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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Mr HASLUCK (CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Territories) - The question raised by the honorable member is, of course, one of policy and it is for the Government to decide what it should do in respect of that matter. I take advantage of this occasion to explain to the honorable member and to those other members of the House who may be unaware of it, the nature and the objective of the process of justice applied in this case. When we go into comparatively new areas in New Guinea, one of the first things that we have to do on behalf of the Australian nation is to establish law and order and put an end to the inter-tribal fighting and brutal killing when these people live in their untrammelled primitive state. As a commencement, we make a rather soft beginning and, if we can patch up the differences between two people who have been accustomed to fight each other, we are satisfied to do so. At a later period, when we have been able to indicate to those people that killing each other is not in accordance with our general standards of civilization, then in the case of a killing we do have to take some action and the natives who are concerned in a killing are brought to trial. If they are natives who are still very considerably under the influence of their own tribal practices, although they may be brought to trial and although a sentence of death may be passed upon them it has been the almost invariable rule that that sentence of death is commuted to a term of imprisonment and that the term of imprisonment is used for the education and general advancement in civilization of the prisoners. Although I cannot anticipate what the Executive Council, presided over by His Excellency, will do in this case, it would be in keeping with what has been done in other cases that when these death sentences are brought before the Executive Council they will be commuted to an appropriate term of imprisonment.

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