26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the
Leader of the Government in the Senate outline the proposed new Government wheat stabilisation plan? ls there any truth in Press statements that back bench members of the Australian Country Party are in revolt over the plan? In simple language, I ask: Will the Minister advise what is the correct position regarding the proposed wheat stabilisation plan?
– The honourable senator has asked me whether I will make at question lime a statement on Government policy although it is not appropriate For mc to do so. I suggest that he put his question on the notice paper and I may be able to use the forms of the House to get some information for him. .
– Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General any further information about the fixing of prices of Tasmanian potatoes on the Sydney market, and the implications of that practice in relation t’o the Trade Practices Act?
– 1 referred the honourable senator’s previous question on this matter to the Attorney-General, who has advised me that two points appear to be involved in the honourable senator’s inquiry. The first point is whether there is a price fixing arrangement within the terms of the Act. The second point is whether such a practice is contrary to the public interest. These matters are the primary responsibility of the Commissioner for Trade Practices to whom the Attorney-General has referred the matter for consideration.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen a Press report of the visit of the Prime Minister of India and her parly to Australia in which Mrs Ghandi and her team are reported to have claimed that Australian officials concerned with trade and customs duty are turning a blind eye to the dumping on the Australian market of Chinese manufactured goods because of China’s purchases of Australian wheat? Has the Minister allowed the dumping of Chinese goods to the disadvantage of India because of an arrangement between himself and the Minister for Trade and Industry? What action will be taken by the honourable gentleman to prevent dumping and to assist trade with the friendly nation of India?
– I have seen the Press report referred to by the honourable senator. The Department of Customs and Excise takes action against other countries which are dumping goods in Australia only when there is an objection by manufacturers of similar goods in Australia. At this stage we have not had any - or many - objections from manufacturers of goods in Australia. If we do receive such objections we will certainly take the necessary action to stop all forms of dumping interfering with the manufacture of goods in Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Does the statement made by the Attorney-General last week that the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General did not favour a plan to license firms manufacturing listening devices mean that hordes of private investigators representing hire-purchase and credit agencies and other private commercial groups using such devices will be able to indulge in the invasion of civil liberties - a state of affairs which has already been investigated by a committee of the United States Congress?
– The answer to the honourable senator is no. This matter has been the subject of consideration by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General at its last two meetings. At its meeting in February the Committee considered reports of its officers on the matter and decided that control of these devices by a system of licensing was impracticable. The Committee resolved that other approaches to the same objective be examined and the item is listed for consideration at the Committee’s meeting on 20th and 21st of this month.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development concerns the Chowilla Dam. Will the Minister expedite the present frustrating and time-consuming inquiry into a site for a major water storage on the Mitta Mitta River so that construction of the Chowilla Dam - unanimously agreed to by four parliaments - may be resumed without delay? Is the Minister aware that the engineers of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority who examined the plans of the Chowilla Dam announced that they were realistic, practical and economical? Is the Minister aware that the estimated cost of the Dam at $12 per acre foot is almost without exception the cheapest for storage dams constructed in the last 10 years, including dams constructed by the Authority? Is the Minister aware that the well-conceived and soundly based Chowilla project is regarded as vital to the future development of South Australia and that South Australians generally are determined to see this project come to fruition?
– I notice that the honourable senator is still very keen on the construction of a dam at Chowilla. Among his series of questions he asked what the Government is doing in relation to speeding up a decision on the Dartmouth site on the Mitta Mitta River. It is of great interest to everyone in South Australia that sufficient water should be made available to safeguard against drought. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is at present conducting a survey on the Mitta Mitta River at Dartmouth at the request of the River Murray Commission. This examination is being conducted as quickly as possible. When the result is to hand the Commission will decide whether it will recommend to the various governments a site for a dam that will provide sufficient water for South Australia. I recognise the importance of the matter to South Australia. I assure the honourable senator that the Commission and the governments involved will take the necessary steps to obtain the best quality water that is available, in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost to the South Australians.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Will the Minister, when examining social service benefits in connection with the next Budget, give consideration to the proposition that, when children under the age of 16 years are declared incurable and have to be cared for in an institution, they be paid a proportion of the invalid pension until such time as they reach 16 years of age, and that such sum be paid to the institution and not to the parents?
– I shall be very pleased to bring to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, the points raised by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Was Professor Rose refused permission to visit Groote Eylandt because he was a Communist? If there was any other reason, what was it?
– An application was made by an organisation to bring Professor Rose to Groote Eylandt. Permission was refused by Cabinet because he was a Communist.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Has the Minister been informed that yesterday a public meeting was convened by the mayor of Toowoomba to consider the situation of 400 unemployed teenage girls in the city of Toowoomba? Would it be true to say that the girls have been unemployed since they left school in November 1967? Has the Minister been informed also that the mayors of Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Maryborough and Charters Towers have stated publicly that unemployed teenage girls in their cities are unable to obtain employment? Will the Minister have the situation investigated to see whether it can be permanently corrected? Will the Minister for Labour and National Service discuss with the Minister for the Interior the unemployment problem developing in respect of single women and point out to him that, because it is a husband’s lawful obligation to support his wife, preference in employment should be given to single women in the offices of members of the Commonwealth Parliament?
– My attention has not been drawn to the public meeting in connection wilh unemployed teenage girls at Toowoomba, nor has my attention been drawn to any statement by the mayors of the Queensland cities to which the honourable senator referred. I remind him that last week I gave him official figures with regard to the state of unemployment in Queensland, showing that the number registered as unemployed this year was approximately 1,000 less than last year, and that in many of the industries there was quite a healthy demand for employment. Notwithstanding that, I shall certainly ask the Minister :o investigate the matters that have been specifically referred to and I shall also bring to his notice the suggestion that he discuss with the Minister for the Interior certain areas of employment in the Public Service.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that recently the Western Australian Government submitted a case for financial assistance as part of the Commonwealth’s special allocation of $50m for national water conservation projects? Was it request submitted for an amount of $6. 25m to finance the third stage of the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme in Western Australia? As this submission was not successful, can the Minister inform the Senate whether this was because the information on which the application was based did not contain sufficient detail or was out of date, or whether it was agreed that applications for extensions to the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme would not be eligible for allocation of finance from these Commonwealth funds? Finally, can the Minister say whether the Commonwealth has received any indication that a further application will be made by Western Australia for additional funds to complete stage 2 of the Scheme?
– I have some information from the Minister for National Development which was prepared to enable me to answer this question. The answer to the first part of the question is yes. As to the second part of the question, the Western Australian Minister for Works has been quoted in the Perth Press as saying that his Government sought $6.25m to start stage 3 of the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme. He has been reported as saying also that Western Australia has foreshadowed an application for funds for the Gascoyne project, retaining its right to submit a fully documented case at a later date. In answer to the third part of the question, there has been no further allocation of funds under the national water resources development programme since last year when the Government allocated funds for the Emerald irrigation project in Queensland and for two smaller projects in Victoria to reduce the salinity of the River Murray. The decision announced on 16th May this year was for six projects which had been submitted by the Slates and which had been selected as appearing to have the greatest merit for early consideration for inclusion in the programme. The six projects named were selected from twenty-eight suggestions, and those six will receive further detailed study. As was made clear on 16th May, projects outside this short list, including the submissions made by the Western Australian Government, have not been’ rejected. In the case of the Western Australian submission, the Commonwealth considers that it does not have sufficient details at this stage. To obtain further information talks will be held between Commonwealth and State officers. In answer to the last part of the question, requests of this nature are made at a Prime Minister-Premier level and as such are confidential and are not normally released unless they are made public by the State involved.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Did the Federal Government ever give an assurance that permits to import oil exploration vessels similar to the ‘Investigator’ would not be granted to overseas competitors at a time when the ‘Investigator’ might become idle? Has the ‘Investigator’ now completed drilling Ashmore Reef No. 1 and is it now idle? Did the Federal Government recently grant a permit for the import of a foreign owned floating drilling vessel? Will this vessel be undertaking drilling work in the north west shelf area, where the ‘Investigator’ was previously working?
– lt is a fact that the Investigator’ is at present laid up in the port of Darwin awaiting further work. There are in all some seven rigs at present drilling, or capable of drilling, in off-shore areas in Australian waters. Two of them are idle. The ‘Investigator’ is idle because it was not thought by the Department of Shipping and Transport and by the Burmah group which is using it to be suitable to drill at a site 150 miles north of Rocburn but it is understood that work will be found for it shortly.
– Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister seen a report which appeared in the Melbourne Sun’ last Saturday to the effect that the Australian Overseas Fund has been receiving replies expressing anti-Vietnam sentiments from Sydney business firms it has approached for donations? The report also stated that some of these letters had been from people who were considered to be a security risk and that they have been handed to the appropriate authorities. I ask the Minister: ls the Australian Overseas Fund being used as part of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation for the purpose of pimping on people who oppose our commitment in Vietnam? Is this type of pimping part of the extension of the snide methods being used by ASIO in developing the police state in Australia?
– The answer to the first question is no, the answer to the second question is no and the answer to the third question is no.
– My question is directed to the Minister-in-charge of Tourist Activities. In view of the fact that illinformed people not resident in Tasmania have criticised unfairly the annual shooting of wallabies in the Fingal Valley in Tas mania last weekend and that this may have tarnished Tasmania’s reputation because of allegations that cruelty would be caused to the animals involved, will the Minister assure the Senate that police officers, special guides and representatives of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals supervised the shoot and reported that no cruelty had been caused to the wallabies, and that landowners were grateful that their properties had been cleared of a large number of wallabies which had been damaging their pastures?
– There has not come to me, in my capacity as Minister-in-charge of Tourist Activities, any information on this matter other than that which has appeared in the Press, lt has been stated by official sources in Tasmania that all the safeguards the honourable senator mentioned were observed and that satisfaction was expressed by representatives of the SPCA, the police and the body in Tasmania concerned for the protection of animals and birds.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government. As the Prime Minister since his election has made no speech of national importance to the Parliament or the people, can the Leader of the Government say whether the Prime Minister intends to make one relating to his visit to the United States before he leaves for South East Asia?
– It is my understanding that the Prime Minister may make a statement in another place this evening.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the concern felt by the agricultural and business sectors of the community at the fact that the current rate of governmental expenditure appears to be considerably in excess of that envisaged by the Government at the time of the presentation of the last Budget? Will the Minister assure the Senate that this problem will be under constant review so that any inflationary tendencies which may appear in our economy will not be attributable to the Government’s inability to control its own expenditure?
– The Government - especially the Treasurer, who has the ministerial responsibility for budgetary matters - is constantly examining economic trends, particularly expenditure that is exceeding Budget estimates. But it is a fact of life that expenditure tends to rise for a variety of reasons. The other point that I make is that, as we all are aware, between the rising of the Parliament for this sessional period and the next sessional period, which will be the Budget sessional period, the Government will have the whole budgetary position under very intimate and close examination. Sometimes we hear of people saying that while the Parliament is not sitting the functions of government tend to slow down; but in fact the period between the end of this sessional period and the Budget sessional period will be a vital and important period of examination of matters by the Government. The Premiers Conference and the Australian Loan Council will meet. Then the new Budget will be presented to the Parliament when we meet.
– Will the Minister representing the Attorney-General inform the Parliament whether a mechanism was fitted to all or part of the Federal Parliament House telephones system on a date in 1 967 for the purpose of monitoring STD - subscriber trunk dialling - telephone calls? If such mechanism is still operating, is it being used by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation for the purpose of monitoring STD, trunk or local calls? Also, if such mechanism is still operating, is it being utilised for the purpose of screening Australian Labor Party members’ calls only, or is it being used as well to screen the calls of independent members, members of the Democratic Labor Party and members of that section of the Liberal Party that is sometimes referred to as the John Birch Society group?
– This is a security matter within the responsibility of the Attorney-General. I wish to make it quite plain for the information of honourable senators that in this respect the AttorneyGeneral has a personal responsibility in which I do not share. Therefore it will be my practice, almost invariably, to refer questions in that area to the Attorney-
General for his personal attention. Insofar as the honourable senator’s question contains a suggestion of the tapping of the telephones of members of the Parliament, I can say that only just now I have received a copy of an answer given by the AttorneyGeneral in another place this afternoon. It states that no such tapping could occur on the initiative of the Director-General of Security, without his having sought and gained the Attorney-General’s approval, and that that has not been done in respect of any honourable senator or any member of the House of Representatives.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Recently the Minister made a tour of the Brighton Beach area of New South Wales and the foreshore of Botany Bay to witness for himself some of the enormous erosion caused by the extension into Botany Bay of a Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport runway. Did he give local residents an assurance that a sum of money was being voted to carry out essential reclamation work? Will he agree that the overall cost of effective reclamation will far exceed the sum set aside? When can the residents of Brighton expect that complete and effective reclamation will take place at this very popular beach resort and along the historical shores of Botany Bay?
– It is a fact that on the Monday following a storm which occurred, I think, on Thursday 16th May, at the request of my colleagues Mr Bosman and Mr Arthur in another place, I visited the foreshore of Botany Bay. After interviewing residents and members of the council there I inspected the whole of the damage and, in a conference with my officers that afternoon. I called for an immediate report, which 1 received last week. That report has been the subject of consideration by an inter-departmental committee, one of the meetings of which lasted till 5 o’clock this morning. This indicates the urgency with which we regard the preparation of a full report. The report will be completed this afternoon and I hope that a decision with regard to the matter will be made this week. The honourable senator and the Senate can rest assured that the most earnest attention is being given to this matter. When an assessment of responsibility has been made, every effort will be made to ensure prompt reconstruction of the damaged part of the foreshore.
– 1 direct to the Minister for Repatriation a question which relates to a Press statement about his attendance at the annual conference of the Returned Services League in Tasmania at which be made a strong attack on Simon Townsend. That is the only subject of the Press report. I ask the Minister: While he was condemning Simon Townsend, did he take the opportunity of reporting fully and fairly that the Military Board had in fact stopped the half hourly interruptions and that the Minister for the Army and the Acting Prime Minister had undertaken to review the military regulations relating to solitary confinement?
– I shall reply first to the latter part of the question, to which the answer is no. In reply to the first part of the question, may I say that I did not indulge in a bitter attack on this man at all. I. spoke certain matters of truth. I could have made quite a strong attack on him but I refrained.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware of the importance of the meeting of scientists from 13 countries being held at the present time at the Lucas Heights atomic research centre? Is he aware of the comment that the increased production of radio isotopes from atomic reactors in Asia and South East Asia was shaping a better future for millions of people in the region, and that the use of atomic energy in the form of isotopes had already played a significant role in providing more food, better health and more efficient industry in that area? Will the Minister assure the Senate that he and the Government will disregard any suggestion that Australia reduce its programme of use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes on the ground that this would not be in the interests of Australia generally or of the people of South East Asia?
– I am aware of all of the subject matters raised by the honour able senator. Atomic energy and the use of it, including the use of isotopes, are of tremendous importance to Australia’s health and economy. The generation of atomic energy, using uranium as a source of power, is increasing year by year in other parts of the world. So much is this so that in America, I understand, more than 50% of new electricity generating power stations will be using atomic energy.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for Health see the Four Corners’ television programme on Saturday evening last, in which a leading medical man expressed grave concern that facilities for teaching student doctors the use and nature of modern drugs are not as available as they should be? If so, has the Minister any comment to make?
– I did not see the programme myself and I do not know whether my colleague, the Minister for Health, has seen it. My feeling in connection with the training of doctors is that, by providing considerable sums to the States for the training of doctors at universities and teaching hospitals, the Commonwealth is doing a great deal to overcome the problems. This, I believe, is of tremendous importance.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry indicate whether the Australian Wheat Board is having discussions with representatives of eastern European countries on the possibility of increased wheat sales to offset the serious drought conditions affecting wheat crops in those countries?
– Naturally the Australian Wheat Board is concerned with the position mentioned by the honourable senator. As yet, nothing concrete has come out of the position overseas so far as possible shortages are concerned. If shortages do occur, this could mean a great deal to Australia. The Australian Wheat Board is keeping its eye on the position, as we would expect it to do, and when the position becomes a little clearer perhaps we shall be able to give more information than is available at the present time.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government. It arises out a reply received by me from the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior which stated that the decision to prohibit Professor Rose from visiting Groote Eylandt was made by the Government. What areas other than Groote Eylandt in Australia or under Australian control cannot be visited by Communists? Is not such a restriction on Australian citizens because of their political beliefs a repudiation of democracy, freedom and the Declaration of Human Rights?
– The honourable senator asks a question which is supplementary to a previous question that has been answered. I am sure he understands that the particular person concerned is a declared Communist who has been living in East Germany for many years. The Government has always to be satisfied that the reasons for the presence of any person in an aboriginal reserve for a period of some months would justify granting permission to enter. It has to be satisfied - and it is not - that the studies for which this man says he wishes to go there are purely academic. As to the other aspects of the question which have not been answered by me, I suggest that the honourable senator put them on notice so that I may obtain a reply for him. The point that I wish to make quite clear is that the person who was seeking to go into the aboriginal reserve is a declared Communist who has in fact been living in East Germany for a very long time. Very properly the Minister and the Government have to be satisfied of such a person’s intentions before granting permission for him to enter the reserve.
– In reply to a question asked by Senator Wheeldon last year the Leader of the Government indicated that he had had a scrambler connected to his telephone to prevent other persons from listening to conversations between him and his secretary. I now ask: How many other Ministers have such scramblers attached to their telephones, and why are such contraptions necessary?
– As I recall the circumstances, I was, then Minister for
Customs and Excise. As the honourable senator and everybody else would know, customs tariff changes are brought down after the close of business so that nobody, by misadventure or by any other means, might become aware of the tariff changes that the Government proposes. On the occasion to which the honourable senator has referred I indicated that because of the responsibility that I held as Minister for Customs and Excise, very often, it was necessary for me to speak with the head of my Department particularly in relation to the tariff, and it was necessary that there be no possible danger of anybody overhearing any decision that was about to be taken or which had been taken in relation to regulations. The matter under discussion might have been an export prohibition, a regulation prohibiting an import or any of the matters related to tariff policy. That was the reason why, when I was Minister for Customs and Excise, I had what is known, for want of a better term, as a scramble telephone. I do not have a scramble telephone in my present capacity as a Cabinet Minister, but I expect that I will get one eventually. I know nothing of what other Ministers have, but if the honourable senator wants the information I will seek it and if possible obtain a reply for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and concerns Chowilla Dam. The Minister will recall that on a number of occasions, when answering questions, he has promised to obtain replies from the Minister for National Development on particular matters, including the suggestion which has been put to him a number of times that the Government through the Minister ought to assist in promoting direct discussions between the governments such as those now being promoted by the Premier of South Australia. Will the Minister undertake to consider these matters and give a statement to the Senate at an early opportunity?
