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Tuesday, 10 May 1994
Page: 548

Senator TEAGUE (9.03 p.m.) —I wish to speak to this motion put by Senator Minchin. I agree with every word he said about the Report of the investigations of war criminals in Australia. Not only could this have been foreseen; it was foreseen. Along with colleagues in the Liberal and National parties, I remember saying in this chamber that this would be the likely outcome if we were to adopt the war crimes legislation that was then being debated. Not only those of us from South Australia and from the Liberal Party but also the opposition generally had the view—

Senator Crowley —Peter Baume did not have that view.

Senator TEAGUE —I agree with Senator Crowley that former senator Peter Baume, my very good friend, had enormous tussles of conscience about this matter. He did not see it as a perfect piece of legislation. He shared the kinds of criticisms which I am about to touch on for half a minute. Because of his personal associations with so many in the Australian community who had directly suffered through the Nazi holocaust, we all understood the personal position he adopted towards this legislation. But we said then that not only was the bill 50 years out of date in terms of any action to be taken in a court—and how could that be tested properly—but also we said it was retrospective and discriminatory because it specified particular years in one theatre of war, that is, Europe.

  We said, `Bring us a bill with similar principles which is only prospective, which is universal in its reach and we will consider amending the particular clauses to make war crimes unlawful for any theatre in any country for anyone who resides in Australia from this day forth.' I can remember sitting in the chair behind me and putting that speech about this bill and predicting that we would have this kind of end result.

  So Senator Minchin's speech tonight on this report is entirely apt and accurate. There have been no prosecutions, and there has been enormous expense to the taxpayer. We ought not to be ever swayed by our own sensitivity to those in our community who suffered directly as a result of such terrible events in the Second World War. Our sympathy is always with them. The holocaust was terrible, but we will not allow just that thought to convince us to go ahead with something which is otherwise not able to be supported, even on the grounds of retrospectivity alone. I support the remarks of my colleague from South Australia.

  Debate (on motion by Senator Ellison) adjourned.