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Tuesday, 22 November 1960


Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) .- The attitude of the Opposition in this matter is quite extraordinary. It has been suggested by members of the Opposition that this offence of treachery is something that has been dreamed up out of nowhere. That, of course, is quite untrue. It may be that the word " treachery " as applied to the offence is new - although I deny that - but that is as far as the Opposition could go. The truth of the matter is that those acts which will constitute treachery under this bill constituted treason under the common law. As the Attorney-General pointed out in his second-reading speech, there are categories into which, in modern days, these offences should be split, because some acts should attract greater penalties than others. This, I believe, is what has in fact happened in this bill. That which is, under this bill, to be an offence of treachery was formerly part of the offence of treason under the common law. It is not new to the common law. We can again resort to Halsbury on this. At page 561 of the third edition of " Halsbury's Laws of England " it is stated -

A person adheres to the Sovereign's enemies who, in conjunction with those enemies, commits hostile acts upon an ally of the Sovereign who is also at war with the Sovereign's enemies.

Because of the changed circumstances of modern life, and the changed nature of war, it has become increasingly apparent that the formality of a declaration of war is no longer a part of international relationships. A state of war can readily exist without the formality of a declaration of war. Hence the provision in respect of the proclamation of countries.

I believe that the provision for the proclamation of countries is most necessary, for it follows quite clearly that if we formed an alliance with a country and, as a result of that alliance, that other country stationed some article or equipment of war in our territory, we would then owe a duty to our ally to prevent our own subjects from destroying that equipment. The same would apply in reverse. If we sent troops and articles of war overseas we would expect our overseas ally to afford our troops and equipment the same protection. It follows further that if we had an alliance with another country in order to repel a common enemy we would have an interest in retaining the government of that proclaimed country, because if that government were overthrown by force we could not be sure that the alliance we had. entered into would subsist - and we would have entered into that alliance only because it was necessary, in our own interests. In the protection of those interests it is- proper to make it an offence for one of our own' citizens, subject to our own law, to- essay the overthrow by force or violence of the government of. an allied or proclaimed country.

The safeguard's, if any are needed; are three in number. First, the proclaimed country must be proclaimed by the Houses of the Parliament; and secondly, a proclaimed enemy must be proclaimed by the Houses of the Parliament. I interpolate here that I recall' in my second-reading speech on the bill I suggested that if would be desirable that an enemy should be proclaimed, and I am very glad that this is, in fact, to be done. The other main safeguard comes in categories (a) and (b) - jury trial and judicial' interpretation. Those are things that we have clung to for centuries, and they are things which have proved a safeguard throughout those centuries. They will remain under this legislation.

In the debate on this clause some matters have been raised which are clearly quite wrong. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in his last address to the committee that it is not fair to make it an offence for an Australian beyond Australia or Australia's territories to be subject to this proposed section in relation to the commission of the offence of treachery, because, the honorable gentleman said, an Australian overseas could not know of the proclamation of a country or of the proclamation of an enemy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, according to my recollection, " He assists in the overthrow of that government, but then comes back to Aus tralia and finds himself charged". Let us be realistic about this. Nowhere in the world does anybody set about assisting in the overthrow of a government without making a very close scrutiny as to whether what he is about to do is an offence and, if so, what sort of offence. It is idle to suggest that an Australian living overseas would enter- into this sort of activity without first ascertaining whether or not what he was about to do or, having done it, whether or not what he had done, would render him subject to penalty or prosecution on his return to Australia.

The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) said that the provision in regard to treachery was vague. I find it incredible that the honorable member for Yarra should regard- it as, vague. I feel that it is a very tight provision. It makes perfectly clear what the offence of treachery is. There is no vagueness about it. If somebody enters into a course of action which amounts to treachery under this bill, a jury will determine the issue. I do not think a jury will have great difficulty in reaching, a determination in fact as to whether an offence was committed. If jurors had any doubt, then in accordance with our laws the accused would be entitled to his acquittal.

The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has suggested that you do not create loyalty among your subjects by creating this offence. Of course that is true. You do not create loyalty. Nobody would suggest that this bill is designed to create loyalty. We do not need to create such an offence to create loyalty. We have in this country the overwhelming loyalty of 99.99 per cent, of this population. It is that vicious minority which is prepared to destroy our way of life that is the danger, and it is for that minority that we have to create the penalty.

It is not designed to create loyalty at all, and I deprecate the suggestion by the honorable member for Yarra that he considers the Australian population is being whipped along to loyalty by such legislation as this. He knows it not to be true. He knows that we would not apply a provision like this unless there is danger or crisis. Let us make no mistake about this::

For a country or an enemy to be proclaimed, nobody would suggest that we had not reached something like a crisis. Indeed, I would say that any proclamation such as this, if a crisis had not occurred, would provoke a crisis. This provision will enable action to be taken in case there is no formal declaration of war. The task of making a declaration would not be lightly undertaken by the Government, and it is a task which would not be lightly undertaken by members of this chamber who would have to vote on such a proclamation. Therefore, what the honorable member for Yarra asks for is ascertained .and ascertainable.

The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), in his characteristic fashion, not knowing what it is all about and certainly not knowing what he was going to vote on, said that the use of the word " sabotage " in this bill would mean an infringement of trade union rights. He is apparently unaware of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, namely, that the word sabotage is in the principal act and has been there since the enactment of the principal act. It cannot interfere with the trade union activities of anybody.

It is true that the jury lists of this country have been extended to a point where almost anybody who is adult and who is qualified by the lowest degrees of qualification, may serve on a jury. If you look at a jury list, you will find a wide range of names and types of names. If you look at the occupations, you will find every occupation listed. A number of people have been in King's Hall recently. I asked every one of them to whom I spoke, " Are you eligible for the jury list? " Many of them did not know whether they were on the list, but something like 60 per cent, of them said ," Yes, I am on the jury list ". These are of the very people who are likely to be called to serve on a jury. Are they likely to make the curious finding of fact suggested by the honorable member for Wills?







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