– I could give to the honourable senator’s questions all possible consideration, but what I shall do is bring the matter he has raised directly to the attention of the Minister for National Development, and the Minister may, if he so desires, make the statement that the honourable senator requests.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and arises out of the answer to my previous question. 1 now ask: Have restrictions on travel been applied to any member of the Communist Party other than Professor Rose?
– I do not know the answer to the honourable senator’s question. 1 will seek the information for him.
– Has the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation seen a statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation that the runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, Mascot, is to be extended to 13,100 feet, an additional 4,000 feet into Botany Bay? Has this decision been made in order to provide the length of runway necessary for the Boeing 747 aircraft? Has it not been the policy of the Government, stated over many years, that as soon as the length of runway needed was made known by the manufacturers of the aircraft a runway of that length would be completed at Mascot? Does this finally dispose of the propaganda statements by the Opposition that there was a Department of Civil Aviation plot to advance Tullamarine ahead of Mascot?
– These are very interesting questions indeed. 1 have read a report in today’s Press of a statement purported to have been made by the Minister for Civil Aviation, not by the Government. This could have been what is commonly known as a leak. As the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation, I hope to be in a position later this week to give adequate answers to the matters raised by the honourable senator.
– Can the Minister for Works indicate to the Senate whether it is likely, when the extension of the runway at Mascot (Kingsford-Smith) airport is proceeded with that the fill will be taken from Botany Bay?
– This matter is under active consideration. As my colleague the Minister for Customs and Excise has indicated, an early announcement will be made.
I shall then be very glad to give full information to the honourable senator.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation read in the Mel bourne ‘Age’ a report of his address to the Returned Services League conference in Hobart? If so, will the Minister say whether he has been correctly reported? The report states that the Minister on a visit to Vietnam interviewed many limbless soldiers, one of whom had no arms and boasted laughingly that he had a job waiting for him as a paperweight back in Australia. Will the Minister explain to the Senate why the soldiers he interviewed had not returned to Australia?
– The honourable Senator has referred to one occasion on which I was not correctly reported. When addressing the conference of the Returned Services League at Hobart I spoke of the courage of soldiers who had suffered from war injuries. I instanced the case of a soldier who had served in World War ] and who was the subject of a story told to me by a friend. Honourable senators opposite who are trying to interject do not have to believe it, butI will put the story of that soldier on record. His courage was of such an order that when interviewed in England he remarked that he had a job waiting for him back in Australia. When asked about that job he laughingly replied that it was as a paperweight for Billy Hughes. That isthe storyI told to the conference.
(Question No. 95)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister upon notice:
With reference to questions asked, which requested the showing of films purporting to show interrogations in Vietnam, will investigations be made into the bona fides of any such Alms to establish whether they are objective reporting or merely propaganda?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Both films referred to are one and the same. It shows interrogation by Australian forces in Vietnam in 1964. The film, taken by a freelance Indian cine-cameraman, Mr I. Ahmad, is of very short duration and runs for only 1 minute15.5 seconds. Should honourable senators desire to see the film and form their own judgments, this can be arranged.
(Question No. 223)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
With reference to the cancellation of all commercial flights between Brisbane and North Queensland airports on theafternoon of Saturday 13th April 1968, resulting in considerable inconvenience to a number of intending passengers, were these flights cancelled as a result of a direction from the Department of Civil Aviation or by a decision of the airlines concerned?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer:
Some flights were cancelled on Saturday 13th April 1968, by the airlines concerned, to bring capacity provided into line with the available traffic, which on Easter Saturday - in this case April 13 - is extremely low. The airlines took care to ensure that none of the Queensland coastal ports between Brisbane and Townsville was left without a service in each direction on that day. In order to ensure that intending passengers would have sufficient time to plan their travel in accordance with the available flights, the airlines informed booking offices and agents of the cancellations some weeks beforehand.
(Question No. 248)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
What is the cause of the delay in Australia becoming a signatory to the International Convention on the Import and Transit of Endangered Species?
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The Convention on the Import, Export and Transit of Certain Species, which is being drawn up under the auspices of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, has been submitted in draft form to a number of governments, including Australia, for their comments. The views of governments are still being obtained and the draft Convention is therefore not yet. open for signature. The text of the draft Convention is at. present being studied by Commonwealth departments and State governments.
(Question No. 249)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answer:
The industry understands that before special protective action would be taken under the Free Trade Agreement, there would need to be clear evidence of threatened damage. The Department of Trade and Industry and the New Zealand Department of Industries and Commerce maintain constant liaison on all aspects of the trade between the two countries through the Free Trade Agreement Consultative Committee. The question of possible future damaging imports of peas and beans has been discussed between officials of the two departments and New Zealand has a full appreciation of the Australian position. A close watch on the position will be continued.
It will be noted that under the protection accorded to the industry, duties on imports at frozen peas and beans from New Zealand are charged on a sliding scale basis when the fob value of imports is below 18.75c per lb. The duty on imports increases when the fob price of the imports falls. For example, the present duly on imports of one pound of frozen peas with an fob value of 18c would be 0.4c. If the fob value were 15c the duty would rise to 2c. Ifthe fob value were 12c the duty would rise to 3.6c.
(Question No. 253)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 275)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
-The following answer is now supplied:
(Question No. 277)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The following answer has been supplied by the Postmaster-General:
While the reports I have had on this matter are conflicting, I am advised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that it did not submit to any form of political censorship in its reporting of the meeting of the Executive of the Western Australian branch of the Australian Labor Party at the meeting on 13th May attended by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). I am advised further that the ABC did not and was not required to seek approval of the report which it subsequently broadcast. It appears that the Western Australian Executive of the ALP decided in February 1967 to permit newsmen to report its meetings on the condition that reporters would leave the room if the meeting went into private session, and that the name of any member of the Executive other than the President, General Secretary and members of Parliament should not be used without the authority of the General Secretary. The ABC’s News Editor regarded these conditions as reasonable for such a meeting and accepted them in writing. Apparently other news media did not. ABC reporters have attended and reported the meetings since and did so on the same conditions on 13th May last. They have had no occasion to seek the use of the names of members other than those specified. The ABC report of the meeting on 13th May was not submitted in advance of broadcast for approval by any officer of the ALP. Next day, after the broadcasts, the General Secretary told the ABC that he had been asked by other news media to confirm the ABC report and asked for copies of the bulletins to enable him to do this.
(Question No. 289)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The following answers are now supplied:
Is it a fact that, because of damage by vandals to public telephones, the Postmaster-General’s Department has decided gradually to withdraw public telephones? If this is true, what provision is made for substitution of this most essentia] service to the community?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
I am sure the honourable senator will agree that the vandalism that takes place in our community, especially as it relates to public telephones, which are available both to people who do not have private telephones and for use in emergencies, is a great social problem. The repair of damage caused by vandalism is costing the Post Office about $2m annually but the honourable senator has the assurance of the Postmaster-General that it is not the intention to remove public telephones as a general community service. However, as public telephones have been damaged so frequently, the Department must look at the situation and take it into account when assessing the requirement of the community for additional installations.
At present there is a considerable back-log of public telephones awaiting installation in Sydney and Melbourne. The supply of these new telephones can only be delayed if the Department is to commit much of its resources to replacement or to repair the telephones that are being damaged frequently by vandalism. It is a case in some instances of offsetting the situation in one area against the wishes of the public for public telephones in another area. As a result, policies will be developed, having regard to these particular facts.
The Post Office is undertaking continual research in the development of robust mechanisms for the public telephone units and the cabinets. In the fight to combat vandalism, there is continuous consultation between the investigating officers of the Department and the State police. However, despite all these efforts, the most effective assistance is when the public of Australia will co-operate with the police and the Post Office to report any instances of vandalism observed. Such cooperation will help reduce the cost of continually repairing damaged public telephones and also reduce the inconvenience to the public through the unavailability of public telephones in good working order.
Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware that last week-end a seminar on Vietnam was held in the North Melbourne town hall? Is he aware that the commercial television stations 9 and 7 gave coverage to a demonstration outside the hall by the Young Socialists League, the youth organisation of the Communist Party, but also gave coverage to the speech made inside the hall by the Vietnamese Ambassador? Is the Minister aware that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as usual on its 7 p.m. television news gave coverage only to the Communist demonstration? Would it be a breach of the PostmasterGeneral’s oft repeated claim that the Australian Broadcasting Commission must be free, to suggest that like the commercial stations it cover both sides and not just the Communist side?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The Australian Broadcasting Commission news in both radio and television covered the demonstration and the arrest of a demonstrator outside the seminar on Vietnam at North Melbourne on 12th May. Copy covering the resolution carried at the seminar was received just before bulletin broadcasts and was not used. This copy was used in the 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. radio news bulletins. It covered the resolution carried by the seminar and a statement by Senator McManus.
Will the Federal Government in co-operation with State governments establish an advisory hospital planning committee because many of the hospitals in Australia are in urgent need of reconditioning or rebuilding and because few architects in Australia are specialists in modern hospital architecture or are familiar with the trends and requirements of modern medical practice?
The Minister for Health has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The individual State governments have the responsibility for the provision of hospital services in their respective areas. The design and construction function is part of this responsibility and 1 am informed that the government architects and public works authorities in the States have available, both from their own resources and from outside specialist architects, the advice necessary to permit them to achieve the standards they desire for hospitals provided within their respective States.
The Commonwealth Government in its area of responsibility has available to it the services of the Commonwealth Department of Works and whatever private design and construction authorities that Department considers essential to the provision of the best hospital facilities in the areas under Commonwealth control.
The Commonwealth Department of Works maintains a group specialising in hospital design, staffed by officers who have made study tours keeping the group up to date on world trends in hospital design and construction.
I understand that there is a free exchange of ideas between the various authorities on design and functions through personal and official contact and by way of professional associations and publications.
My colleague, the Minister for Health, has advised me that he intends to list this subject for discussion at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health, which is to be held on the 20th and 21st June 1968.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Extension of Hawthorn Telephone Exchange, Victoria.
I ask for leave to make a short statement
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) left Australia yesterday to visit New Zealand. He will return on Friday, 7th June. During this period the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) will act as Minister for Civil Aviation and the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) will handle civil aviation matters in the House of Representatives.
– by leave - I move:
I am sure that the Senate will be aware of the fact that Senator Tangney was the Opposition representative on the Council of the Australian National University for a period of no less than 17 years from 1951. During that period she gave very great service to this nation as a Senate representative. I am quite certain that we all would like to place on record, concurrently with the passing of this resolution for the appointment of new members, our tremendous appreciation of the work that she performed, the dedication that she gave to it and her sense of responsibility to the Australian Parliament as a Senate representative on the Council of the University.
– by leaveOn behalf of Opposition senators and as the senator nominated by the Opposition to succeed Senator Tangney in this extremely important and responsible office, I add my short tribute to the words spoken by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson). I am sure that honourable senators, irrespective of the party to which they belong, are proud of the contribution that Senator Tangney has made, not only generally but also specifically in the sphere of education. I know that she has given very devoted service to the Australian National University, having been a member of its permanent Council since its establishment in 1951. I express the hope that any contribution thatI might be able to make as her successor will be comparable in some small measure with the very real and outstanding effort that she has made over the years.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - On 19th March and again on 28th March Senator Laucke asked whether I would have tabled all documents that the River Murray Commission had on its files leading to the decision to proceed with the Chowilla project. He also asked to have tabled all reports by overseas experts on the project, including those from the United States of America and England, who investigated all aspects of the scheme. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) decided to make a statement on this matter. Although it is not possible to meet the honourable senator’s request in full, I feel sure that the action taken will meet his needs.
I must emphasise that the Commonwealth is only one of four partners on the River Murray Commission. The Commissioner representing the Commonwealth of course has access to reports made to the Commission but the tabling of these reports by the Commonwealth would not be appropriate without the consent of the four Commissioners.I would add that most of the reports to the Commission are of a highly technical character.
Next I must explain that the Commission itself does not construct the works approved by the governments which are signatory to the Agreement. The construction is carried out by the work forces of the State concerned subject only to the Commission’s approval of designs and estimates. In the case of Chowilla, the constructing authority is, of course, South Australia and the Commission has not got copies of all the reports which the South Australian authorities obtained from the various consultants it engaged and which were indicated by the honourable senator.
I now have pleasure in tabling the only report received by the governments signatory to the River Murray Waters Agreement prior to the original approval of those governments for the construction of Chowilla. The document summarises in a convenient form the technical reports which the Commission had received. May I draw attention in particular to the brief passage entitled ‘Additional Storage above Hume Reservoir as an Alternative to Chowilla’. It states that when operated as a River Murray Commission storage Chowilla ‘would provide much greater overall benefits for equal expenditure than the construction of storages above Hume Reservoir’.
It will be recalled that at that time the estimated cost of Chowilla was $28m. When tenders were called for it was apparent that it would cost at least $68m. This, of course, placed an entirely different relationship between its costs and those of alternative storages. In addition it was ascertained that the high evaporation rate of Chowilla would probably increase the severity of the salinity problem in South Australia. It was for these reasons that the Commission deferred the Chowilla project pending further investigations of storage sites above the Hume Reservoir. Investigations have since been proceeding on feasibility and cost studies of a number of such sites, together with associated hydrological investigations, and attention is now being concentrated on the Dartmouth site on the Mitta Mitta River. I present the following paper:
Report by and Resolutions of the River Murray Commission on Chowilla Dam. September 1961.
– I move:
I ask for leave to makemy remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - Before embarking upon the statement I wish to make to the Senate I should like to take the opportunity to thank the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) for the very kind remarks they made about my service on the Council of the Australian National University. That service has been a great joy to me over the past 17 years. However, that was not the reason that I rose.
I think this is an appropriate time in relation to a matter upon which all honourable senators are united, to place on record our appreciation of the efforts of a wonderful woman who died in the United States of America last Saturday. I refer to the late Miss Helen Keller. I feel that this is a particularly appropriate time to do this because in these days when there is so much suspicion, bitterness and hatred in the world it is wonderful to find a woman with the love, faith, self-sacrifice and compassion that was shown by the late Helen Keller. The world could do with more of those qualities today because, I believe, they would help us to solve the problems which confront us.
Helen Keller was an American, born 87 years ago. She was a symbol to us of the indomitable human spirit. She lived in a world of eternal silent darkness. While many of us wallow in self-pity and magnify our personal troubles the late Helen Keller presented a living example of a human being who overcame the most tremendous difficulties that have ever confronted anyone. Blind, deaf and dumb she still managed to live a long, happy and useful life. Although she was never a president, a crowned monarch, a member of parliament or the occupant of any public office anywhere, she is a symbol that we should keep before us in our human relationships. I think that the words she passed on to us only a few months ago apply particularly today. They were:
My life has been happy because I have had wonderful friends and plenty of interesting work to do.
Those two factors apply in all circumstances of life. She also said: 1 believe that all through these dark and silent years God has been using my life for a purpose I do not know.
I would hate to presume in this matter but I think that one of the purposes of the wonderful life she led was to give an example to humanity of how to approach and overcome the great obstacles that may beset us as we follow our path of life. She embodied all that was good and noble in human nature in a life of faith, selfsacrifice and compassion. Above all, as I said earlier, her spirit was unconquerable. The example of her life should be a monument to Helen Keller and an example to all mankind. I rose this afternoon because I believe that we in Australia owe Helen Keller as deep a debt as is owed to her by people in other parts of the world. She visited us here in 1948 and I am sure that all who met her were completely overcome by her strength of character. Living a life of eternal darkness and silence she was able to do more than half a dozen people to improve the lot of those more fortunate than herself. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to place on record my brief tribute to this very noble woman whose like I am afraid we will not see again.
– by leave - On behalf of the Government, and indeed of all honourable senators, I should like to join in the very fine tribute that Senator Tangney has paid to the late Helen Keller. As the honourable senator said, Helen Keller was a woman of tremendous courage, spirit and great faith. She will find her place in history. By her tribute Senator Tangney has reminded us that Helen Keller, that wonderful person who lived to a very old age in our time, made a tremendous contribution to humanity by the qualities she displayed.
Debate resumed from 30 May (vide page 1281), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is one of the most impudent and insensitive pieces of legislation ever to come before the Australian Parliament. Its introduction into the Parliament has opened another chapter in the history of repressive legislation in Australia and in the history of the fight by decent people in the Australian community against this type of arrogant, police state legislation. Each generation has to fight the battle of civil liberties. It happens in different ways, at different times and in different places. In the last 17 or 18 years, while the present Government and its predecessors of the same coalition parties have been in power, we have had on occasions to take up the battle in this Parliament on behalf of all those sections of the Australian community that wanted expressed in the legislative chambers of their Parliament their firm opposition to any kind of authoritarian legislation that would make inroads into the liberties of the people.
We did that in 1951 at the time of the debate on the legislation to hold a referendum in relation to the so-called Communist Party Dissolution Act - an Act which did not ever live up to its terms, which was designed to suppress civil liberties and which was defeated at a referendum by the people of Australia. And nobody has ever noticed the difference. Since the defeat of that referendum in 1951 nobody has ever felt that we have lost something by not having that legislation on the statute book. In 1960 some important and far reaching amendments to the Crimes Act were introduced into the Parliament. Again the nation was stirred, as it is from time to time, by the battle that was waged throughout the community against some of the obnoxious provisions of that legislation. Amendments were made by the Government as it retreated in part from its original stand. But. in the end and after prolonged debate that legislation was passed. Again it has not been used frequently, but it is there to be used, and used against the freedoms of ordinary people should the occasion arise. Again that was a time when people of good will, responsible sections of the community, were aroused to take part in public debate because, of the extremely important issues which transcended questions of party. The same has happened in respect of the legislation which has now been passed by another place and which is before the Senate today.
This Bill affects more people in the community than any other previous piece of repressive legislation. Under this legislation it is not merely a question of alleged or potential traitors or saboteurs, as under the Crimes Act, and it is not merely a question of certain people holding certain beliefs, who would have been in jeopardy in terms of employment and certain of their liberties under the Communist Party Dissolution Act. Under this legislation, any person in the community can be asked questions and, subject to a few exceptions, can be made to answer questions upon pain of substantial fines. That goes for very wide sections of the community. In due course 1 will deal with the retreats; - ‘the series of ignominious retreats - that the Government has made since it introduced this legislation.
– Does the honourable senator believe that the obligation is more or less repressive than it was before the Bill was introduced?
– I think the Bill is slightly less repressive, but 1 do not think it makes all that much difference. The Bill is still fundamentally objectionable. In the course of my remarks 1 propose to challenge any honourable senator on the Government side of the chamber, including Senator Greenwood who has interjected, to show me that, certain people who are now said to have been freed from liability are in fact so freed. There is talk about parents, brothers, sisters, families, priests, doctors and lawyers having been exempted from the provisions of the legislation. It is true that they have been exempted from the provision that they must answer questions truthfully and from the provision that they must supply certain information. But a parent, a brother, a sister, a minister of religion, a doctor or a lawyer is still required, under penalty of $200, to attend in response to a notice to attend. That is unrepealed and not withdrawn. I will be very interested to hear whether the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), or any other honourable senator can tell me that any real protection has been offered by the amendments. However, I will come to that in due course.
