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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- I point out for the information of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) that if he were only to look one page ahead he would see that proposed new section 24aa. provides - (1.) A person shall not -

(a)   do any act or thing in an attempt -

(i)   to overthrow the Constitution of the Commonwealth by revolution or sabotage; or

(ii)   to overthrowby force or violence the established government of the Commonwealth, of a State or of a proclaimed country . . .

We propose to seek a qualification of that provision.

Mr Whitlam - Only as to sabotage. We support the rest.

Mr BRYANT - That is so. We are faced with the difficulty of proceeding through a very complicated measure in the face of almost continual gagging by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). I regret that he had to withdraw from the chamber but I am pleased to see him back because I should like to make a few remarks about his behaviour earlier this evening.

I am sure that the Parliament is not being served properly by the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), in particular, who continually quotes precedents in an effort to bamboozle honorable members. I know that the honorable member for Bruce has learned all these precedents of the very dim past but this Parliament has the duty of laying down laws for the future. Although we may examine history to decide which things in the past have created great injustices, so that we may take every possible step to see that they do not occur again, we ought to be examining the spirit of the legislation and ensuring that the things we want to preserve are preserved.

I am sure that in this clause, as indeed in most clauses of the bill, we are departing from vital principles. I believe that this is a prosecutor's bill. It is designed to make it easy for the prosecution to achieve its end when it aims to pull somebody up. We realize that there will not be any wholesale attack upon the ordinary people, but, unfortunately, this bill could be used to attack individual persons who may be absolutely innocent at the time. Because of that, it is essential that we scrutinize every clause closely in order to see whether it can be interpreted to the detriment of ordinary individuals. Our duty is not so much to look at precedents or to quote past law cases as to see what we can do to preserve and pass on to the future, the principles which protect our own rights. We believe that the provision relating to the levying of war or the doing of an act preparatory to levying war against the Commonwealth is wide in the extreme and, when considered in relation to the remainder of the bill, quite unjustified. We also believe that such wording as - assists by any means whatever an enemy at war with the Commonwealth, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared. is far too wide and too vague, and a threat to the ordinary individual freedoms. It is a threat to the freedom to take political action in the future. For those reasons, we say that such provisions ought to be deleted.

This evening, we saw in this chamber an almost unprecedented display by a senior Minister of the Crown. He used every trick of the debate in an attempt to prejudice the Labour Party and the justice of our cause. I do not believe there are any traitors in this House. I do not know a single Australian whom I would regard as likely to commit treason or treachery, and T have met a lot of Australians and have seen them under all sorts of conditions.

I believe that, first of all, the principle of Australianism ought to be one of tolerance and understanding and watchful encouragement of , ordinary political activities. Last Sunday I took the opportunity to look at the Eureka monument in Ballarat. It is a monument to an occurrence 106 years ago. On the face of that monument there is an inscription to this effect, " Erected to the honored memory of those pioneers who fell in the sacred cause of liberty and of the soldiers who fell at duty's call ". Some months after this occurrence the people concerned were exonerated by a jury, but if they had been taken in the heat of battle they would probably have been dealt with summarily and perhaps there would have been perpetrated an injustice of which we would all have been ashamed later.

My friend the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) reminds me that in the First World War, John Cain, one of Australia's most honored and respected political leaders, was hailed before the court and charged with either sedition or conspiracy. During the last war there were unfortunate instances of injustices which all flowed from the vagueness of the laws and the interpretation of them.

In the long run the person who will allow the prosecutor to proceed is the Attorney-General himself. What is his record in these matters? What have we seen him do here to-night? Sitting behind my friend the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), I heard him make a valid and logical interjection. He said that the Attorney-General is sheltering behind the Sovereign. Although the Attorney-General was attempting to explain the very complicated and vital piece of legislation, in which the penalty for a breach of the law is death - in other words where people's lives were at stake - he was taking the fanciful provisions at the beginning of the measure, which had little relevance - as was pointed out by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) - and was trying to label us as disloyal. I do not believe there is anybody disloyal on the other side of the chamber and I do not think anybody does this country any service - either the Parliament or the Labour Party or the people generally - by implying that any member of the Labour Party is in any way disloyal or guilty in this regard.

The Attorney-General is the man who is charged with the high and important duty of seeing that this legislation is implemented and that the rights and privileges and freedom of the people are protected. This man, by his character as he has demonstrated it here, and by his inheritance of the dark shades of McCarthyism from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other senior members of this Government, is, I believe, acting in such a way that nobody can put final trust in him. Last year I noted his activities associated with the peace congress. You may have all sorts of opinions about it but the peace congress in Melbourne was a legitimate piece of activity and we saw the Attorney-General attempt to suppress it. Yet he says he is horrified to think people do not trust him. I am prepared to trust him with freedom, but not with power.

I am not prepared to trust to the emotions of an Attorney-General of the future, unless it happens to be my friend the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) to deliberate in moments of crisis on emotional matters of treason, treachery and loyalty, in such a way that he will protect the people. We, therefore, want honorable members on the other side, who because of their numbers are charged with the duty of deciding whether or not this measure shall pass, to put into it protective provisions. We believe treachery and treason are the. darkest and direst of crimes, but we want placed in this measure protective clauses which cannot possibly sully the future with some of the tragedies of the past that have perpetrated great injustices and with which we would all be ashamed to be associated.

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