Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 22 November 1960


Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) rs supposed to be a lawyer.


Mr Snedden - Is a lawyer; not supposed to be.

Mr. -CAIRNS.-Well, we will see how good a -lawyer you are before this is over. The honorable member began with a statement that the law with regard to sabotage could not apply 'to a trade union. He said that there might be trade -unionists on juries, and therefore it would not apply. The point we on the Opposition side are making is that we are concerned with the legal definition of the law and whether the law as it appears in the bill will apply to trade unionists. At the right time, we will argue that it will apply. But the answer put forward by the honorable gentleman, who is supposed to have advanced a lawyer's argument that it will not apply because there are "likely to 'be trade unionists on juries, is a totally vicious argument and completely irrelevant to the discussion.

Let us look again at his example of the law. This is put forward by an honorable member who claims to be setting out a lawyer's argument. He said that what is supposed to be treachery in the bill is in the common law. Was it ever treachery to harm any country other than your own? Was it ever treason to harm any other country? It has never been treason to break loyalty or allegiance to any country other than your own. The introduction of this idea of a proclaimed country has not been in the common law of this nation or in the law of any other country, and any one who puts it forward as a lawyer's argument has no legal ground for doing so.

The second thing about this provision is the introduction of the proclaimed country. The government for the time being, which might have a majority of one or two, will be able to select any one of the countries of the world and proclaim it, and will make it an offence punishable by life imprisonment to harm that country. That has never been in the common law and it has not been thought of by any government of a civilized country before. I regard it as completely obnoxious and objectionable to ask any citizen of this country to give allegiance and loyalty to a foreign country which might be proclaimed by a government with a temporary majority in this Parliament. It is completely wrong and unsound and has never happened in any civilized country before.

As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, this proclamation is to be made in Australia and it will apply throughout the world. Any Australian citizen who may be in another part of the world can commit an offence by harming some obscure country somewhere in the world that this Government, in Australia, has said is a proclaimed country. In order to be aware of that fact, a citizen who is abroad has to read Australian literature, papers, and " Hansard ". He has to be in a position to know that a country has been proclaimed. It is quite reasonable to suggest, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has done, that an offence could be committed under this provision by an Australian elsewhere, and he would have no knowledge that he had committed that offence.

The honorable member for Bruce said that in to-day's world, the formal declaration of war is no longer in use. I challenge that statement. There have been very few cases in which war has taken place and there has not been a formal declaration; and the assumption on which this proposition is based by the Attorney-General will not stand up to examination. Even if it were true, and even if some countries adopted a practice of going to war without declaring war, is that any reason why this country should adopt what is an obnoxious practice? You argue that the lowest people in the community and the lowest standards in the world are such, and then immediately you begin to adopt them! That is the kind of argument that should not be put forward and accepted by any one.

The honorable member for Bruce said that we owed a duty to an ally; that we might be associated in some place in Australia or elsewhere in some military action with an ally, and, therefore, that we must have this proclaimed country procedure in order to protect that ally. If that is what the Government is concerned with, why not put provision in the law making it an offence to harm the troops of an ally with which you are associated? But the Government does not do it that way. It is introducing a wide provision that can apply in any circumstances - not the circumstances with which the honorable member for Bruce is concerned, but circumstances which could be the widest in their application.

The honorable member said that where you have an alliance, it is necessary to have a provision to protect the country with which you have an alliance. There is no need for an alliance in relation to this provision. The Government could have any country in the world proclaimed, whether we have an alliance with a country or not. No argument can be based upon an alliance because an alliance is not necessary. You could select a country like South Korea under Syngman Rhee or Turkey under Menderes or Cuba under Batista. You could proclaim those countries by a narrow majority in this Parliament, and it would become a breach of your fundamental alliance to harm those proclaimed countries. Nothing like that has happened in this country before or, so far as I am aware, in other countries.

How will this proclamation be made? Let us take it in two steps. First we proclaim a friend, and then take a second step and proclaim the enemies of the friend. Are we going to ring Washington when we have proclaimed the United States of America and say, " Mr. President, we want to proclaim your enemies for you. You have not done this, but we will do it."? Or if we do not keep in touch with Washington and ask for a list of the enemies of the United States so that we can proclaim them, are we going to do it from Canberra? Are we going to take the initiative in this spontaneous unilateral action of proclaiming the enemies of our friends? Will we take the responsibility here in Canberra of selecting those enemies or undertake discussions with the government of the friendly country? What, precisely, is the machinery which the Attorney-General has in mind for the application of that and other provisions?

In order that as many members of the Opposition as possible may put forward their point of view, Opposition speakers have had to ration their speaking time carefully because of the application of the guillotine to this debate. Consequently, I shall conclude by saying that I oppose completely this " proclaimed country " provision. It is completely obnoxious and objectionable to ask any Australian citizen to pay allegiance to a foreign country which happens to be selected by a government temporarily holding office in this Parliament, and to render him liable to a penalty of life imprisonment if he does not do so. The whole provision is completely obnoxious and objectionable and no Australian should subscribe to it.







Suggest corrections