On this occasion we in the Parliament have the responsibility of discussing in a manner befitting this chamber and the importance of this issue the questions that are raised on this legislation. The more one comes to read it and the more one looks at it in the light of other contemporary Government policies, the Government’s contempt for the people’s liberties, the Government’s conduct in hounding conscientious objectors and in condoning - because that is the position if the law is not altered - by implication the continuance of a system which has been in operation and which has been commented on in this chamber in the last few days in relation to a young man in Holsworthy, the alleged free use of telephone tapping and other electronic devices and the occurrence of these events in a single week, the more one is led to look at this legislation with suspicion because one has to see what the Government is really after.
This Bill is designed to enforce the policy of conscription of 20-year old Australian youths for Vietnam by tightening the knot to see that ‘a very small number’ - I am using the Minister’s expression - do not evade service, and I suggest, by attempting to create an atmosphere in which ‘dissent’ becomes a dirty word and even conscientious objection becomes the subject of derisive comment by people like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) - I do not say this against him personally, but wc know that this is what he has been doing in recent times - who in my view do not understand what a conscientious objector is. The policy of conscription of young men for service outside Australia is anathema to many Australians. It was strongly opposed by the Australian Labor Party - the Opposition in this Parliament - and by many patriotic citizens outside the Parliament when it was introduced in 1964. That is still our policy. I do not want to debate that issue at great length because I want to concentrate on some features of this Bill which merit particular attention. But 1 think it is important to recall just what the argument was in 1964, when the conscription legislation was introduced.
My predecessor in the office of Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Kennelly, on 23rd March I9S6. in the course of a debate on Government policy following the introduction of the conscription legislation, moved an amendment which expressed the view of the Opposition and which still represents the view of the Opposition. Part of his amendment read:
Many powerful arguments were advanced then against the introduction of conscrip tion. One very pungent comment was made by the ‘Advocate’ on 17th March 1966.
– St Patrick’s Day.
– It is a very appropriate date for this editorial to appear. This is, I understand, the journal of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. It is worth recalling the comment because it seems to me to put the position well and to provide a proper background against which the present legislation can be assessed. The Advocate’ stated:
The Government has no mandate whatever for the sending of conscripts into battle outside Australia, particularly since no war has been declared. Conscription is in itself an evil thing, justified only in an emergency, when other means for the defence of a country are inadequate. Military conscription without this necessity is a violation of a basic human freedom and leads to a militarisation of civil life and civil mentality described by Pope Benedict XV as ‘for more than a century the true cause of countless evils’. A conscript state is, in effect, a slave state: hence it is something to he resisted unless in a last resort. . . . We believe that the Government has not any moral right to conscript Australian youth for service overseas and we hope that the strong public protest will be effective in preventing a violation of human rights which the tradition of Australian democracy has hitherto been able to preserve.
I believe that that sentiment is sound and proper. We have over many months striven to assert the correctness of the principle that is embodied in that document. I come now to the Bill, which represents, as I have said, an attempt by the Government to enforce that policy. The methods that the Government has chosen to enforce that policy are. as the Melbourne ‘Age’ has put it. offensive in principle and unwise in practice. 1 believe that this Bill will be resisted by all Australians who believe in the preservation of our civil liberties and by all who want no part of the police state in Australia, lt poses a challenge to those who want to see the ambit of Australian democracy enlarged and not circumscribed.
On behalf of all those citizens who are outraged by this Bill and who cannot speak in this Parliament, we accept that challenge. Repressive legislation must bc fought. The present legislation is in our opinion unconscionable, unjust, unjustifiable and - what is even worse - unnecessary. The Bill runs head on into some cherished notions of human freedom and human dignity. I mention at the moment only three. Firstly, it sends cold shivers down the spine of those who regard pimps and informers as part of the apparatus of the totalitarian dictatorships against which many Australians and many people of goodwill the world over have fought and died and against any modern manifestations of which Government supporters employ some of their choicest invective. Secondly, it scorns the long established and proved institution of the jury as the surest way of ensuring justice between the state and the citizen charged by the state with a crime. It is somewhat ironical that this Bill should have been introduced into this chamber by a Minister who has again and again proclaimed his belief, in a most eloquent way, in a man’s right to be tried by a jury when charged with a serious offence. Thirdly, the Bill confronts and affronts a large body of responsible public opinion which regards protection of a man’s conscience as an essential goal of a worthwhile community.
I want to say something in due course about the question of conscience because over the centuries much has been written and spoken about the notion of conscience. Ecclesiastical thinking of the Middle Ages was dominated, I think it is fair to say, by the concept of a distinction between just and unjust wars. There have always been individuals who had conscientious objection to war and to military service but they have been able to keep those objections largely as private matters, prior to the introduction of modern type conscription which has raised serious problems both for the individual concerned and for the state. The moment of truth, the moment of decision, has come for many such young men today in present circumstances in Australia.
So far as the Government is concerned, there is nothing in this Bill- except a cheap gibe against self-styled objectors - to indicate that the Government is in any way sensitive to the enormous human problems raised by the phenomenon of conscientious objectors at u time of conscription for overseas service in relation to a war which a very significant part of the Australian community regards as immoral and indefensible. The Government simply regards conscientious objection as part of the modern dissent which it fears and which it resents, because ultimately this is a government that despises non-conformity. As I said before, prominent members and senators in this Parliament on the Government side do not even begin to understand what the problem of conscience is. The Melbourne ‘Age’ of 9th May put the position very fairly when it said in its editorial:
So long as the war in Vietnam continues the issue of conscription will remain inextricably mixed with questions of conscience at least for a significant minority.
We would support that view because it seems to us to state shortly the essence of the present controversy.
I want to say a word or two about the history of this legislation because, to put it mildly, it is very instructive. The fight against this Bil] has already resulted in substantial amendments being made to the original legislation. When 1 say that 1 do not want it to be thought that these amendments in any way dispose of our objection to the legislation. That is fundamental. Indeed, when we look at what has actually been done by the Government to retreat, we can say that even in the disarray there is a certain amount of order. I want to examine particular provisions because what has been done has been done under pressure for public relations purposes, in order to please this group or that group or to meet the objections, in form at any rate, of a particular body of opinion. I refer particularly to universities which, I am glad to say, have stood up and, been counted and, for the most part, have told the Government, that they would not have co-operated in the legislation if it had been passed in the form originally submitted.
May I go back to the history of the matter? Since the Bill was first introduced into the House of Representatives, no less than eleven amendments have been sponsored by the Government. Seven of them were made in one gulp after the Parliament had come back from a weeks recess. Then another four provisions were dropped during last week when the Bil! was being debated in another place. First of all, the part of clause 22 relating to universities and other educational institutions was dropped. The reference to other institutions was dropped out first. Then the part about university records was dropped out. The Government said to the universities: ‘We will not need to have your records,’ although, when the Bill was first introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) in another place, he said it was essential for the Government to have access to those records.
But that was not enough for the universities, and it was not enough for the sensible people. So the Government finally gave in and dropped the whole of clause 22. What we have seen is a series of undignified retreats. One newspaper, in an editorial, called it the ‘daily retreat’. Every time one picked up a newspaper one could see that the Government had abandoned yet another part of this ill-conceived and ill-considered legislation. 1 do not think 1 would be giving away any State secrets or any Government secrets which I may have learned by fair or foul means if 1 were to say that the Government was kicking itself for ever having introduced this legislation, lt is not only unspeakable but, in the end, unnecessary.
Let no-one be deceived into thinking that the Government has divested itself of powers by amendments that it has made. In fact, it has retained power under clause 21 to require a person to attend before a person specified in a notice at the time and places so specified and there to answer such questions, and to furnish such information relating to a prescribed matter as the person specified in the notice puts to him or requires of him. Proposed new section 52 (2.) (b) provides that the penalty for failing to attend at the time and place specified shall be liable to a penalty of $200. That applies without exception, lt applies to mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, ministers of religion, doctors and lawyers. It applies to everybody. What is the difference between having power to compel a person to attend to answer questions under pain of a penalty of $200 and requiring him to attend and answer questions although he need not have to answer truthfully if he has a specified family or confidential relationship? The whole exercise is entirely misleading if it is suggested that the Government has divested itself of power. 1 challenge the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), when he replies to the debate, to contradict me on this. In fact, so far from contradicting that statement, as I understand his second reading speech, the Minister actually proclaims the existence of the power because, when he is dealing with universities and explaining why the Government is no longer proceed ing with the provision relating to educational institutions, he says this:
The Government has, since the introduction of the Bill, examined the whole matter again in further detail. In the light of what has been put to it by educational authorities, particularly universities, it is now evident-
It should always have been evident, I would think - that to require information in its present form would present problems of varying magnitude arising from the nature of the records themselves and the confidential nature of the information in them and in other circumstances. The Government has therefore decided-
I stress the following words - not to proceed with the provision but to rely on other methods of identifying defaulters among the student group. As I have already implied, clause 21-
That is the clause that I have been dealing with. It is the clause which gives power to require the attendance of persons and to require answers, subject to certain exceptions - does not exclude education institutions from its cover.
What does that mean? It means that, notwithstanding all1 the wordy withdrawal and all the apparent surrender to sweet reasonableness on the part of those who have made the case, the Government is saying: We can still get it from you under clause 21.’
– I think that is skulduggery.
– The honourable senator has said it. I think it is disingenuous. Nobody has got any great concession out of it because the registrar of a university can still be asked to come along and answer some questions. He is not one of the exempted persons. Nor is the vicechancellor; nor is the chairman of the professorial board; nor is anybody else at the university in charge of student records or discipline or anything of the sort. Under clause 21 they can alt be required to attend and answer questions, and it would be no defence for them to say that they were not required to answer truthfully. They would be so required.
– But that has always been the law.
– I know it has. That is why the whole exercise is so preposterous. I do not have to be political or otherwise partisan about these matters. I can invoke the assistance of all the responsible and respected conservative journals in this country on this issue. For example, the Melbourne ‘Age’ says that, politically and morally, the Government has made a series of crass errors. If Senator Greenwood’s interjection proves anything, it certainly proves that. Therefore, in reply to the suggestion that the Bill has been watered down 1 say that although it has been somewhat watered down, having been subjected to a series of face saving amendments, it is still a dangerous piece of legislation. In its original form, it was one of the worst ever brought before the Parliament, and it is not much better now. The only difference now is that if a parent or a person in a confidential relationship, such as a doctor, a lawyer or a minister of religion, does not tell the truth when called up he is not liable to a penalty for failing to tell the truth; he is liable to a penalty only for failing to turn up when given notice.
Does the Minister tell me that is a very different provision? I do not agree that it is. Not every parent or brother or sister or minister of religion walks around with a copy of the National Service Act in his pocket. In any case, he cannot necessarily read it accurately if he does have a copy. If he gets a notice to go along and report to the Department of National Service next Monday at 3 o’clock, the chances are that he will go, particularly if the notice says: Penalty for non-attendance $200’. When the parent arrives he or she may be asked - there is nothing to stop them being asked - questions such as: ‘Where is your son? What is the age of your son?’ The parent can be asked to give certain information about his or her son. The chances are that in the circumstances the parent would give the information that the Government has said it is no longer seeking under clause 22 because it has deleted that clause from the Bill. Are we dealing with a real problem or is this some meaningless exercise in semantics that the Government is going on with to give the impression that in some way or another this is a more acceptable Bill? Of course the Bill is more acceptable in the sense that if you take a quarter of an inch off a long claw, the claw is not so sharp. But it is still there. The bludgeon that accompanies this legislation is still there.
There are many points on which we will be wanting to speak at the Committee stage. We will be raising a series of amendments which I hope to circulate before long. Firstly we will try to do something about the law relating to conscientious objection. The Government has ignored that question. We do not want to see it ignored because there is a critical question of principle involved in the present situation. At the moment no young man can be exempt from military service on the ground of conscientious objection unless he is a conscientious and complete pacifist. He must be opposed to any form of military service in any war at any time. His conscientious beliefs must be such that they will not allow him to bear arms at any time or to be associated, in many cases, even in non-combatant activity that is related in some way to military service. This has been made plain in a series of cases, one of the most important of which was the case of William White’s application for exemption. Mr Justice Windeyer, in the High Court, said:
The requisite for total exemption is thus, it seems, a conscientious and complete pacifism. I do not read section 29a ( (1.) . , .
To which we will be moving amendments - . . as referable to an objection to participation only in a particular war or in operations against a particular enemy. I mention this because the stringency of the conditions for exemption under Australian law is not always appreciated. Elsewhere and under other Acts claims for exemption have been upheld in the past because of a conscientious objection to participation only in a war then in progress. This was so in the United Kingdom during the war of 1939-45. But although as I read them the words of our Act are absolute and unlimited in time, that does not, I think, mean that, in assessing whether a man’s beliefs concerning military service entitle him to exemption, his opinion concerning events in the world at the time the question arises are altogether irrelevant.
The position at the moment is that cases have been heard by courts. The case of the young man O’Donnell was one where, on appeal, Judge Norris in Victoria accepted that O’Donnell held sincere and conscientious beliefs that the war in Vietnam was an immoral war and that he could not as a matter of conscience bring himself to take part in it. The Judge accepted O’Donnell’s sincerity, but the law did not allow him to grant exemption because the exemption is limited only to those who have a conscientious objection to participating in any military service at all. We in the Opposition believe that a sensible, humane and just law would permit an exemption in the case of a man who believes, as a matter of conscience, that he is unable to take part in the war in Vietnam. This is the critical test for Australia al the moment. Are we, as a democracy, big enough to say to a young man who sincerely and as a matter of conscience objects to taking part in what he regards as an immoral war: ‘Yes, you are exempt from service on that ground’? This is a question of great and central importance. I could cite many opinions on it.
Neither I nor the Opposition is persuaded that the law is humane or just or that it gives a proper opportunity to a young man, who is willing to serve his country in another way, to apply for exemption, lt is quite obvious from all that we read and hear, from some of these regrettable and ghastly stories that are dribbling out day by day about conscientious objectors and the way that they are being treated, that the law must be amended. We propose to invite the Senate to give very serious consideration to the adoption of amendments which would do several things. The amendments would extend the exemption from service because of conscientious objection to military service whether it bs in relation to a particular war or otherwise. That opens up the whole debate. It means that if our view is adopted a young man will not be forced to fight in Vietnam if as a matter of conscience - not merely because he has a political objection - he finds himself unable to take part in such a war.
Secondly, we want to permit the question of exemption as a conscientious objector to be tried before the young man is inducted into the machine and scrambled up in it. There are too many cases of young men who have a conscientious objection to registration and who are caught up in committing offences before their applications for exemption are heard and disposed of. There are difficulties in the law because at the moment a young man cannot apply for exemption after he has commenced to render service unless he can show that he has developed the conscientious objection since commencing to render service. We do not think that that is an appropriate provision to leave in the Act. We are supported, in our attitude to the problem of conscientious objection, by many considered statements by people in the churches and people who work with the youth of today in many walks of life. The Australian Council of Churches appointed a special committee to report on the whole problem of conscientious objection. The report stated:
Any enlightened community Ls, however, called to make the effort required for a rational consideration of the matter, lt cannot escape the fact that the value it places on freedom and personal liberty as major characteristics of a free, democratic society is revealed in the clauses of its legislation dealing with conscientious objection.
We want to see that a man who wishes his case to be considered is provisionally deemed to be a conscientious objector pending the hearing of his claim. As a matter of justice and fair dealing, how could such an amendment be resisted?
We wish to present another challenge to the Government. We want to provide a form of service alternative to military service. We will be proposing an amendment which if accepted will enable a man called up for military service to choose to render service in a national project, in Australia or overseas, in a form approved by the Minister as an alternative to military service. I believe that the Bill underlines the Government’s pathetically narrow approach to the concept of national service. Tt demonstrates a lack of confidence in the youth of today. Young people all over the world are in revolt. In recent months I have travelled overseas and have seen some evidence of this development in a number of countries including Asia, Europe, the United States of America and Great Britain, as well as in Australia.
Young people today want a say in their own destiny and future. They do not think much of what our generation has done for them and it is plain that we do not have all the answers for them. They want to contribute something worth while to the society in which they live. It is irresponsible to categorise most of them as lacking in responsibility. They are members of a deeply serious generation. Many of them are utterly convinced of the futility and immorality of war, and particularly of the war in Vietnam. I am referring to the type of young man who hates the Vietnam war, wants nothing to do with it and regards it deeply and sincerely as immoral. There are many such people in the community and they want: to contribute to a positive form of national service. At present there is nothing for them. They are either in the Army or in gaol.
We believe that the case for an alternative non-military form of national service is very strong and that it receives support from many non-committed and non-aligned sections of the community. Only an inadequate and weak Government could fail to seize the heaven sent opportunity to acknowledge the loyalties and appeals of these young people through an appropriate form of national service. I do not think I have sufficient time to quote verbatim from leading articles of newspapers which have commented on this legislation. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ has made the point that the Bill dodges the real problem, which is the provision of alternative service for people who refuse to serve in the Army, and that the Minister should pay more heed to bodies like the Australian Council of Churches which have called for the provision of non-military service for people who prefer it. I would also remind honourable senators that the Returned Services League, through its President Sir Arthur Lee, as recently as this month after a conference announced that the League believed that the present scheme should be progressively expanded to make provision for alternative service in the Citizen Military Forces and in civilian undertakings so that eventually all young men would be rendering service of some kind to Australia. I suggest that it is an important problem for the Government to consider.
We believe that the Government must face up to the problem of an alternative form of service because we have reached a stage in the Vietnam war - we are discussing basically conscription for Vietnam and a way to tighten the legislation, because that is what the Government wants - where for the first time there may be a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Negotiations for peace are taking place in Paris. They have not progressed very far but there is every prospect that the talks will continue. Some rather senior and experienced people think that it will not be very long before there is a much more dramatic, de-escalation of the war than has taken place since President Johnson’s announcement on 30th March last. This is not the time to turn the screws and convert the prisons into veritable Bastilles. This is the time to take a sensible and rational look at the problem of national service. It is not the lime to start persecuting young men.
– lt is a case of ‘Open the door, Richard’.
– That is so. We have not quite reached the stage of the knock on the door in the middle of the night out we are taking dangerous steps with this legislation. We believe that the Bill is a confession of failure of a policy and an exercise in crude authoritarianism. It is a little of each, lt shows up the Government for what it is - a Government devoid of constructive policies, ready to wield the big stick when thwarted, and even ready when public pressure shows resentment to the big stick, to wield a smaller stick in the Senate and to say: ‘We are wielding a smaller stick here with this legislation’.
