this Parliament.

Mr Watt - Will the Minister lay a copy of the instructions on the table of the House to-morrow?

Mr JENSEN -I see no objection. I shall consult the Minister of Defence, and, with his consent, shall be pleased to do what the honorable member suggests. The Minister of Defence and I to-day met the Leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for Swan, and Senator Millen, and discussed this matter with them. We are not acting in the dark, and dp not intend to do so. The Leader of the Opposition knows what is going on.

Mr Watt - We discoveredthe instructions with some surprise.

Mr JENSEN -The Prime Minister agreed that he would discuss this matter withthe Leader of the Opposition, and that promise was carried out.

Mr Fenton - Are the censors acting uniformly? Were the instructions the same in every State ?

Mr Joseph Cook - Every censor was told that he could make his own inferences. That is the trouble.

Mr JENSEN - With regard to the matter referred to by Senator Millen, I know the Minister of Defence himself thought it should have been allowed to go to the newspapers. That is the opinion of the Minister; but the censor took another view because of instructions which had been issued to him by the Minister. I think, however, that the Minister will makeit clear to the censors in future that no criticism of any member in this Parliament shall be in any way censored, provided it does not give material information to the enemy. That is all I can say.

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