11 November 2019

Lest we forget: “In 1915, paragraphs 55 and 56a enlarged the power of the minister ‘to cover the internment of disloyal natural born subjects [Australian by birth] of enemy descent, and of persons of hostile origin or association’. … It was ‘internment without trial’: the government routinely refused to submit the complaints of internees to the ordinary procedures of legal arbitration. In October 1916, the registration regulations were extended to apply to ‘all aliens, whether enemy or otherwise’. In the end, the machinery of registration, censorship, surveillance, internment and deportation set up by the department to control the resident ‘enemy’ population in Australia was also being used to investigate and prosecute pacifists, unionists, radical socialists, Irish nationalists, anti-conscriptionists of all ideological persuasion, practically anybody who dared to speak out against the government’s commitment to the war. A precedent was established, involving the use of the state apparatus for the purpose of suppressing political opposition that constitutes one of the ominous features of the political culture first developed in Australia during the war.”