The Bill helps to construct an edifice of tyranny. 1 think it shows what the Government would get away with if allowed to do so by an Opposition which lacked vigilance and by a public which was not thoroughly roused to the iniquities and threats of this legislation. We should be aware of the far reaching powers that the Government already has under this legislation. Apparently it is not content with them and has an insatiable appetite for unfettered power. The Bill attempts to tighten every screw - or did so when introduced. In the end we saw a series of retreats, as I have called them. These ignominious and undignified retreats have been accompanied by protestations that the legislation in its original form was not essentia] to the Government’s plan but it was thought that it would be helpful. Government supporters claim that people have misunderstood their motives. They say: ‘We would like to show that it is all bona fide. All we want to do is catch a very small number of people who, according to the Minister, are evading the draft.’
If the numbers are small, it is ludicrous to handle the problem by using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. If the numbers are large, the Bill becomes an instrument to enforce a policy that is unacceptable to a significant section of the population. Whichever it is, it is a Bill we are determined to fight and to resist because we think that its introduction, even in the attenuated, weakened and watered down form in which it comes to the Senate, is an affront to the people of Australia.
– I think it is fair to comment that the speech just delivered by Senator Cohen disclosed pre-eminently two points. The first point is that, not unnaturally, he does not like the Government. The second point is that he has an almost limitless store of adjectives with which to castigate the Government. Three main points can be put in opposition to what Senator Cohen has stated. The first point is that if there is a case against’ the legislation which the Government is proposing, that case will stand or fall on arguments, not on epithets and the use of the extravagant language which characterised much of Senator Cohen’s speech. The second point is in regard to Senator Cohen’s statement that the Australian Labor Party is opposed to conscription for overseas service. He said with some pride that this is still his Party’s policy. I think the Government is entitled to say that it did not shirk fighting the Labor Party on that issue at an election and that it received an overwhelming mandate. If the basis of legislation which permits conscription overseas is approved by the people, then the Government has a mandate to make sure that the provisions of the legislation are effective.
The third point which can be made is in regard to Senator Cohen’s criticism of the Government because it accepted various amendments to the legislation originally introduced. He suggested that the Government had retreated; but he also said that it had retreated in some order. I think that it is fair to say that the Government listened to representations made to it and was responsive to those representations. Surely the whole point of persons making representations to the Government is the assumption that the Government will be responsive to those representations. If the Government had not been responsive it would have been criticised so it seems to be unreal that it should be cricised because it has been responsive.
I think it is appropriate to consider exactly what the Bill does. Firstly, it amends the National Service Act. For a proper appreciation of the proposed amendments 1 think we ought to examine what that Act provides, the way in which the amendments will alter it, and the justification for the amendments. I think it is useful to turn to the Act to consider what its objectives were at the time it was introduced. The National Service Act was introduced in 1951 in circumstances which I am sure are memorable to a number of members of the Opposition. The basis upon which the legislation was introduced was stated by the present Treasurer (Mr McMahon) at page 3446 of Hansard of 30th November 1950, as follows:
The two principles upon which the national service policy of the Government is based are, first, that we must at all times be prepared to defend ourselves against external aggression; and, secondly, that we must be prepared to fulfil the international obligations that the Parliament has approved of on behalf of the nation.
The purpose of the Act was to create a form of universal military training which would enable Australia to be better equipped to give effect to those two objectives. Since that date the Act has been amended on no less than seven occasions and in a variety of ways, but on no occasion has an amendment excited quite the attention of the Opposition that this Bill has. Of course, the 1964 amendments which were introduced by the Government of Sir Robert Menzies had a specific objective in mind. I think it is also useful to refer to what those objectives were because it is the pursuance of those objectives which constitutes part of the justification for the measures which are contained in this Bill. At page 2717 of Hansard of 10th November 1964, Sir Robert Menzies said:
It seems clear, on our military advice and our own carefully formed judgment, that we cannot expect by voluntary means to achieve a build up in the Army’s strength of the order we require and to the timing which is necessary. We are living in a period of unsurpassed prosperity and more than full employment; the attractions of civilian employment are very great indeed.
The Government has therefore decided that there is no alternative to the introduction of selective compulsory service.
Sir Robert Menzies then referred to various aspects of Australia’s international situation. He continued:
We expect a continuing requirement to make forces available for cold war and anti-insurgency tasks. We must have forces ready as an immediate contribution should wider hostilities occur. We must at all times retain adequate forces against any more direct threat which might develop to our own security. Because of our geographic position we have the most compelling reasons to take those steps which will put us in a position to meet these various demands. . . . lt follows also that, to enable the Regular Army to achieve the required degree of operational readiness, selective servicemen must serve in regular units on a full time basis. If the scheme is to be effective, those called up must therefore be under an obligation to serve overseas as necessary and must be available to go with the regular unit in which they are serving.
Since that statement was made there have been elections in 1964 and 1966 and the whole basis upon which the Act now operates and the practices which are given effect in the operation of the Act have been recognised and accepted. The purpose of the present amendments is to improve what experience has been shown to be necessary, namely alterations to some of the sections of the principal Act.
The principal Act requires all male persons between the ages of 19 and 20 to register for national service. It provides for the medical examination of those persons who are registered and a call-up for national service of persons among those who have registered and are medically fit. Persons who are called up are required to render service in the Regular Army Supplement for 2 years and in the Regular Army Reserve for 3 years thereafter. The Act also provides for exemptions from registering to certain very limited specific persons and for deferment of service in specific circumstances.
Exemption from liability to render service is provided for those persons enumerated in the Act. Among those enumerated are persons who have conscientious beliefs which do not allow them to engage in any form of military service. The Act also contains a number of what 1 describe broadly as miscellaneous provisions that are necessary for the carrying out of the Act and ensuring that the obligations which the Act imposes are performed. The Act imposes an obligation on all Australians of the requisite age to register and it provides that, subject to specific exemptions, persons called up will render national service. Persons who are called up are to render service with the Regular Army Supplement and as such they form part of the defence forces of .this country. 1 have summarised the basis upon which the National Service Act operates and outlined its major provisions. We are all familiar with its terms. But what do the amendments provide? Firstly, the offence of failing to obey a call-up notice or to render service - an offence which hitherto has carried, on conviction, the penalty of being placed in military custody - is now to be a civil offence. Secondly, the Bill alters provisions for medical examination so as to provide that there may be a comprehensive examination of the physical and mental fitness or capacity of a person to render service, lt permits, therefore, a wider field of examination than the existing provision provides.
Thirdly, the obligation on an employer not to continue to employ a person who is not registered, has not obeyed the call-up or has not rendered service, is removed and instead the employer is required to notify the Registrar of the Department of Labour and National Service of information which he has. I cannot understand why there should be objections to that provision. It appears to me to be a far less onerous and far more reasonable provision in the light of what ought to be required of persons both from the viewpoint of the employer and the young person concerned. Fourthly, the Act provides that penalties for breaches of various provisions are to be increased from the figures which were introduced in 1951 to figures which are more appropriate to present day values. Offences for which a penalty of $100 was provided in 1951 now attract a penalty of $200, and other penalties are similarly adjusted.
Fifthly, the Bill provides for a wider power to grant deferments on grounds of exceptional hardship. Sixthly, there is a recognition of defence service on the same basis as that now afforded to men in the Permanent Forces. Seventhly, an extension of certain provisions is provided to protect workers from being penalised by reason of the performance of their national service obligations. Finally, there are what I describe as provisions designed for the better policing of the Act. In those circumstances it appears to me reasonable that the Government, in the light of its experience, should’ have introduced these measures. There is not one of them which, on any ground of principle, ought to warrant objection. Much of the comment by way of opposition to this measure has been concentrated on two particular fields. One relates to the absence of any provision in the amendments on the matter of conscientious objection, and the other is the nature of the provision whereby a person who is convicted of failing to obey the call-up or of failing to render service, instead of being put into military custody, is to be put into civil custody, and the way in which that is effected.
I turn first to the question of conscientious objection to ascertain in fact the nature of the conscientious objection for which an exemption is allowed, and the validity of the .attacks which have been made on the adequacy of that provision. All honourable senators have read what the newspaper columnists, political opponents and private correspondents have written by way of objection to the absence of a provision that a person who has a conscientious objection to a particular war may be exempted. I submit that such an objection, though conscientiously held, is a political objection, ft is misleading to cal’l it a conscientious objection. To do so ignores certain provisions and certain practices which are or ought to be known to members of the Opposition and which certainly ought to be known to many of the people who have written the newspaper editorials in criticism. They certainly should be known to people who have criticised amendment to the National Service Act wilh the degree of particularity which they have displayed. A person liable to register who holds a belief that the war in Vietnam is unjust, immoral, or both, or that Australia should not be engaged in it does not have to run the risk of being called on to fight in Vietnam, and when he is not open to that risk it is humbug to say that a person has a conscientious objection to rendering himself liable to fight in Vietnam. That is a complete answer to those who claim that their conscience in that regard is being oppressed. Those who plead conscience in this category are either using a political stratagem or else they are singularly unaware of the choice which is open to any young man about to undergo national service.
I am prepared to recognise the legitimacy of a political objection and to give it due weight, in my attempt to answer it according to my ability, but I abhor the misuse of the phrase ‘conscientious objection’ which is supposed to give some added moral weight to what is nothing more than a political objection. A person who is required to register is required to do so in response to a notification which is published in the Gazette’ and in response to advertisements which appear in the newspapers and on television, and he knows that he has to register with the national service office. When he goes to the national service office he will receive two documents. One of them, which 1 have in my hand, will give him information on national service. The second document he will receive is headed ‘Registration for National Service’, and the one is usually incorporated in the other. In the document which records his registration he will find on the front page, standing out from the mass of printing, the heading Service in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to National Service’. The first sentence under that heading reads:
Persons required to register for national service may, if they wish, seek to serve in the Citizen Naval Forces, the Citizen Military Forces, or an Auxiliary or University Squadron of the Citizen Air Force as an alternative to rendering national service in the Regular Army Supplement.
If that does not give enough information, he turns to the document which is headed Information on National Service’, and on page 3 he finds half a page given over to the details. That part of it to which I refer is headed ‘Section 7: Service in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to National Service’ and it reads:
Those who are required to register for national service may apply for service in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to rendering national service.
The document then sets out the situation for those who have been in the Citizen Military Forces or other forces for a period of 12 months or more, the situation for those who have served for less than 12 months, and also for those who arc not members of those forces but who are prepared to join. For all of those persons there is a particular form to fill in as part of their registration, and thereafter they are not liable for national service unless they fail to render efficiently service in the Citizen Forces to which they belong or to which they have applied to belong.
– Are they liable to serve overseas in the Citizen Military Forces?
– On my understanding, they are not. The document to which I have been referring contains the following information:
A man who wishes to exercise any one ot the options mentioned above and to serve in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to national service must complete and sign the undertaking in Form A, Form B or Form C as appropriate on the back of the Registration Form in addition to completing and signing the Registration Form itself.
I suggest to the Senate that young persons who are about to register for national service have a very acute appreciation of their obligations and rights. If there are young people who hold an objection to the Vietnamese engagement and who object to being forced to go to Vietnam or to running the risk of going there, they may. if their consciences are affected in the way in which they claim they are affected, opt out by undertaking service in the Citizen Military Forces. While that option is available, I cannot see how anybody can say that he has a conscientious objection the expression of which is denied to him. The moment he knows that he has an obligation to register he can put himself in a position where his conscience will not be affected.
– That is not so.
– Well, I have raised the issue here and what I have said is to my mind a complete answer, but I shall be interested to hear comments from any member of the Opposition who claims that I am wrong.
– I suggest that the honourable senator have another look at the obligation concerning the CMF.
– 1 have not heard it suggested that this alternative which is open to people is not honoured. 1 have nol heard of any person who offered for engagement in the Citizen Military Forces having been denied it and having been required to register for national service. Of course, many young people want to have a bit each way. They feel that they do not want to undergo the obligation of 6 years service in the Citizen Military Forces, and therefore they will run the risk of national service because they know that once they are registered they have to be medically examined and they may have a 50% chance of not being liable for national service. Even after they have been medically examined they are subject to call-up as the result of a ballot and they have a chance in those circumstances of not being balloted in. Even if they are balloted in and they object to going overseas, they still have the chance that they will not be one of those people who will be sent overseas. Anybody who does have a belief that the Vietnamese war is wrong but who chooses to take that sort of chance and who, if the chance misfires, pleads a conscientious objection is guilty of humbug. I suggest that in those circumstances a person ought not to be entitled to the protection of this legislation.
There is a further element on this question of conscience which I think is relevant to all the talk that we have heard about it in recent times. The element of conscience is not the criterion on which the exemption provided in the Act applies. The mere fact that a person has a conscientious belief is nol in itself a ground for exemption. Many people have conscientious beliefs about a hundred and one things. A conscientious belief is merely a belief which is strongly held, probably stemming from some strongly held inner conviction; but it could be in regard to any matter, any state of affairs or against any particular situation or course of conduct. In those circumstances a person could hold a conscientious belief that he should not use a particular weapon. He could hold, as Senator Cohen said, a conscientious belief that he should not register. He could have a conscientious belief that the welfare of Australia is best served by one political party and not by another political party. These beliefs, if strongly held, are conscientious beliefs. Conscientious beliefs of this character have been held ever since there has been a provision in the Defence Act comparable to section 29a of the National Service Act. What is required is not merely a conscientious belief: it must be a conscientious belief in a certain state of facts or a conscientious belief objecting to a certain course of conduct.
If one goes back to the first Defence Act which was passed in 1903 one sees that an exemption from service under that Aci was guaranteed to persons the doctrines of whose religion forbad them to bear arms or to perform military service. That was an objection to the bearing of arms or the performing of military service. It was not expressed in terms of conscientious belief; it related to persons the doctrines of whose religion forbad bearing arms or military service. That provision remained until 1910 when an amendment was introduced. That new provision remained in the Defence Act for the next 30 years in section 61, which stated:
The following shall be exempt from service in time of war. . . .
Persons whose conscientious beliefs do not allow them to bear arms. . . .
In 1939 the meaning of the words ‘conscientious beliefs’ was changed to include all conscientious beliefs, whether religiously based or not. In 1942 the National Security Regulations, which were introduced by the government which was in office at that time, provided in clause 10 of regulation 80 that exemption should be granted to a person if a court was satisfied that he held a genuine conscientious belief that it was wrong to perform naval, military or Air Force service, whether combatant or noncombatant. The provision that was inserted in the National Service Act in 1951 provided for exemption in terms almost the same as those which now appear, namely, where a person held a conscientious belief that he could not perform naval, military or Air Force service. Now we have in section 29a a provision which states, in broad terms, that a person whose conscientious beliefs do not allow him to engage in any form of military service is, so long as he holds those beliefs, exempt from liability to render service under this Act.
The point of that short history is to indicate that from its inception the provision in question has related to an objection to the bearing of arms or to undertaking any form of naval, military or Air Force service. That provision remains in the National Service Act in the same general form as provisions relating to objection to any form of military service. The idea which is now prevalent is that this is in some way inadequate and that a conscientious objection to a particular war may be permitted. In my opinion that view is no more sustainable than would be a conscientious objection to using a particular weapon or to fighting with a particular ally or, if one cared so to express it, riding a particular type of vehicle. It seems to me that once we accept an objection to anything less than any form of military service we are creating an impossible situation in which no Act could operate and we are denigrating the true concept of a conscientious objection. It has always been the rule and it has long been recognised that a person whose beliefs make him shun all form of military service whatsoever because he is a pacifist or because he does hold to religious doctrines which will not allow him to take up arms should be free of any obligation to serve; but once we alter that concept and give to some other person the right to object and, on the basis of that objection, to claim that he should be exempt we are giving some credence to a political objection. That is what it is and that is what I think it should be categorised and recognised as being. Ever since this great movement began this claim has been whipped up to some extent by those whose political advantage lies in whipping it up. They claim that a conscientious objection to a particular war is being denied by this legislation.
– What does the honourable senator think of the Catholic Church’s doctrine of just and unjust wars? Does he believe that that was whipped up for political purposes?
– No, I do not think that doctrine has been whipped up for any political purpose, but I do suggest that that statement is being used out of the context in which it was made for the particular purpose of supporting arguments which members of the Opposition are now putting forward. There are always wars which, according to the view held, could be categorised as being just or unjust wars. If we in Australia have a rule which permits a conscientious belief as a ground of objection to any form of military service, it appears to me that once we whittle that down we are denying to the nation the ability to build up its defence forces.
The other parts of the Bill to which I have referred are those which relate to the transformation of offences which carry a penalty of military custody into offences which carry a civil penalty. That is the provision which was in sub-sections (1.) and (8.) of section 51 of the principal Act. Section 51 (1.) states:
A person on whom a notice under section twenty-six of this Act has been served -
who fails to comply with the requirements of the notice; or
who fails to render the service which he is liable to render under this Act, is guilty of an offence and, upon conviction, shall, subject lo the next succeeding sub-section, be committed, for the purpose of rendering service in accordance with this section, lo the custody of a prescribed authority specified by the court and, in addition, is liable to a fine not exceeding One hundred dollars.
Practice, if not the precise regulation - I have not checked it - has made that prescribed authority the Service under whose authority convicted persons are placed. Sub-section (8.) provides:
Where a person who is convicted of an offence against paragraph (b) of sub-section (I.) of this section-
That is the sub-section 1 have just read - is committed to the custody of a prescribed authority, he shall render his service, or the unexpired portion of his service, under this Act in accordance with regulations made under the Defence Act 1903-1964 that are expressed to apply to the service of persons to whom this subsection or the last preceding sub-section applies. lt would appear - I think recent events have proved this to be the case - that the system of requiring a person to be placed in military custody as a result of a conviction for his failure either to attend in answer to his call-up notice or to render service is unsatisfactory. The effect of the proposal now before the Senate is to alter that procedure. The existing provision had the drawback that a person who was resisting national service, or was unwilling to co-operate or refusing to co-operate was nol only a hindrance and a nuisance to the Army but also a nuisance to himself. If his political beliefs warranted it he could attempt to make himself some sort of potential martyr but in pursuance of that nebulous gesture he could make things difficult for himself and those who had to look after him.
The system imposed military punishment - that is what it would amount to - for what was after all a civil1 offence. As I have said, it imposed an unnecessary burden on the Army. Clause 20 provides that a person, on conviction for failure to answer a call-up notice or failure to render service may be proceeded against in a civil court. That was the position prior to the amendment. On conviction he is asked to enter into a recognisance either that he will observe his call-up and render service or that he will render service as he is obliged to do. If he fails to enter into that recognisance a certain course follows. If he does enter into the recognisance and fails to observe it, again a certain course follows. That course is prescribed by the Act as a sentence for the term of which he would be liable to render national service for a period not exceeding 2 years.
