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Wednesday, 10 May 1972
Page: 2375

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - What a lot of nonsense we have just heard from the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon). It is a pity that the Liberal Party could not take its thrashing in Tasmania a little better. Does the honourable member suggest that people in current affairs, politics or journalism of any description do not have political views? There would not be one journalist in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the 'Daily Telegraph', the

Sydney Morning Herald', 'The Sun' or whatever one cares to name who does not have a political view or who does not favour one Party or another. The 4 men who resigned quite clearly showed where their political views were. If they had been Labor men they would not have said a word, but quite clearly because they support the political views of honourable members opposite they have kicked up a stink. If they are worth their salt, as most journalists, political interviewers and current affairs men are, their job comes first. One of the finest interviewers I have ever seen is Mr Peter Westerway, now the secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party, who time and again, because of his loyalty to his job, embarrassed the ALP, because his job as a journalist came first. I have seen many people with Labor affiliations who have had to go on with the job.

Mr Kennedy - What about Michael Willesee?

Mr COHEN - Perhaps Michael Willesee, 1 do not know. There are many of them. Most of them, because of their conscientious belief that they should do their job in a responsible way, even though it might hurt the political party with which they may perhaps have sympathy, will do it because that is their job and they have a code of honour. It is nonsense to say that because the man referred to by the honourable member for Denison stood for Labor Party selection he should therefore never be able to appear on a current affairs programme under the auspices of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

I did not rise tonight to speak on this matter. I want to refer to a matter concerning a constituent of mine, a Mrs B. Gable of 26 Alpha Road, Woy Woy. May I take this opportunity to commend the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) for the action which he took on behalf of Mrs Gable and her 2 sons. I will not go into detail but, as a result of representations made by the Minister, Mrs Gable and her 2 sons have now been naturalised and an unfortunate incident in the Department of Immigration has been cleared up.

Mrs Gable's2 sons, Thomas and William, were both born in France. They are now aged 22 and 20. They left France when Thomas was 14 months old and William was 2 months old. At that time Mrs Gable was married to Monsieur Dupont. I have in my hand a letter which was sent by the French Consul-General, Monsieur Cyril Le Bas. I find this letter most objectionable. I informed the Minister for Immigration about this letter and he said that it was really the concern of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), to whom I gave a copy of the letter because I hoped that the responsible department would take some action in the matter. I am well aware that a number of foreign countries including, I believe, Italy and Greece - I may be wrong here - and France do not recognise the fact that if men become citizens of another country they are released from their duty to undertake national service. I find this quite objectionable. I find it particularly objectionable that these 2 young men, who have spent 20 of their 22 years in Australia and who to all intents and purposes are as Australian as everyone in this House, should now be harassed by anybody from France, let alone the Consul-General. I will . now read to the House this most objectionable letter which is addressed to Mrs Gable's solicitor, Mr J. White, Market Street, Sydney. It reads:

Dear Sir,

I am taking the liberty of enclosing the photostatic copy of a letter received from the military commander of the 2nd Military Region, at Valenciennes, France.

This letter concerns a young man by the name of Yves Thomas Frederic DUPONT who today is known to you as Thomas GABLE.

As you are aware, a French national of the male sex, born in France, does not lose his French nationality by simply acquiring another nationality and therefore in the eyes of French law DUPONT is still French and as such is technically liable to military call up within the French forces.

We have asked this young man to present himself to the physician retained by this Consulate General for a check-up. This physician declares him fit or unfit for service. If unfit, the matter is settled and the file is shelved. If declared fit, DUPONT does not have to accomplish his military service (and this is what he has failed to understand) but is supplied by this Consulate General with a document stating that he has complied with regulations, and will not be called up. (This is specifically stated in the two penultimate paragraphs of the enclosed photostatic copy of the letter from the commander of the 2nd Military Region.)

The whole reason why I am taking the trouble of writing this long letter to you, for the benefit of a young man who doesn't deserve that I should have any consideration for him, is that if he does not comply with the request to present himself for medical examination he will be condemned by court martial, in absentia, to a period of imprisonment not exceeding five years. He may laugh at this and state, at present, that he couldn't care less but the fact is that our military authorities never forget their man and if DUPONT even decades from now, sets foot on French soil (New Caledonia, Hebrides, Polynesia or any other French territory as well as France itself) he would be immediately apprehended and incarcerated for the period to which he had been condemned.

It seems a pity that for want of half an hour's medical check-up DUPONT-GABLE should have hanging over him the spectre of a period of imprisonment. (After all he does have a father and relatives in France.)

I hope you will bring the aforesaid facts to his attention. In all fairness you could also add that if he arranges his life in such a manner as to avoid French jurisdiction he need have no worry; he will not be sought out through any channels excepting those which have to do with correspondence. The choice is up to him but this is the last conciliatory letter in respect of his case.

Yours faithfully,


Consul General of France

The address is Sydney, and the letter is dated 27 July 1971. These documents have been forwarded to me by Mrs Gable. I would hope that if they are authentic documents, and I believe they are and see no reason why they should not be, the Department of Foreign Affairs will write a very abrupt and pointed letter to M. Le Bas, the French Consul General, and tell him where to get off.

By the way, these 2 young men and Mrs Gable were naturalised recently. The point here is that 2 young boys came out here when they were babes in arms, they have lived here, they have been educated here and worked here, they have been taxpayers here and they are, as I have said, as Australian as any one of us. For this pompous Consul General of France to threaten an Australian national with certain action unless he does what he is told to do in Australia, his own country. I find absolutely objectionable and despicable. I hope something is done about it. I am only sorry that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is not here so that some quick answer might be given and this Consul General told where to get off, and a very short letter sent to the authorities in France.

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