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Thursday, 17 November 1960


Mr POLLARD (Lalor) (12:43 PM) .I support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) in their opposition to the imposition of the death penalty. As a member of a State Labour government from 1929 to 1932, I had the unfortunate experience of having to sit on the Executive Council and consider the cases of no less than eight murderers. The practice then was that every Cabinet Minister who had to make a decision was, prior to the meeting of the Executive Council, furnished with the record of the life of the condemned person. I can say that there was not one life history or case history, which I or my colleagues read, which showed that the condemned person had had an opportunity to live the normal life of the more fortunate members of the community. Always, not unconnected with his crime, were the surrounding circumstances of his childhood and his environment.

The death penalty is nothing more or less than barbarism on the part of a civilized community which itself commits the murder of some one whom that civilized community is, to an extent, responsible for producing. It is true that in Victoria, since the defeat of the last Labour Government, the present Tory Government has reintroduced the death penalty and again pulled the hangman's noose around people's necks. It is no longer a deterrent. One of the most objectionable features of this awful act is that the hangman has to remain anonymous. It is so horrible and repugnant that his name is never made known. If I had my way, I would make the Governor-General or the Governor of the State pull the hangman's noose. If it is good enough for any ordinary person to do it, it is good enough for the head of the State to do it.

I reinforce the statement of the honorable member for Wills that the Labour Government in the initial stages of the First

World War, and the anti-Labour Government that followed, forthrightly refused repeated requests by the Imperial Authorities for power to inflict the death penalty on members of the First A.I.F. The death penalty could be inflicted on members of the British Army, and it was inflicted on deserters. I have seen desertions take place through no fault of the deserters. In World War I. the British Army inflicted the horrible penalty of No. 1 field punishment, under which men were tied to the wheels of gun carriages and flogged. The Australian Army refused to allow the death penalty to be inflicted on its members. Yet its overall conduct was as good as, if not better than, that of any other army in either of the two world wars in which it participated. It is wrong for this Parliament at this time in what should be a more enlightened era to disregard the position in other civilized countries and lead the people to believe that it is necessary to have the death penalty in order to make men loyal. If men intend to be disloyal, treacherous or traitorous, no death penalty and no other form of punishment will prevent them from indulging in their horrible acts.

I do not appeal to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). It would be futile to do so. because he has misjudged his fellow-men in this chamber so frequently. Recently when the very strongly antiCommunist honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) raised a matter of urgent public importance and put a strong case in regard to restrictive trade practices, I saw the Attorney-General rise in his place rather nettled and heard him reply. He said, " I have just come back from the United Nations where I listened to this sort of thing for a fortnight. I listened to this sort of thing from Khrushchev". By implication and innuendo, he was branding the honorable member for Newcastle as a Communist. I do not appeal to the AttorneyGeneral: I appeal to this Parliament, a body of men who surely have sufficient faith in the decency of their fellow Australian citizens to be no longer parties to believing that it is necessary to inflict the death penalty in order to prevent men from committing treason, sedition and so on. The imposition of the death penalty will not stop them, if they are so inclined. Either they are products of a 'bad society or there is some congenital, physiological or psycho logical weakness in their makeup. I condemn the death penalty and ask the Parliament to pass judgment along decent Christian and enlightened lines in this respect.







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