I would have thought that to that procedure there could not - I suppose there will not - be any basic objection. But objection is taken to the fact that this ultimate term of imprisonment which may be imposed in the circumstances I have mentioned may be imposed without a jury intervening at some stage. When a trial by jury is sought it would appear to me that there is a lack of appreciation of what historically has been the function of a jury and the role it can fulfil in these particular circumstances. From the time when a jury ceased to be composed of persons who were called together because of their exact knowledge of the facts and became a jury composed of persons who had no knowledge of the facts, a jury became a body which existed primarily and solely for the determination of issues of fact.
The great contribution of the AngloSaxon legal tradition to the world is that a jury makes its own particular contribution in the ascertainment of facts upon which recollections could vary and upon which there could be various disputing views. But that tradition depends upon there being issues to be resolved. If the question is whether a person, in accordance with the legal definition of murder, did commit murder and is or is not guilty of the offence, there is a series of facts upon which the jury’s opinion is important. But it is a different matter if the question is: Wa>– a call-up notice serviced on a particular person?
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m. (General Business taking precedence of Government Business)
Debate resumed from 14 May (vide page 983). on motion by Senator Cohen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Before the debate on this Bill was adjourned on 14th May last, in the few minutes that had been available to me I had said that the Bill, which the Opposition had introduced, was a simple one that called merely for the abolition of capital punishment under Federal law without entering into a detailed discussion of the particular laws that exist at the present time or of any particular laws that we desire to have amended. We are bringing forward this Bill in that form because we believe that the issues that are involved in the question of the retention or abolition of capital punishment are relatively simple ones.
My submission is that the degree of civilisation of a society may be judged by its treatment of those people within it who offend against its laws. I believe that it may well be said that insofar as a society is barbarous in its treatment of people whom it has found to bc offenders it may be regarded as a barbaric society, and that insofar as it is humane and enlightened in the way in which it deals with offenders it may be regarded as a humane and enlightened society. The submission of people who are opposed to the retention of capital punishment is that the taking of the lives of certain offenders by the state is a barbaric way for the state to act, and that insofar as a state is barbaric in the way in which it behaves towards those people it is a barbaric society.
The law of our country - and, I think, the law of most other civilisations throughout the world - regards the taking of human life as the most barbarous and most serious action that any man can take. I do not think there is any crime that is regarded more seriously than the wrongful taking of another’s life. In fact that is recognised by the laws of the Commonwealth and of the various Australian States, in that the most serious penalty that can be imposed on a person for any offence against another person is in respect of the crime of murder, which is regarded as the most serious crime within the framework of our law. It seems to me to be rather odd that, having said that the taking of life is so wrong and so barbaric that it is a crime that calls for the most severe penalty, the state should engage in the very action that it condemns as being the most serious of crimes. There are other crimes against the human person which are also very serious - rape, vicious assaults, torture and all sorts of diabolical acts short of the taking of life - but which are not regarded by the law of the Commonwealth or of the States as seriously as murder. Despite the fact that those crimes are not regarded as seriously or of such an extreme nature as the crime of unlawful homicide, for none of them is the penalty imposed upon the offender similar to the crime committed as in the case of unlawful homicide.
There are now very few areas in which corporal punishment is still retained. I do nol think any jurist, any honourable senator or any other member of this Parliament would say that if a man had been found guilty of torturing another person he should therefore be tortured by the state as part of the penalty to be imposed on him. I bel’ieve that we would say that torture is so barbaric that, although some individual may have committed such an offence against some other person, it is so horrible that in no circumstance should the state engage in torture against the person who committed that serious offence, however barbaric and however detestible that person and his crime may be. However, when it comes to the taking of another’s life, although we regard that as being a very serious matter, as is apparent from the severe penalty that is imposed, we do not take a similar attitude and the law of the Commonwealth and of some of the Australian States says that we are justified in doing what we ourselves, by our own laws, regard as being the ultimate offence against humanity; that is, the deliberate and wilful taking of another human being’s life.
As I understand the position, three principal arguments are submitted by the people who support the retention of capital punishment. 1 am prepared to concede that many people who otherwise could be regarded as most humane support the retention of capital punishment. There are some people who, as one sees, whenever there is any discussion about the abolition of capital punishment, seem to be mentally distressed in some way and to take some delight in imagining the hanging of some unfortunate individual. But on the whole there are a great many people who are most humane but who nonetheless believe that capital punishment should be retained. As I understand the arguments of those people, they fall into three categories. The first is that some retribution should be exacted from any person who has committed such a heinous offence as unlawful homicide or murder.
– The Mosaic law.
– Yes the old principle that is still to be found in a great many primitive societies of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; the principle that whenever any person commits a wrong exactly the same wrong should be inflicted on him because by so doing justice in some way is maintained and a wrong in some way is righted. J do not believe that very many people in our society these days would hold to the view that we are justified in exacting that sort of retribution.
I have mentioned some of the arguments against it. The one that 1 believe is the most important is that if we believe that the taking of human life - the crime of murder - is so serious and so horrible then the mere fact that some misguided or evil individual has behaved in a certain way is no argument that the State, with all the majesty of the courts and all the majesty of the law, should reduce itself to the level of behaving in the same way as a felonious murderer. 1 believe that in discussing this question it is fundamental that we should ask ourselves whether the Slate should not say: ‘We are expected to behave in a much better manner, a much more enlightened manner and a much more humane and intelligent manner than that in which some barbaric murderer has acted, and the mere fact that a person has committed an offence of this nature is no reason for debasing the State and its laws and courts to the same level as that of the murderer’. For that reason 1 submit that it would be impossible for any humane and enlightened person to continue to justify capital punishment by arguments related to the exacting of retribution.
Another major argument that is used to justify capital punishment, and also to justify other forms of punishment falling far short of capital punishment, is that it has a deterrent effect. In the case of capital punishment, I think two types of deterrent would be envisaged by the people who say that capital punishment is a deterrent. The first type of deterrent is a deterrent to others. I think it is argued that if a potential murderer is aware that the law enables the execution of murderers to be carried out by the State this will deter him from committing this crime. I do not want to weary the Senate with a lot of figures relating to this matter. Certainly the evidence which can be adduced from comparing the homicide rates in those States or countries where capital punishment has been abolished with the rates in those States or countries where capital punishment is still imposed do not bear out this argument at all. In fact, one finds that there is in the Netherlands, for example, a much lower homicide rate than in certain other countries where capital punishment is retained, although capital punishment has been abolished in the Netherlands for almost a century.
If one compares the States of Australia one does not find that there is a higher rate of murder in those States where capital punishment either has been abolished or, if not formally abolished, is not imposed than in those States where capital punishment has not been abolished. I am informed - I do not have with me any figures to verify the allegation - that the highest homicide rate is to be found in my own State of Western Australia, which also has the highest rate of judicial executions of any State in the Commonwealth. In fact, it cannot be shown by comparing the States of Western Australia and New South Wales or Queensland that the retention of the death penalty in Western Australia has in any way lessened the number of murders that have taken place in Western Australia. In fact, if one merely compares convictions one finds that there are more convictions per capita in Western Australia than in those States where the death penalty either has been abolished or is, by agreed practice, not imposed.
On the question of deterrent another argument which is put forward is not that capital punishment will deter others from committing the crime of murder but that it will, if one may use the expression, deter the offender himself from committing the crime of murder if he himself is executed. I will admit that there are very many serious arguments which may be raised and which were raised in Great Britain during discussion on the abolition of capital punishment which would tend to bear out this argument. It is suggested by many people that if a man has already been convicted of murder and has had the maximum penalty of life imprisonment imposed upon him, he then has nothing to lose. If, for example, he decides to make some sort of escape from the prison where he has been incarcerated, he will not be very particular as to whether he kills a warder, some innocent bystander or one of his fellow prisoners in order to effect his escape because he will say to himself: ‘1 have already got the maximum. 1 have already been sentenced to imprisonment for life. The worst that they can do to me has already been done. If I do kill a warder during my escape I can still only be sentenced to imprisonment for life and if I am sentenced to imprisonment for life I am no worse off then than I am now.’ I will readily admit that there are some grounds for believing that this argument is not without a certain validity. However, I would submit that the number of instances in which offences of this nature have been committed or are likely to be committed are so few that they would not warrant a disturbance of the whole general principle of opposition to the retention of capital punishment.
In fact, 1 would believe that what this does call for is an improvement in the security of the various prisons, much greater supervision and the raising of the standards of prison warders and people in charge of the administration of prisons. If it is agreed that capital punishment in itself is wrong, I do not believe that it is good enough for the State to say - I am saying this in no sense as a criticism of any existing penal authorities-r-‘Although we believe that capital punishment is wrong, our prisons are so inefficiently conducted, the supervision is so lax, the security is so disorganised, that it will be possible for inmates to kill other inmates or warders of these prisons, and therefore we must retain capital punishment, a form of punishment which we otherwise repudiate.’ I do not believe that when it is analysed ultimately this is a valid argument. I would submit accordingly that it should be rejected.
The third argument - and this is one which is quite frequently referred to - in fact my colleague from Western Australia, Senator Branson, referred to it by way of interjection when Senator Cavanagh was speaking on the previous occasion when this Bill was being debated - was to the effect that those people who were arguing for the abolition of capital punishment were in some way sympathetic towards murderers and malefactors but had no sympathy towards the relatives or loved ones of those persons who had been murdered. I cannot see that there is any connection whatsoever between these two propositions. I fail to see how the lot of the relatives or people who were closely associated with the person who was murdered is in any way improved by having the person who committed the murder executed. In fact, on innumerable occasions we have seen that the relatives of those who have been murdered have been amongst the very people who have asked that capital punishment be not exacted against the person who was responsible for the death of their relative or close associate. 1 think many of us were very impressed by the statement which was made only recently in Sydney by the father of the small boy who was murdered in such terrible circumstances. The father, who must indeed be a very humane, enlightened man, said that he wished for no revenge against the person who had killed his small son although he hoped he would be apprehended so that he would not be able to commit any further crimes. He certainly did not call for the execution of this unknown murderer. In fact, even in the midst of his grief the father of this unfortunate child did quite specifically say that he felt no malice or no desire for revenge against the unknown person who had killed his son.
– He said that he was a sick man.
– Yes. In this case one can say that clearly the person who committed this murder was a sick man. I do not think anybody could argue to the contrary. It is not the action of a normal person. But there are other murders which, 1 dare say, could only be regarded as the actions of sick men if one so redefined the word ‘sick’ as to make it almost meaningless. There are the crimes of those persons who have killed for gain, who have quite coldbloodedly in a calculating manner decided to kill somebody for their own profit, for revenge, or for some reasons which could be regarded as rational. I suppose one could say that the same argument does not apply to them as would apply to a person who is clearly deranged, as this murderer who recently killed the small boy in Sydney must be. Whether or not he is insane within the meaning of the M’Naghten
Rules, he is clearly not a normal person. He is clearly a person suffering from some very severe mental aberration.
– Should a murderer ever be released, in your view?
– I think many people feel that a murderer is a constant danger to society and therefore should never be released; therefore, rather than have the Slate put to the expense of keeping him in some institution everybody would be better off if he were to be executed. I do not agree with this argument. I do not believe that because the State at the present time finds it expensive or difficult to look after some person, however evil may have been the offence that he has committed, he should therefore be killed. 1 do not think the State should say that because we have not adequate provision for looking after these people and for keeping them out of the way, we ought to kill them. I would say that nobody who believes that human beings can change whether from a Christian point of view - because of the doctrine of redemption to which Christians subscribe - or from a secular point of view that any person, however evil he may be, may change his conduct, would say there are not some people who should never be released.
I think, in practice, it may well be found that there are certain murderers who, for the safety of themselves and for the safety of society should always be kept incarcerated although while incarcerated it may be possible for them to perform some socially useful function. I suppose few more horrible crimes have ever been committed than the crime committed by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb - which was committed in the early 1920s in Chicago. In this case, two very brilliant students of the University of Chicago, apparently merely in order to show how clever they were, kidnapped a little boy, treated him very badly and then murdered him. It was a most disgusting and foul crime which they committed, and they were both sentenced to very long terms of imprisonment by the State of Illinois.
One of the offenders, Richard Loeb, died while he was in prison. The other, Nathan Leopold, was a very young man when he committed the crime and was sent to the penitentiary in Illinois. Some few years ago he was released from the penitentiary.
While he was in gaol he had engaged in a lot of very valuable scientific research work. He was a man who clearly had tried to make amends for his horrible crime which I do not think anybody could ever hope to excuse. It was a ghastly crime for which there was no excuse whatsoever. But in the 30 odd years for which he had been imprisoned he had changed from a man in his 20s to a man in his 50s. His whole outlook and attitude bad changed. He became a valuable worker in a certain scientific field and, upon his release, he left the United States and settled in Puerto Rico where I understand he still is and where he is engaged in very valuable work for very small reward. He has himself said he is doing this in order to expiate the horrible crime which he committed.
Here is an example of a ghastly murder. I think it will be agreed that if anybody were to hang for the crime of murder then clearly Leopold and Loeb should have done so. 1 do not think anything could have been worse than their offence because they were not insane. The murder which they committed was coldly calculated. It was done according to an obnoxious sort of philosophy which they seemed to have developed between themselves that the world was divided into superior beings and inferior beings and that the superior beings were entitled to treat the inferior beings in whatever way the fancy took them. They decided that this small boy was an inferior being and, as they were superior beings they were not only entitled but almost obliged to show how clever they were and how stupid and ridiculous the State was by taking this small boy away, cruelly misusing him and then murdering him. I do not think anything could have been worse than that. One may well have said that these were clearly two people who never should be released. But the facts have shown that the world would have been worse off if Leopold had been executed, and the fruits of his scientific work had not been made available to Puerto Rico and to humanity.
– Provided he does not get any more murderous ideas.
– He has shown no indication of doing so. I would not argue with Senator Marriott. I suppose once anybody has committed an offence of this kind people would always have some reservations about what he may do at some time in the future, but certainly in the years in which he has been in Puerto Rico he has done very valuable work.
After all, I think one can say that murder is one of the most unexpected of crimes. Often people who have lived respectable lives for very many years suddenly at some late stage in their lives commit some ghastly crime which nobody would have expected. Yet there are other people who, as has been shown not only in the very glaring case of Nathan Leopold but in other more mundane cases, have committed crimes at an early stage in their lives - there have been many in my own State of Western Australia - and who, after having spent some years in prison, have been released and have continued to lead useful lives after their release.
If I could not be satisfied that such people would lead useful lives outside prison, I would submit that the taking of human life is such a barbaric thing that it would be better to leave them in prison rather than to take their lives away from them. Some use should be made of them, if this is possible, while they are in gaol. If no use can be made of them, then I believe that is the cost which the State must bear in order to discourage the taking of human life. 1 submit that the basic evil involved in the retention of capital punishment is the recognition that it is proper for the State to take the lives of human beings when there is in fact no necessity for doing so. I know that one can say there are circumstances in which the State has to take human lives. If your country becomes involved in a war, unless you are a pacifist, you may say there are circumstances in which, unfortunately, you do have to take the lives of human beings by way of selfdefence in order to preserve your own country from suffering some gross wrong from the enemy, whoever the enemy may be. But this does not apply to capital punishment because in all cases where capital punishment is imposed on some convicted malfactor there is not the same necessity to take life. Not only is there not any day to day struggle with the enemy but you have the man held completely within your power and if you do not take his life you can still place him where there is nothing further he can do to barm society. If the worst comes to the worst, if he is a person whom it is impossible lo re-educate, at least there is no need to do humanity itself the offence of barbarically taking his life, using the machinery of the State.
– You do not restore the other life, anyway.
– Certainly, as Senator Devitt has said, whatever you do you do not restore the life of the person who has been murdered by taking the life of the person who has murdered him, even if you have arrested the correct person. I think even Senator Greenwood who is opposing this Bill, did recognise that there is at least one argument for the abolition of capital punishment. That is the argument that even in some of those cases where the evidence has seemed to be most conclusive that a certain person is guilty, there have been instances when it has ultimately turned out that it seemed most unlikely that he was guilty. But once you have taken life there is nothing you can do to restore it. The death penalty is so final that no restitution whatever can be made to the person whose life has been taken.
I think the basic evil is the assumption that something ennobling is enshrined in the taking of human life by the State. Amongst the most peaceful countries in the world are the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. These are countries in which for very long periods capital punishment has been abolished. Reverence for human life is inculcated by their system and the State itself shows its reverence for human life by refusing to take the lives of people, however degenerate or criminal they may be, in recompense for some crime which they have committed.
Indeed, it has been found in a number of instances that the very maintenance of capital punishment itself inspires a blood lust which itself can lead to the commission of violent crimes. I do not know how frequently instances of this occur but there was a convicted murderer in Western Australia some few years ago by the name of Robert Jeremiah Thomas. He was a mass murderer. He killed several people. Evidence was given during the trial of Thomas that he had some sort of psychotic obsession about the taking of human life and that in fact he had a perverted ambition that he himself be hanged. The psychiatrists who examined Thomas gave, as one of the motives for the commission of his crimes his own desire, to be hanged. 1 would nol doubt for one moment that as’ in certain of the crimes which have been committed in England - the crimes of Heath, Christie, Haigh and such people - mixed with their sadistic blood lust of the murderer was a kind of masochistic blood lust. Their minds became so distorted that even though they were not insane within the meaning of our very rigid M’Naghten Rules - which apply under the English common law in the United Kingdom, in this country and in other countries - they were so disturbed and suffering from such a degree of mental disease that in some way they were willing their own destruction at the gallows every time they killed somebody else.
I refer now to a passage in the excellent book, ‘The Penalty is Death’, edited by Mr Barry Jones, which was published recently in Victoria, relating to an article by Charles Dickens, published in the London Liberal newspaper, the ‘Daily News’, in 1846, which referred to a report made to the State Assembly of New York in 1841 by a select committee of the Assembly recommending the abolition of the death penally. This very issue is referred to by the New York State Assembly committee as long ago as 1841. The quite remarkable report stated:
Whether there sleep within the breast of man, certain dark and mysterious sympathies with the thought of that death, and that futurity which await his nature, tending to invest any act expressly forbidden by that penalty, with an unconscious and inexplicable fascination, that attracts his thoughts to it, in spite of their very shuddering dread; and bids his imagination brood over its idea, till out of thos: dark depths in his own nature, comes gradually forth a monstrous birth of Temptation.
