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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) .- I shall not keep the committee more than two or three minutes. At I understand the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, he is concerned that a person may take a sketch plan, photograph or something of the kind or that he may be in a prohibited place and then be discovered with a sketch plan which is in fact of no particular value from a defence point of view; or it may be that the prohibited place is of no consequence to defence. The essential point is contained in the opening words of proposed new section 78 -

If a person for a pur-pose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth or a part of the Queen's dominions -

(a)   makes a sketch, plan, photograph, model . . .

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has failed completely to take that provision into account. What he has said really is that if a person takes a sketch for a purpose prejudicial to the safety of the Commonwealth and then he finds that he has, in fact, drawn a dud, or if he is in a place to carry out some sabotage that really may be harmful to our defence effort but finds that it is only a place where bully beef is canned, he should escape scot free. That is the kind of argument I cannot understand. The man has deliberately set out to do something prejudicial to the Commonwealth but it happens, in fact, that although he intends to do it, he does not succeed in his purpose. I see no reason why he should not be punished for his attempt to do something that was intended to be prejudicial.

Mr. REYNOLDS(Barton) [5.101.-The objection that the Labour Party takes in this matter lies in the very tenuous connexion between what a person does and the rather extreme crime with which he is to be branded. It is supposed that he takes something with intent to take it to the prejudice of the country's security. The point to which we object is that reliance on his intention is to be taken entirely from the man's character as proved. I said during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill- and I am more convinced than ever of this - that the only difference between the main proposition that has been put to us on this bill and that put forward on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill in 1951 is that in 1951 persons could be branded outright as Communists and as a danger to the security of the country. Our whole objection then was to the definition of a Communist and what was dangerous to the security of the country. Who was going to define a Communist? What we wanted then - and what the majority of the people wanted - was that a person should be dealt with according to his actions. If he carried out misdeeds against security, he should be punished. We still say that.

Our objection is that the Government has come a step further. It proposes to deal with persons on the basis of actions, but the definition of an action prejudicial to the country has been cast so wide that the main reliance is still upon the political allegiance of the person who is being accused. We feel that the very definitions in this bill, and the references to places, are so wide that if the Government wanted to it could catch practically anybody in the land. Nearly anybody could be framed. So we come back to the point that the main reliance is still on the character - the previously established character - of the person; and in this case, it is the political character.

An admirable article was published in the " Sydney Morning Herald " this morning which pointed out the danger of this provision. The Government is still relying on character and a person would have difficulty in proving that he dissociated himself from a political allegiance which the Government might regard as dangerous to the security of the people. So we are back pretty much to the issue that was vital in 1951 of denning what is a Communist and who is a person who, in his non-conformist political attitudes and opinions, is dangerous to the security of the country. The actions could be almost incidental to those factors, and the definitions are so framed and are so wide that they could take in practically everybody. If you set out to catch a person because you knew he was a Communist and politically offensive to the government, the actions encompassed in these provisions are so wide that you could catch anybody and the trial would be really on the basis of a man's known political character.

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