I believe that subsequent research in the fields of psychiatry has verified the ideas which were expressed so eloquently in that report of the select committee of the New York State Assembly a century and a quarter ago. The Opposition believes that there are humane people who are opposed to the abolition of the death penalty. No doubt there were humane people who were opposed to the abolition of the death penalty for sheep stealing. I have no doubt that many people did believe that a man should be hanged for stealing sheep because they believed that if this were not the case sheep stealing would be so rife that the basis of England’s economy would collapse. Therefore regrettably it was necessary to keep on hanging people for stealing sheep in order to maintain the economy and the life of the society.
However, every step towards civilisation has been bitterly opposed. In supporting the Bill 1 am confident that, although there will be considerable opposition expressed to it in the Senate tonight, ultimately its objective will be achieved. 1 believe that for as long as humanity continues to exist we shall continue to take slow and faltering but nonetheless continuing steps in the direction of civilisation. I believe that this Bill is one of those steps.
– I express my appreciation of the action of my Government and the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) in giving all members on this side of the chamber freedom to express their own mind and conscience without limitation imposed by the Government.
– I thought that was the policy of the Liberal Party.
– I believe that it is. I appreciate the policy of the Party in this regard. That is one of the reasons why I belong on this side of the House. 1 believe that it would be wise if the Opposition, with regard to matters of this kind, gave to its members the same liberty that we have. I think the cause we are discussing, in which we have a common interest, would be furthered by action of this kind. It is noteworthy that in the House of Commons, when the action was taken that finally resulted in the abolition of the death penalty in Great Britain, there was a free vote.
– Of course that is a plank in our policy.
– I understand planks in policies, but I am more concerned, in relation to the Death Penalty Abolition Bill, which we are discussing, with the question of the abolition of capital punishment. There was a time when I supported the retention of the death penalty. I could not define just why I supported it. I thought it was a natural reaction to and an expression of disapproval of what could be regarded as the worst crimes, but I had given no great study to the question. The time came when I was required to meet with a group of young people and preside over a discussion on the subject. .1 felt obliged to inform myself more fully on the matter that was to be discussed. I sought what literature I could find on the subject. I found that there were many books written advocating the abolition of the death penalty. I could find very few articles or books written in support of the retention of the death penalty. All the arguments that’ 1 found for its retention just did not ring true. I, found that the weight of argument, in my judgment, was with those who advocated the abolition of the death penalty. Of course I had to search my own conscience to decide just where I stood in relation to the matter. At that time I was not a member of this legislative body. I realised that the time would come when I would have to decide on which side of the question 1 stood. The more I studied the matter the more convinced I became that there was only one course that I should take when .1 had to decide just where I stood. Hence 1 am speaking tonight in favour of the Bill before the Senate.
Offences against the law, the levels or degrees of punishment and the seriousness with which such offences are regarded by the law are set out in legislation. Fines up to a certain number of dollars or terms of imprisonment can be imposed. These are indicated in the law so that magistrates and judges have a measure when they are imposing penalties. The imposition of the death penalty is a different sort of penalty altogether. The penalty is so rigid that the law cannot express the degree of seriousness of the offence for which the penalty is imposed. A man cannot be hanged a little bit’. It is not possible partly to hang a man. Therefore the rigidity of the death sentence is such that it is not suitable for the wide range of seriousness of the crime of murder. This, has been recognised by the law and has been dealt with in various ways. Senator Greenwood pointed out that of the people convicted of murder in the States that still carry out the death penalty, only 5.7% had the sentence carried .out. That means, of course, that in 94.3% of cases the decision on whether a man was to hang resided with a body outside a court. An appeal went to an executive body which had not heard the case. Such a body receives a second hand .report. The very nature of its responsibilities prevents it from being the right body to decide whether a man is to hang. I do not think this is the way to deal with the crime of murder.
I believe that the punishment inflicted by law upon an offender has certain basic intentions. Primarily it expresses the disapproval of society of the act committed and it tries to measure the seriousness with which society views an offence. Secondly, in any soundly based system, the punishment attempts to reform an offender or at least an element of reform is given great value. There is also a hope that reform may come through fear of future punishment or by bringing a man to his senses during his period of imprisonment. It is also hoped that the penalties enacted will serve as a deterrent to the future commission of offences and as a deterrent to other persons who, because of fear of punishment, will avoid criminal acts. 1 am not sure how the lawyers present in this chamber will appreciate my understanding of the operation pf the criminal law. However, the only certain result achieved by the death penalty is an expression of disapproval, apart from the fact that a dead man can neither reform nor commit further crimes. The imposition of the death penalty appears as an act of vengeance in many cases imposed by society for offences the causes of which lie within society itself.
In reaching my view on the. abolition of the death penalty I examined a series of types of murder. 1 discovered that in the great majority of cases there was the greatest possible doubt of the sanity cf the people accused of the crimes. It seems to me from my studies that murder is not a crime of the criminal classes. Very often a relatively ordinary member of society under sustained frustration during a period of mental unsoundness has committed the crime of murder for which he has been subjected to the ultimate penalty of the law. Very often the background ‘ of such people contains a tragic story of neglect, cruelty, poverty and hardship and other such factors that have contributed to his state. It is all very well to say that a man should rise above the circumstances of his environment. It is a fine theory and I think it has some merit, but by and large humanity is fallible and we are subject to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Many a man has agreed with John Wesley, who said: ‘There but for the grace of God go 1’. There is a profound truth in that statement. 1 think it is wrong that society should rub out the evidence of its failures; that it should seek simply to destroy what it has failed to achieve in the lives of these people. I admit that at the end of my studies I was left with a small number of cases in which there seemed to be no excuse for the crimes committed. I refer to cases where men have deliberately set a price upon human life by murdering for reward - men acting as hired assassins, lt may be said that surely such men were worthy to receive the death penalty because they themselves had put a price upon human life. 1 was reminded of the fact that there is never an omniscient law, that there can never bc an infallible court or an infallible jury. There is evidence of cases of innocent men being wrongly convicted. This is the very area of knowledge in which it is most likely that a sane man plans a crime. He does not fear the death penalty because he thinks he is clever enough to avoid it. When eventually he is apprehended it is often discovered that he has taken care to ensure that somebody else will be implicated. He plans an alibi, and preferably an alibi that will convict another person. That is the sort of man who is involved in a percentage of murders. Here lies the risk one takes in excluding that type of man from the general proposition that the State should not hang, but I would prefer lo see a dozen guilty men escape penalty than that one innocent man be c:i used to suffer.
– They do not escape the penalty. They only escape hanging.
– I prefer that the Slate should abolish the risk entirely. The history of capita) punishment over the last 200 years or - so shows what I, anyhow, regard as inevitable progress towards the ultimate and complete abolition of the death penalty. In this debate certain doubts have been cast upon that development. In this respect I wish to quote the words of C. H. Rolph, a former- Chief Inspector of the City of London Police. Surely his opinion can be regarded as of some merit in this matter. He is one of the most intelligent of the abolitionists, and a well informed and influential propagandist. He wrote: . . when those still in favour of hanging will be reduced at last to two groups, neither of them further reducible: those who will always spurn the facts and have fenced themselves round with inherited slogans and those who shun the subject as too distasteful for their attention.
I am also conscious of the fact that in 1961 a significant step was taken by the Church of England when the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury recorded a large majority vote for the end of capital punishment. In 1962 the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury also voted the abolition of capital punishment. On both occasions there was no dissenting voice. So despite the fact that for many years the bishops in the House of Lords had provided some of the strong support for the continuance of the death penalty, here wc find the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury supporting the abolition of the death penalty in 1962. without a dissenting voice. I think that this is evidence of the way in which thought was moving in England. Just prior to that a decision of the House of Commons against hanging was frustrated by the vote of the House of Lords. This was said to be a rallying of certain rustic aristocrats who thought that their blood sports would he interfered with if abolition of the death penalty took place. However. the British Parliament has at last abolished the death penalty. lt is worthwhile examining the steps whereby Britain reached this decision. In 1 780 a man could be hanged in Britain for stealing goods to the value of 5s. In .1.810 Sir Samuel Rom illy introduced a Bill into the British Parliament proposing the abolition of the death penalty but the Bill was opposed with all the weight of authority of the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Ellenborough, who said: ‘Repeal this law and no man can trust himself for an hour out of doors without the most alarming apprehension that, on his return, every vestige of his property will be swept off by the hardened robbers’. Lord Ellenborough was simply expressing the opinion that has been expressed by eminent judges in resistance to any mitigation of the death penalty. He was following in the tradition set by Sir Edward Coke, whose name remains forever associated with the butchery of drawing, hanging and quartering, the continuance of which he defended by a series of quotations from the Bible, and by l-ord Loughborough, who defended the burning alive of women convicted of treason on the ground that it was of excellent deterrent value. However, the juries of England took a hand in the matter and, because of their resistance to imposing the death penalty, gradually brought about the elimination of a great number of crimes for which the death penalty was considered suitable. lt is recorded that Romilly’s Bill was passed after his death. His Bill was for the abolition of the death penalty for stealing from bleaching grounds. It was apparently very common for clothes to be laid out for bleaching in the days before chemical bleaching was introduced and these clothes were very vulnerable to theft. As a deterrent the death penalty was imposed. But it was found that juries would not convict people for this offence and there was a petition to Parliament by 150 proprietors of bleaching establishments asking that the penalty of death be abolished. This was followed by a similar petition from bankers in regard to the death penalty for forgery. Juries would not convict for this offence because it was a capital offence and forgers were escaping unpunished. It was the common sense «f the people rather than the wisdom of the judges that gradually forced a saner attitude to be adopted towards the death penalty in Britain.
Honourable senators may say that this is history, but it should be remembered that virtually the same arguments are being put forward today for the retention of the death penalty for the crimes for which it is now imposed as was put forward by learned judges many years ago for the retention of the death penalty for the crimes for which it was then imposed. I can see no real difference between the arguments of today and those of 100 years ago. However, I am glad to see that Britain has at last taken what is to me the sensible and ultimate humanitarian step of abolishing the death penalty.
We have not heard anyone oppose this Bill on the ground that the death penalty is a deterrent. It appears that the great weight of evidence that the death penalty is not a deterrent has at last got through to those who once held that view. I was not at all surprised that Senator Greenwood quoted Lord Denning, who apparently still subscribes to the opinion that there is merit in the death penalty. I think Lord Denning is perhaps a logical descendant of Lord Goddard and other chief justices in British history. But I was surprised to hear the argument put forward by Senator Greenwood that one of the reasons why it appeared that more people were supporting the abolition of the death penalty was that there were so many writers, jurists and students of criminal law - and he also quoted politicians - in favour, of its abolition that people were beginning to think they were right. It is amazing to me that he would use an argument like that. Surely people are entitled to look to those who have made a study of the question rather than rely on atavistic arguments or act blindly and without reasoned judgment. In pursuing this line of thought Senator Greenwood cited certain figures that were published by the gallup poll, and 1 was not very happy with the use he made of them He quoted half of the poll findings, but the main point made, which was printed in heavy black type at the top of the article, he did not quote. This is what appears at the top:
Public opinion in Australia is moving steadily in favour of life imprisonment and not death as the penalty for murder, the gallup poll finds.
This was the whole point of the article from which he was quoting. He mentioned the fact that there had been an overall decrease in support for the death penalty, only after he had been challenged. He quoted certain State figures but he failed to quote the figures showing the steady movement in the overall figures, from the year 1953, when 63% supported the deal h penalty, down to today when the figure is 43%. If we were studying the relative figures of support in a forthcoming election and we saw that there had been a decline from 63% to 43%, I think any political party would be greatly perturbed. However, Senator Greenwood failed to quote these figures. Then, having used certain aspects of them without stating the real content, he proceeded to rubbish the whole gallup poll method by talking about slick interviewers. Frankly, I was disappointed by this approach. I thought it spoilt an otherwise sound speech by Senator Greenwood. Is he suggesting that we place no value it all upon gallup poll findings? Certainly they have their faults, but if they are inaccurate they certainly are taken according to a consistent system, and they show trends in a fairly reliable way. The honourable senator drew some cold comfort from the gall up poll results, and he then sought to rubbish the thing that he attempted to use.
I have earlier drawn attention to the fact that it is highly undesirable that a situation should exist in which the great majority of sentences following convictions for murder have to be commuted by an outside body. This drew some attention from Senator Greenwood, and he indicated, too, that there should be some more desirable system. He said that it would be better if we had methods of classifying murder, or achieving, as it were, certain degrees for which automatically the ultimate penally would bc awarded. I do not think he was very happy about the present system. This was the position under the Homicide Bill in Great Britain, and it appeared to be more anomalous than any other system. It was clearly demonstrated that this system is no answer - and why go back, in trying to find ways to apply this completely unsatisfactory method? It also was found to be completely unsatisfactory in the Belgian experience.
I was indebted to Senator Greenwood for bringing to my attention the little book by P. H. Johnson, ‘On Iniquity’. but I am afraid I cannot commend him for the use he made of it. He admitted that the writer was still in favour of the abolition of the death penalty, but he tried to give the impression that she had second thoughts about her attitude. However, let me quote her own words which are to be found at page 89 - and 1 point out that these words are immediately below the part quoted by Senator Greenwood. The author said:
Do not think I am saying that we should kill in order lo produce a work of art. I am as strongly against capital punishment as I have ever been-
Senator Greenwood quoted a certain statement that was certainly included in the book but he quoted it for the purpose of trying to imply that this lady had been in favour of the death penalty and was having second thoughts about it. However, she quickly repudiated this in her own words when she wrote:
I am as strongly against capital punishment as I have ever been - as glad to be rid of it as I was that night in the House of Lords.
If the supporters of capital punishment have to resort to this sort of treatment of the subject, this sort of distortion of the writings of people, it is fairly conclusive evidence of the weakness of their case. A very common reaction from people who enter into this argument about capital punishment is to pose a question in this way: It is all right for you to be so detached about this, but what if someone close and dear to you were the .victim? Would you not then desire the destruction of the murderer? Maybe, but the author of the book that Senator Greenwood quoted, which I earnestly commend to every honourable senator who is prepared to do some serious study of social questions, particularly crime and punishment, was asked this question: ‘Would you think in such moderate terms if Lesley’ - the child who had been murdered - ‘was your child?’ She replied:
No, of course not, and I should have been inhuman if I had done so but I should not then have been sound in judgment, for those who have known cruelty of the most depraved nature wreaked upon people they love, whether these arechildren or adults, the only catharsis is the phantasy of an eye for an eye but this is, and must remain, phantasy.
I submit to the Senate that this is a far truer expression of the attitude of the author of the book. I referred earlier to the responsibility of society for the circumstances giving rise to some cases of murder. The real purpose of this excellent book is a study of the responsibility of an increasingly permissive society in purveying the ultimate in books on sex, pornography and sadism and the effect upon people not equipped to handle this type of so-called literature. The book is a plea for a reexamination of our standards, and the author says that in a society ‘where anything goes everything goes’. She sums up in these concluding words:
We are all capable of dreaming of iniquity. The hope is that we can avoid committing it. lt is iniquity, of course, to encourage by any means iniquity in others. How can we lead our lives so as to make the behaviour of Hindley and of Brady just a shade less likely?
I think this is a responsible attitude to society and what it should do with those who fail wilh regard to their fellow men. We all have a responsibility in what society permits. Senator Wright was followed by
Senator Greenwood in expressing doubt about whether Australian juries were like the juries of Britain in showing a reluctance to convict in cases where the death penalty was involved. 1 should like to quote the remarks of one learned judge on this matter. Sir Patrick Devlin, a judge in the High Court of Justice, said in his book:
There is no doubt, likewise, that juries, however often they may be told that they are not to have regard to the consequences of their verdict, do take the penalty into consideration and have always done so, particularly if it is the death penalty.
The Australian experience was doubted in the figures which were put forward by Senator Greenwood and which he had incorporated in Hansard, but he did not give us the figures showing the ratio of convictions for manslaughter to convictions for murder in the various States. These figures show that in Queensland, where the death penalty has been abolished since 1921, the ratio is .9 to 1; in New South Wales it is just double that at 1.8 to I; in Victoria it is 3 to 1; in Western Australia it is 2.2 to 1; and in Tasmania it is 2 to 1. Those figures show a very great difference in* Queensland where the death penalty was abolished and where juries did convict to a much greater degree than in- the other Australian States for the crime of murder. The evidence seems to show clearly that in- Queensland, where the death penalty was abolished for the whole period under review, the proportion of verdicts in favour of manslaughter is very much less than in the States where hanging is carried out. The effect on juries of the obligation to bring in a verdict which may result in hanging still exists. Despite the protestations that Australian juries would not do this, there is clear evidence that it does still happen.
– Is the honourable senator speaking of verdicts on a . charge of murder?
– Yes. Senator Wright preferred to deal not with the death penalty but rather with certain legal aspects of the desirability of agreeing to the Bill before the Senate. I am compelled to admit that he had certain justification for the attitude he took. I do not propose to argue with him on these grounds. I think the important thing is to decide in our minds whether as a legislative body we want to see the death penalty abolished, and then decide what actions are necessary. 1 know that it is undesirable that in each of the Australian States different attitudes should be adopted. 1 think it is quite wrong that in one Slate a man can be hanged for a certain crime whereas in another State he would not be hanged, or that if he happened to commit the crime under a. government constituted by one party he might be hanged hut not if he did so under the jurisdiction of another party.
The Senate has an obligation to give a lead in respect of the law regarding the crime of murder, and we should seek to be a .unifying influence throughout the Commonwealth. One of the very unsatisfactory situations which arc evident today is that in which we put up with different treatment within the country for this crime. If the Senate would give a lead from which would flow the abolition of the death penalty by all jurisdictions in Australia, we would be doing something that is within the proper role and function of the Senate. If we do this we will be advancing, the cause of humanity. .We will be assisting the march of civilisation; we will ‘not ‘ be .in a situation where, because of ancient prejudices, we are unintelligently resisting, the. inarch ocivilisation. I endorse fully the conclusion of the report submitted by the Belgian Ministry of Justice tq the British Select Committee in 1930 on the question of the death penalty. The Belgian Ministry of Justice said:
The lesson has been learnt that the best, means of inculcating respect for human life is to refrain from taking life in the name of the jaw.
The progress of our civilisation must reach the point where there is the complete abolition of the death penalty for any crime. Unless we can achieve a concept of regard for human life that is strong enough to prevent us from adding to violence . by committing further violence, there is little hope that civilisation can. eyer achieve the ultimate abolition of the., concentrated violence of war. I hope that the Senate by its vote and voice will further- the cause of civilisation.
– I congratulate Senator Prowse, upon what I thought was a very fine, speech on the abolition of capital punishment. Early in his remarks the honourable senator said that he was pleased that the Government had permitted honourable senators on that side of the chamber to exercise a vote of. conscience. I hasten to assure him that that question never arose in relation to members of the Australian Labor Party because not one Senate member of the Labor caucus has any doubts as to what should occur in relation to the abolition of capital punishment. We are as one in our view on this subject.
This Bill was introduced in the early stages of this session by Senator Murphy as a private member’s Bill. It was ably spoken to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) who placed before the Senate many cogent arguments as to why the Bill should be agreed to and capital punishment should be abolished in the Australian Capital Territory and other Commonwealth territories. Because we of the Labor Party initiated this debate we have put forward positive matters that should be judged. 1 am the seventh speaker on this measure, and only two honourable senators have opposed the proposal. I think that a public opinion poll on this vital question would reveal that the ratio of those in favour of abolition of the death penalty to those opposed to the abolition would be about 5 to 2. I think the majority of the public believe that a continuation of the death penalty is a continuation of a barbaric system of revenge which is outmoded in every respect. If we as a Senate by resolution determine to abolish capital punishment and subsequently the resolution is supported by the House of Representatives, 1 believe that never in the future will there be any attempt to reintroduce that form of punishment.
Queensland which now has a Liberal Government after many years of Labor rule has not attempted to reintroduce capital punishment. There is a similar situation in New South Wales where a Liberal Government is now m its second term of office. Although capital punishment is still the penalty in that State for treason, there has been no attempt to reintroduce it for the crime of murder. So, without looking at the records and other cases that have arisen in the United States of America, Europe, South America and other countries we believe that where capital punishment has been abolished in Australia no real moves have been made to reintroduce it.
Of the Government speakers who have taken part in this debate, Senator Greenwood was the only one who spoke with any deep feeling in favour of capital punishment. I agree with Senator Prowse who said that Senator Wright put up only a legal argument. I believe in his heart he appreciates the arguments that we on this side of the chamber have advanced in favour of the abolition of capital punishment. If he were given an opportunity to do so, I think he would join us in supporting this motion because I am firmly convinced that he is a humanitarian. He has been a member of this Senate for many years and has voted with us on many occasions when humanitarian matters have been before us.
Senator Greenwood, however, adopted a different attitude. 1 think he is sincere in his belief that capital punishment should be retained. Probably he has been born just about a century too late because his main argument in favour of capital punishment was that it was community opinion that a person should be hanged if he committed a certain crime. Disregarding entirely the figures Senator Prowse presented to the Senate in relation to gall up polls and assuming that Senator Greenwood had the right to impose his view on this Parliament, we would be going back to the dark dim ages when public opinion was such that hangings were carried out in the streets and when the guillotine in France chopped off thousands of heads in full view of the public. Community opinion was the reason that that practice continued for so long.
We need only remind ourselves that it is only some 200 years since children of 8 and - 10 years of age were hanged in England because they stole food. They had no parents and were hungry so they were hanged publicly in order that other starving children within eyesight would not commit the same kind of crime. Apparently at that stage of history that was in accordance with community opinion. Senator Greenwood hangs on to that outmoded argument as a reason why this Parliament should continue to hang a person convicted of a certain crime. We on this side of the Senate believe in the complete abolition of hanging.
Government supporters have presented arguments for retaining some kind of control in relation to treason. Some months ago
I asked a question upon notice of the Attorney-General in these terms:
How many people convicted of treason have been executed in (a) Australia, and (b) Australian Territories?
The reply was to the effect that there has not been one case in the history of this Commonwealth Parliament of any person being found guilty of treason and hanged for the offence. Why hang on to this outmoded method of disposing of a person because he has committed a crime? 1 believe fervently, as do Senator Prowse and other honourable senators, that probably 99.9% of persons who commit the terrible crime of murder are deranged in the early stages in even thinking of committing murder. During the debate the question was asked: ‘What about the person who slowly but surely poisons another person over a period of months? What deterrent do we have to stop that kind of premeditated murder?’ 1 believe that a person who plans a murder does so on the assumption that he will nol be found out, not on the assumption that he will either go to gaol for life or be hanged by the State. He believes that he can commit the perfect crime and so escape punishment whether it be by hanging, life imprisonment or any other penalty that the court may impose.
If we really want to examine this matter we must examine the actual act of hanging that has to be done by some individual. Whether you are in the factory with the foreman, in the office with the manager, in the Navy with the admiral, in the Army with the colonel or in the Air Force with the air marshal, it is a true Australianism that no man in charge of men expects anyone under him to carry out a duty that he himself is not prepared to carry out. I challenge any honourable senator opposite to say that he would carry out the job of hanging another citizen of this country. If he feels that he could do such a thing, let him stand in his place now and tell the Senate that he would be prepared to do what he would ask someone else to do in hh absence. Of course, no honourable senator has said that he would be prepared to do that. I ask honourable senators to recall to their minds the Ryan hanging in Victoria. That was a disgrace to this nation. A man from South Australia had to be smuggled info Victoria, almost in disguise, to do what the Government of Victoria could not find any person in that State prepared to do. That indicates how distasteful is the retribution we seek against a person who has committed the crime of murder.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, saying that I agree that murder should be condoned. I believe the opposite but 1 also believe most fervently that our method of disposing of murderers by hanging is absolutely barbaric in every respect. If honourable senators read some of the history of hangings that have taken place in Australia, England and America they will find that there have been many bunglings associated with the penalty. I commend io every honourable senator the book ‘The Handbook of Hanging’ by Charles Duff. It is available in the Parliamentary Library. He quoted very many cases in which the hanging was only partly done at the first attempt. He wrote that in some cases a person was brought to the platform for the third time to ensure that he was finally killed. On one occasion three attempts were made to hang a prisoner and when the third attempt failed he was reprieved. Imagine going through this terribly barbaric action on three occasions.
– That was the Wild case in England, was it not?
– That is right. After the reprieve was granted the reason given was that the trapdoor was wet. The weights, which had been tested earlier, failed to operate with the maximum efficiency because the boards of the trapdoor had swollen. Therefore the drop was not quick enough. These are harsh and cruel things to talk about in the Senate tonight. But if they convince any person who has any doubts that hanging is the wrong way of getting retribution for crimes that are committed, I will not have spoken unnecessarily.
The book was written in 1961 and refers to events that occurred not so long ago. The words in the death sentence were: ‘You shall hang by the neck until you are dead’. The operative words were ‘until you are dead’, because what happened was that the person was left hanging for at least 30 minutes to ensure that if he had not died from a broken neck he died by strangulation. That is the humane method that we use to dispose of people whom we believe have committed a crime that warrants death!
– What about Sodemann in the honourable senator’s own State? He was wrongly hanged.
– That is true. 1 will come to that point later in my speech. When I mentioned to somebody that these things had happened on a number of occasions, he replied: ‘lt does not happen now. We have a far more scientific approach to hanging our victims’. Apparently the weights are worked out to the last decimal point; the trapdoor is tested several times; and then, after these rehearsals, as they might be called, the hangman can be assured that when the first drop takes place it will be the last drop.
Then we should look at what has happened to hangmen in England and other countries. Many of them have taken their own lives or have attempted to do so because the fact that they have carried out these dastardly deeds in the name of the state lies very heavily on their consciences. They carried them out for payment in hard cash, not for revenue, which is the state’s reason. I believe that any person who considers that capita] punishment should continue because a Stale or the Commonwealth should have revenge is doing a disservice to humanity and the nation as a whole.
As Senator Cohen pointed out so aptly in his remarks in opening this debate, many persons have been convicted of murder and have paid the supreme sacrifice only to be found not guilty subsequently. The number of such people is too many for this point not to be considered in this debate tonight. As Senator Prowse said, if only one person has been in that category it is right, that any nation should eliminate any possibility of that happening again. So I am very proud and glad to be in the Senate tonight supporting a Bill that will abolish capital punishment in the Australian Capital Territory and the other Territories. Unfortunately, in the Territories in the past some people have been hanged. I. have in mind Aboriginals in particular and, although I have not been able to obtain positive evidence of this, I understand that quite a number of people in New Guinea paid the supreme sacrifice for crimes committed during the war.
Have we ever gained by carrying out these barbaric acts? Have we ever stopped the next murder by killing the last murderer? When we examine this matter properly, in conscience we know that that has never happened. The gentleman who was murdered in Sydney recently when a bomb was put in his car was murdered apparently because of a gang war over some houses of ill fame. In no circumstances would the persons who murdered him give any consideration to the penalty that they might incur as a result of their act. In the Senate tonight we have a very grave responsibility. We have a responsibility to act as human beings or to say that in the future we will carry out hangings because they were carried out in the 1700s and the 1800s and because we on this side have not satisfied the Senate that hanging is not a deterrent. I believe that, we have proved that beyond all reasonable doubt. Opposition senators who have spoken before me have proved that more convictions for murder are recorded in States in which capital punishment has been abolished.
I recall the comment of one of the jurors on the Ronald Ryan case, which was published, in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ 1 think, at the time of the Ryan hanging. We must remember that the judge has nol the final say; the group of persons who constitute the Executive make the final decision on what the penalty will be. The juror indicated quite clearly that had he thought for one minute that Ryan would have been hanged as a result of the decision of (he Executive in Victoria he would not have voted in favour of a verdict of guilty and he would have said that Ryan was not guilty of murder. These are matters that we have to assess when we come to the vote which I hope will be taken in the very near future. 1 hope that the Senate will not divide on party lines. In saying that I exclude Senator Prowse. I. hope that the consciences of other honourable senators opposite will tell them to go with the Labor Party and vote for humanity.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) r9.371 - It is a rather remarkable situation that, although we are all Australians, we have different attitudes on capital punishment in different States according to the nature of the government of the State; so much so, that if anyone were giving advice to a potential murderer who did not wish to be hanged he would say to the potential murderer: ‘Commit your murder in a State with a Labor government*. I am saying that to indicate not that I disapprove of the attitude adopted in some States but that I am opposed to capital punishment, firstly, on the. ground of personal conviction and, secondly, because that is the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party in my State of Victoria. I emphasise that it is the attitude in Victoria because I am advised that my Party has no Federal policy on this matter and that each State branch makes a decision for itself.
My reasons of personal conviction stem from observation of what has happened in Victoria over the past 20 years in cases in which people have been sentenced to death. I remember vividly one case because 1 had some association with the discussions on it with the government that was in power at the time. That government was kept in power by the Labor Party. It insisted on carrying out the death penalty on a woman who, it was admitted, had with others been guilty of a very revolting crime. We in the Labor Party made strong representations to that government, asking that the death penalty on that woman, be not carried out. But that government- a Country Party government - felt that the penalty should be carried out because of the nature of the crime. The death penalty was put into effect.
The details of the hanging were such that they shocked the whole community and there has not been a hanging of a woman in Victoria since that time. The woman broke down; she had to be drugged; and she had to be half dragged to the scaffold. The circumstances had a dreadful effect upon everybody who was associated with the case. In fact the death soon after of one of the principals in carrying ou! the hanging was attributed to shock as a result of this dreadful scene. When I learned the details I had no hesitation in making up my mind that such a hanging degraded the community. There has been no banging of a woman in Victoria since. I say definitely that I do not believe a woman wilt1 ever again be hanged in my State. Therefore we have a situation which is opposed entirely to all of the uniformity that we should expect from the law. We have the situation that if one commits murder in Tasmania under a Labor government he will not be hanged.
– He can be hanged.
– He can be hanged but we know that he will not be hanged under a Labor government. If he likes to go to another State where there is a nonLabor government and commit murder, he may be hanged but the likelihood is that even there he will not be hanged, because the trend in all States today and with all governments is to grant a reprieve except in very exceptional cases indeed. 1 say, therefore, that it is wrong that we have a law which will be enforced in a certain way in a certain State under certain political circumstances and not enforced in other States. We have the remarkable situation that people have been under sentence of death and a change of government lias resulted in a reprieve. We could have the remarkable situation of a person being under sentence of death and likely to bc reprieved because of the political character of the government, and a change of government in an election resulting in his being hanged. That to me does not seem to accord with that uniformity in regard to the law which we ought to expect. Neither docs it accord with that uniformity when in almost - all States today a woman may commit a murder and not be hanged.
As I said before, I was deeply impressed by the circumstances of the last hanging of a woman in my own State. But I was also impressed by the circumstances of the very notorious hanging which occurred following a break-out from gaol by two men. The whole of Victoria watched those circumstances and I believe that what was done left a mark upon the community. First of all, there was much discussion and much doubt iri the community over the fact that whereas one man, Ryan, committed the crime for which he was sentenced under somewhat ‘ exceptional circumstances - it was a break-out from gaol; there was an excitement of the moment; the crime was committed in hot blood - and was hanged, the other man with whom he broke out from gaol, who coldly and callously took another man away from a flat in South Melbourne to a small building in a park nearby and coldly and callously shot him dead, was not hanged. The people of Victoria were unable to understand why the man who committed murder in the heat of the moment was hanged and the man who coldly and callously committed murder knowing what he was going to do and making all the necessary preparations was not hanged. 1 believe that because of a general feeling of revulsion in the community against hangings we are reaching a situation in which the law appears to depend in some cases almost upon the whim of the moment, and 1 think that that is a bad thing. One can see a general trend in the community against hanging from the fact that juries will no longer, or will very rarely, convict in certain cases. Many a criminal has been acquitted in an abortion case not because the evidence against him was not perfectly clear but because the members of the jury were afraid that they would be condemning him to death and they were not prepared to take the final act which might: ensure that that: particular person would be hanged.
– You are speaking of a case where death has been caused by abortion?
– In that particular case juries will not convict. What is the reason? Why should we have a death penalty if it causes juries to acquit people who on the face of the evidence are obviously guilty? A second instance is in regard to rape. When has a person been hanged for rape in this country in recent years? Years ago the infliction of the death penalty for rape was fairly common. Today it is, I understand, almost axiomatic for it to be hinted to a jury that it need not be afraid that the accused is going to be hanged, that it can quite safely find him guilty because he is not going to be hanged. It seems to me, therefore, that there is a feeling in the community against the death penalty, and the death penalty is bad if it causes or assists people who are guilty to be acquitted and to dodge or avoid, therefore, the consequences of their crimes.
A further example is to be found in what governments do. In my own State of Victoria it is most exceptional today for the Government to confirm the death penalty. In case after case - some of them cases of very serious crime - the Liberal Government reprieves the person concerned. It appears to me that under those circumstances - when we have shown obviously in the community, from the conduct of juries, this feeling against the death penalty, when even governments which are empowered to implement the death penalty and whose policies, as in the case of non-Labor governments, do not prevent them from implementing the death penalty, are to an increasing degree avoiding the death penalty - there is obviously shown in the community a. trend of which we should take notice by abolishing the death penalty in federal territories.
There are differing opinions as to what is the general view ‘in the community on this matter.- I have had persons say to me that the great bulk of the people are opposed to the death penalty. I have had others say to me that in moving about in the community they have been surprised at the number of people who ‘ support the death penalty. J do not know that anybody can ascertain for certain whether the people in the community generally are for it or against it. All that one- can say is this: The trend of the community seems to indicate that the number who oppose’ it and would like to see it abolished is steadily increasing. I. would like to see action taken throughout’ Australia to make the situation- uniform and to settle it in some way. I do’ not think the infliction of the death penalty should depend, as it does today, upon political considerations. It ought to be determined upon other considerations. If necessary, I would support a referendum of the people of Australia to determine what should be done with regard to the death penalty. I do not know whether that would be possible but I’ think it would be a good thing if we could achieve something which would make the legal position in Australia uniform. I think the fact that it is not uniform is wrong. I think that, to a degree, it takes away from our system of justice.
– But a referendum would not be binding on the States.
– It may not be, but at least it would let us know what the great bulk of the people of Australia think. Personally, I would not bc afraid to support a referendum on that issue. In my view, it would be carried; although, I will admit that I have had people argue strongly in the other direction.
– It is because. the States have the fundamental, responsibility for criminal law and four of them still retain the death penalty that we say it would be unfortunate here for us to intrude where they have the main responsibility.
– I do not think so. As has been said by Senator Prowse, I think we have an opportunity here to set an example. I believe that if the Commonwealth did set the example it would bc a powerful influence on the States. Therefore 1 have no desire to speak for very long on the matter. I conclude by saying once again that on grounds of strong personal conviction and because of the impression made upon my mind by a close knowledge of the circumstances of a number of cases in which the death penalty has been inflicted in my own State, I have come to the conclusion that the death penalty degrades the community in which it is inflicted. Therefore I am .opposed to the death penalty.
– in reply - 1 express my appreciation of the reception of this Bill by honourable senators and of the rational and temperate manner in which the subject matter has been debated. The Bill has been put forward by the Opposition in the belief that, if it is carried, it represents an important step in Australia’s history, lt will be a big leap forward if one of the Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament is prepared to adopt it as a measure to send to the other chamber. 1 do believe that one of the tests of an enlightened community in these times is whether it retains the death penalty. As the course of the debate has shown, in a country like Great Britain, which we regard as the cradle of civilisation in many ways and an example for our own society, it is only .100 years ago since there were some 200 crimes which were punishable by death. We look back on those times almost in disbelief, as though we cannot comprehend that there was a time when people were capable of such conduct towards their fellow men.
During the course of his interesting address, Senator Prowse referred to Lord
Ellenborough, who was Lord Chief Justice in 1810. When a Bill was introduced into the English Parliament in 18.10 by Sir Samuel Romilly proposing that the death penalty should be abolished for the offence of larcency of 5s or more, Lord Ellenborough said:
Repeal this law and no man can trust himself for an hour out of doors without the most alarming apprehension that, on his return, every vestige of his property will be swept oft by hardened robbers.
That might sound an absurd statement to us in 1968, but that was the opinion held by the Lord Chief Justice of England in those” times. Perhaps in 100 years time or 50 years time or 20 years time people will look back on the generation in which we live and say how quaint were some of those States which had capital punishment on their books.
I do believe that the arguments in favour of its retention are no more convincing today than they have been in the past. For myself, I would not accept the suggestion that was made in the course of the debate by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) that it was in some degree inappropriate for this chamber to take the initiative in a matter of this kind. For my part, I believe this is very properly a matter for the Senate to consider and I am looking to an affirmative vote from the Senate in favour of the measure.
I think the point that was made by Senator McManus is perfectly valid. If we are convinced that it is correct to do away with the death penalty, then it is entirely proper and right for the Commonwealth to give the lead and let the States follow suit. I believe that if we do it in one sweep in Commonwealth legislation then it may be followed in the States. I thank those senators who are not members of the Opposition who have spoken in support of the Bill.
In conclusion, in inviting the Senate to vote for the measure, it might perhaps be appropriate to ask honourable senators to note that it was Senator Murphy, Leader of the Opposition, who gave notice of intention to introduce this Bill. Honourable senators may be assured that had he been with us on this occasion to lead this debate he would have voted in support of the measure.
Question put -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from Committee without: amendment and with the certificate of the Chairman of Committees required by standing order 215; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cohen) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 March (vide page 337), on motion by Senator Marriott:
That the Senate take note of the following report:
Report of the Delegation from the Commonwealth of Australia Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to the
Thirteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, in October and November 1967.
– I am very pleased, for two reasons, to have the opportunity to address the Senate on the report of the 13th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, towards the end of last. year. Firstly, 1 believe it right that a leader of an Australian parliamentary delegation, who goes to a conference not as a representative of a government or of a particular party but as a representative of the Senate, should report back to the Senate and give some idea of the information that he may have obtained from taking part in and listening to the debates at the conference. Secondly, 1 am pleased to be able to address the Senate on this subject because when, during the debates in Kampala,I stated that it was the custom of the Australian Parliament for delegations to report to Parliament and have both Houses debate the report there was great interest amongst other delegations. I believe that our custom is appreciated and will ‘be followed in other Parliaments. A report has been prepared and was tabled by me on 27th March, for the perusal of honourable senators. Some good must come from the Conference if there is an opportunity to state one’s views and experiences and perhaps to give some ideas for the improvement of conferences and tours that will be held in future.
The opening debate at Kampala was entitled ‘Africa and World Peace’, under the heading of international affairs. Prior to the debate commencing, on. the previous afternoon the President of Uganda, Dr Milton Obote, opened the conference. His speech rather set the stage - and I regret to say this - for the theme that was to occupy the conference during its discussions. He made a very strong attack on the United Kingdom and Rhodesia and the United Kingdom’s attitude towards Rhodesia. In his speech he used the phrase: Instead of one vote one person it probably should be one gun one man’. Next day, when the debate got under way, we found that the Rhodesian question took up most of the time allotted for debate. This had happened at the Association meeting in New Zealand and also at the next meeting.
When, as leader of the Australian delegation 1 entered the debate, I expressed regret at this fact because I felt that the subject on which we were supposed to be speaking - Africa and World Peace’ - gave us a particular opportunity in the circumstances and in the position in which we were speaking in Kampala, to discuss freely as parliamentarians the part that Africa could and should play in world affairs and in helping to shape world peace. At the same time those of us who were visiting Africa could put points of view to the African delegates on how their countries could help Africa to unite in some way and become a power in world peace. 1 pointed out that the thirtythree countries of Africa, if united in the United Nations, could have a very profound influence. They could exercise a very strong voice in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, because at the Conference they had almost a majority of delegates. Throughout the debate there was an obvious theme of an Afro-Asian group against the rest. Instead of a debate on non-party lines in an exchange of helpful ideas, it turned into a form of international party politics, lt was very hard for delegates to get away from the subject of Rhodesia.
By force of debate and in discussions in between times at adjournments we were able to convince the Conference that it should not go ahead, as some delegates wished to go ahead, to move a resolution that the Commonwealth of Nations should mount an armed force to invade Rhodesia. I feared when we finished the international affairs debate that the conference had not made a good start. We had not achieved anything and it was rather a relief on the following day when we moved into committees. I commend the people who guide the preparation of the agenda of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for bringing into being the example of forming into committees to discuss subjects of vital interest to all members of the Association, and for a choice of subjects of great value to the delegates from the developing or emerging countries.
For instance, the first committee discussed food resources and the population increase. lt discussed investment in developing countries of the Commonwealth, scientific research and development services. Several members of the Australian Commonwealth delegation and some delegates from State branches sat on that committee. Others of us joined the second committee which met at the same time. Our discussions were based on certain aspects of the parliamentary institution. I believe that this was a very wise choice. In discussions after the committee meetings 1 found that many delegates from countries emerging into a democratic form of parliamentary government were very pleased to have listened to two speakers from countries with long-established forms of democratic parliamentary government.
I had the privilege of leading the debate on the first subject under the heading Parliamentary Institutions’. The subject was ‘The erosion of parliamentary authority by the Executive and through subordinate legislation’. Quite ‘frankly, I believe that this is occurring in the Commonwealth Parliament. I’ was able to instance cases where, in my view, there was and is taking place an erosion of parliamentary authority by the Executive. Many delegates were happy to take note of those facts. They said that they would watch that that sort, of thing were prevented in their own forms of government if and when they developed more freely.
We did not buy into the second subject to be discussed by the committee, which was ‘The breakdown of the parliamentary institution in parts of the Commonwealth’. However, we did enter discussions on the third and last subject in this aspect of the committee work. It was ‘The Press in a parliamentary democracy’. I hope that when the reports of the Conference are available many members of this Parliament and of the Press will read what was said in those debates, remembering that the speakers were not Ministers of the Crown nor delegates of governments. They were parliamentarians speaking with freedom and from experience.
There is no doubt that the countries which believe in and still have the single party system of government believe that their governments must control the Press. For my part. .1 spoke straight out for the freedom of the Press. I clearly and sincerely believe in the freedom of the Press.
– -Does the honourable senator believe in a Council of the Press such as operates in Great Britain?
– I am sorry, but 1 do not know of it. I believe in the freedom of the Press but I also believe as a member of Parliament that parliaments and governments must be careful that they never fear the Press. It will be a bad day on which any attacks in the Press upon governments, parties, splinter groups, wings and parties, or individuals make any of those sections of the parliamentary institution show any fear of the Press. I did not speak in praise of the Press, although I sincerely advocated its freedom. I suggested that there is a grave responsibility not so much on the people who write for the Press as on the people who own the news media.
– The Press barons.
– I do not know whether they are barren or not. But they have to accept the responsibility to ensure that the proceedings of Parliament are factually and truthfully reported. I hold that view very firmly. I believe it is also the view of the public of Australia that the Parliament should be fairly and truthfully reported.
I have no fault to find with the arrangements at the conference and the compilation of the agenda. The people of Kampala and Mr Kalema, the Chairman of the Conference, acted with great credit to themselves and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. They displayed great courtesy, and taking the conference all round, I believe it was very well conducted. We toured Uganda. I said there and I repeat here that I believe there is one fault in such tours arranged before conferences start. It is that delegates travel from early in the morning almost until late at night. They meet few people. For the benefit of future conferences and the delegates who attend them I urge that less miles should be travelled and that more people should be met. I believe that great value could result if from 60 to 100 members of parliaments of all countries making up the Commonwealth of Nations were to meet together and to meet the ordinary people of the country through which they travel. Lasting benefits could follow. That is one of the great reasons why we should always strive to ensure that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is maintained and proceeds from strength to strength.
In my view we did not meet or have the opportunity to meet enough of the people of Uganda because of the type of tour that was arranged. However, when the conference was over we were’ able to accept from the Kenya Government an invitation to spend 5 days in that country. There was then greater opportunity for us to meet their members of Parliament and officials, farmers and workers. I believe that it is of great educational value to members of parliament to visit countries such as Uganda and to take part in these tours. But too often during the conference when a delegate was taking a particular attitude and felt that his views were not being listened to or were being criticised he finished up by saying that unless his country’s views were adopted the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association would fail. It was almost a threat - take action against South Africa and Rhodesia or we will withdraw. I do not believe that is the right attitude to adopt. 1 believe that it is essential that those who are privileged to go to future Commonwealth Parliamentary Associations as delegates from this Parliament should make it known that we have a strong belief that the Association should continue and that the Commonwealth of Nations should continue as an entity of- friendly, co-operative and powerful developing nations. There are strains, stresses and frustrations and as more countries join the Association more strains and stresses will develop unless we are on guard to preach and show unity of purpose and a desire to co-operate with those countries with which in some aspects we may not agree and which we know do not agree with some of our basic policies.
I regret that too many of the delegates at the Conference were reading their speeches. They came with speeches that were obviously prepared by a government official or a Minister weeks before the Conference started and when the so-called debates took place the delegates did not refer to what had been said before but just read out speeches which they did not in reality follow. I publicly criticised this fact. When speaking to some of the delegates after I had made my public criticism I found that they did not always believe what they had said. There was some quiet discussion on this subject and it was about to be suggested that in the future speeches should not be read - as is the position in the Senate. However, some of the delegates of developing countries put forward their point of view and we realised that this course would be unfair. It is laid down that the English language must be used at CPA meetings and those delegates who were not usedto the English language would be seriously handicapped and disadvantaged if they could not read their speeches. But I believe we did get the message over that speeches should be prepared by the delegates and should express the individual points of view of members of parliament because only in this way could there be fruitful and helpful discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McKellar) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a matter regarding the treatment of a national serviceman by the Army. Last week we discussed the treatment of a person whose attitude the Army may have some reason to resent - Simon Townsend. The matter I desire to draw attention to tonight concerns Michael John Conlon, a national serviceman,who was not a defaulter but who was in fact very keen to serve. He was called up in February 1967 but was granted a deferment of 12 months to enable him to complete certain studies. He was inducted into the Army in February of this year.
As I have said, Michael Conlon was a keen national serviceman. When he was inducted into the Army he was told that he had a choice as to what part of the Service he preferred. Of course, as is usually the case, he ended up in the infantry. But his keenness was such that he asked to be associated with the commandos and he engaged in training for that purpose. I am told that there were frequent brain washings and that the potential enemy was magnified in his mind as being one that threatened the liberty of our country and of civilisation. He became a very keen soldier. He was sent to the recruit training centre at Puckapunyal in Victoria and on 8th April 1968 he and a number of other trainees were injured in the course of their training.
Michael Conlon’s ankle was injured. He was taken to the camp hospital at Puckapunyal and admitted for X-ray. A doctor then advised him that he did not have any broken bones but merely a few torn muscles here or there, and that it was not much, to worry about. Four days afterwards - on Good Friday, 1 2th April 1968 - an elastic bandage was placed on his ankle. On Easter Monday he saw the marching-out parade of the recruits and was then allowed to go on leave for the day. He was encouraged to walk with the aid of a walking stick. On Tuesday, 16th April he was discharged from 3 Camp Hospital and the doctor directed that he be placed on sedentary duties for 7 days.
Michael had been posted to 2 Section, 23 Platoon, E Company, 3 Training Battalion at Singleton, New South Wales. When the usual paper war had been waged he was dispatched from Puckapunyal at 5 p.m. on Friday, 19th April 1968 and was required to present himself at Singleton on or before 11.50 a.m. on Saturday, 20th April. That was 12 days after the injury. As he was driving his own car, this meant a journey of approximately 700 miles in 19 hours over roads which he had not previously traversed, and with an injured ankle. On arrival at Singleton he explained his disability to his platoon commander, who was sincerely concerned and told him to report to the Regimental Aid Post as soon as possible and to get a chit to exclude him from any heavy duties. On 23rd April Michael was examined by a medical officer. He states that he saw an old, retired doctor, a colonel, who was under the impression that the ankle was sprained and who ordered one week with no marching, running or physical training. This doctor also made arrangements to have X-rays and medical documents sent up from Puckapunyal.
During the ensuing week Michael was not called upon to do any marching, running or physical training, but his light or sedentary duties included the Army’s all-time favourite light duty of assisting in the mess. Thus he was required to collect the tea urn of 10 gallons capacity, which was full of tea and milk weighing approximately 70 lb and carry it for a distance of some 300 yards. Whilst incapacitated with his injured ankle he was twice stopped by officers, who were not medical officers, who expressed scepticism about his being disabled and required him to show them his ankle. As they were unable to see anything wrong with it, they concluded that there was little wrong with it and complained to him for letting his mates down by getting behind in his training. Similar but more irrational abuse was directed at him by the noncommissioned officers. One’ corporal in the platoon who was not partial to anyone with a physical disability picked him out for special sarcasm and remarks, using such descriptions as sick, lame and lazy. He was given all the tedious jobs that could be found and was repeatedly told that he was letting his mates down.
Michael returned to the RAP on 30th April, which was 22 days after the injury, and reported that his ankle had not improved. This was “at ‘ 6.30 a.m. He did not receive any treatment but he was told by the orderlies to return after breakfast. When he returned an hour later the orderlies suggested that the ankle injury was a ‘self concocted story’, and after examination by one orderly the diagnosis was: ‘You are kidding yourself, aren’t you?’ Following further discussion between the orderlies, they decided that he -should be examined by the doctor. However, the doctor concurred in the expert diagnosis of the orderlies and told Michael that he could not see anything abnormal about his ankle and directed that he return to full duties. Michael remonstrated with the doctor but his objections were met with complete indifference. He left the RAP and reported the position to his platoon commander, informing him that his ankle had not improved.
On 6th May, which was one month after the injury, his platoon commander asked htm to fil’l out a fitness report. The young lad thought that pressure had been brought from above to get a fitness report. He was then asked to report to the RAP, r.nd he was sent to the Singleton Hospital, where there was some disagreement as to what was wrong, including some suggestion of a slight fracture or chipped bone or torn muscles. However, he eventually saw the same doctor who a week before had directed him to return to full duties.
– Was he sent to theArmy hospital at Singleton?
– Yes. He saw the same doctor who the previous week had directed him to return to full duties. This doctor reprimanded him for putting weight on the ankle and ordered him not to be caught doing it again otherwise he would be in trouble. This was the doctor who had directed . him to return to full duties. On 7th May he . was admitted to 8 Camp Hospital, Singleton. It had taken the Army Medical Corps 4 weeks to appraise the situation and to diagnose more correctly that the ankle was fractured. On 10th May Michael was transferred to 2 Military Hospital, Ingleburn. He was admitted there by a civilian female doctor who informed him that his leg would have to be placed in a complete immobilisation plaster for 6 weeks, that there was a small fragment of chipped bone floating in the ankle, and if it did not resettle in position he would be suffering from arthritis for the rest of his life. This doctor expressed the need for some urgency and tried to arrange to have the ankle put in plaster the same day. An Army doctor agreed to put the plaster on if the lad could wait until after tea. Instead of the normal plaster which the female doctor had ordered, the Army doctor decided to put on a temporary adhesive plaster, because if and when the tad saw a specialist, the specialist would possibly not be satisfied and would require another plaster to be put on.
On 13th May three doctors were in attendance. They had the plaster removed, studied the X-rays, conferred, and passed on without further comment. There was no further action on the matter until 15th May. when an orthopaedic specialist gave the following diagnosis: ‘You badly sprained and slightly dislocated your ankle and also chipped a few pieces of bone off . . .’. and they used some medical phrase which the lad could not understand or interpret. The specialist added that the ankle was to be rested completely for 6 weeks with absolutely no weight bearing. He said that the plaster cast was unnecessary and he prescribed a strapping of crepe bandage, Honourable senators will realise that this was on 15th May, and he was to have complete rest for 6 weeks. Five days later, on 20th May, Michael was advised that he was to be discharged from hospital and returned to his unit. This action was apparently motivated by the urgent necessity to provide bed space for Vietnam casualties. Thus, once again factors other than medical reasons apparently influenced the medical officers to discharge him from hospital and place him on sedentary duties. As it happened, he was not returned to his unit at Singleton, but. he has been transferred to the Personnel Depot, Eastern Command, at Watson’s Bay. Of course, his parents are much concerned with the condition of the lad, who may be affected for the rest of his life by an arthritic complaint, with no right to repatriation benefits, through wrong diagnosis, incompetency and neglect, of some officers and an orderly who instructed him to work at a time when, because of his ankle, he was not fit to work. Mr Conlon writes:
I would mention that my own reputation and that of my son will stand up to any examination. Wc are not whingers. Although it was one lottery we would have preferred Michael not to win, we accepted his call-up and if the Army maintains any fitness records Pm sure that they will evidence that he has undertaken his training in a cooperative and enthusiastic spirit. His letters to us certainly demonstrate this.
I should like now to refer to two matters additional to the neglect or injury suffered by this serviceman. At the time of his being taken into the Army on 8th April 1968 he made arrangements for deductions from his wages to be paid to the General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Corporation Ltd of Gawler Place, Adelaide, to meet the fortnightly premiums due on certain group assurance policies. He wanted to ensure that the policies were current at all times. Al the end of May, almost 2 months later, although the amounts were being deducted from his wages no money had been received by the company and the policies would have lapsed by default if his father had not paid them.
On 21st May this lad was examined by a medical board which determined that he was slightly deaf in one ear, in consequence of which he was downgraded from his original classification of Al at the time that he entered the Army. He now asks whether the original examination at the time of entering the Army was thorough and whether any notice can be taken of it. If it was a thorough examination and he was in a fit condition to be classified Al, the deterioration in his hearing must, be due to something that has happened in the course of his duties within his Army service. A question arises as to whether he has a claim under workers compensation for this injury. I suppose this lad will have to sort out this matter in accordance with the law, and spend whatever money is necessary to see whether the injury is permanent and what compensation he is entitled to.
In mentioning this case I ask whether this is fit treatment for someone who has a genuine injury. There has been a lack of proper expert specialist examination which has resulted in his being chyacked by his officers for his laziness, his refusal to keep up with his mates and bludging on his mates, and in his officers making him perform normal duties, although not marching, until the time when he splintered the bones in his ankle. Having received medical advice to give his leg complete rest for a period of 6 weeks, was there any justification in his being discharged from hospital 5 days later and in being sent out on normal routine duties? Over recent months the Army has had a record of bungling and mishaps which deserve the condemnation of everyone. I bring up this matter during the adjournment debate hoping that there will be a thorough inquiry which will ensure not only that justice will be done to Michael Conlon but also that this sort of thing does not happen to trainees who may be called up for service in the future.
– It is quite obvious that Senator Cavanagh has given us what appears to be a very full explanation of this case. It is quite obvious also that I, for one, could not attempt to give reasons for what has happened. One thing that does occur to me as a layman - I am not suggesting that this is the reason - is that even if the correct diagnosis was made in the first place, the carrying of the weights which the honourable senator has mentioned and which should not have occurred could have resulted in further injury to the ankle. I am not suggesting that that is the explanation. All that I can do in the circumstances is to refer this case to the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) for the investigation that the honourable senator has suggested should be made.
Senator Cavanagh implied, even if he did not actually say it, that this seemed to be typical of the bungling, as he termed it, that has been going on in the Army for the past few months. I remind him that hundreds of men are being trained in the Army today and that he has picked out one instance where there was an injury. With such a large body of men being trained it is inevitable that accidents will happen. Nor do I suppose that Army doctors are more infallible than civilian doctors. We do not know whether they were at faul’t in this instance; this is something that we have to determine. I strongly deprecate the statement that there has been a lot of bungling in the Army. If bungling had taken place our men in Vietnam would not be doing the splendid job that they are now doing. They are recognised by all who come into contact with them as being some of the best trained troops in that area. Indeed, not only are they upholding the reputation of Australian soldiers earned in World War I and World War II but also, as 1 said after seeing them there on two occasions, they are enhancing that reputation. I am afraid that I cannot agree that there is very much wrong with our training. However, accidents will happen and, in this case, I feel1 that I must agree that the whole facts presented by the honourable senator tonight should be placed before the Minister for the Army. I shall do that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 June 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680604_senate_26_s37/>.