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Wednesday, 23 November 1960


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- The bill is now a very much better bill than it was when it was introduced by the AttorneyGeneral two and a half months ago, but it is still too bad a bill to put on the Australian statute-book. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke on the second reading of the bill, he moved that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to achieve certain objectives. About half of those objectives have in fact now been achieved as a result of amendments which the Attorney-General was provoked to move or to adopt after the only Ministers who spoke during the second-reading stage had endorsed every feature of the original bill. As a result of the amendments which the Opposition sought and which the AttorneyGeneral accepted, there is now provision for trial by jury for all the offences introduced by the bill. There is now a means provided of specifying enemy countries and persons that it will be an offence to assist. There has now been inserted a guarantee of liberty, in good faith, to express criticisms and to seek alterations of the policy of the Australian or any other government. Furthermore, there is now a guarantee of liberty to pursue bona fide industrial action. In half a dozen cases, there is now provided, as there was not previously provided, the necessity to prove intent before any criminal act will be deemed to have been committed.

But, Sir, the bill still has features which the Australian Parliament should not accept. It retains the provisions concerning proof of known character - that is, of political reputation. It also still has the widest definitions of any crimes in any Australian statute. As a result of this bill which is now to be read a third time, it is possible for anybody with an adverse political reputation, present or past, to be tried and convicted for sabotage, espionage and breach of official secrets, even if he has had no guilty intent whatever, and even if he has done no harm whatever. That result is achieved because of the very wide definitions of the crimes of sabotage, espionage and breach of official secrets.

In each of those provisions, offences arise with respect to prohibited places. There is no specification or definition or proclamation of " prohibited place " in some circumstances. A prohibited place may be a private shop, or factory, or office, which is not known to have Government contracts and which contains documents or articles which have no security or secrecy aspects, but which nevertheless are the subject of these serious crimes.

An act of sabotage means the destruction, damage, or impairment of any article that is in or forms part of a prohibited place - that is, of a private shop or factory or office which has a government contract that may be unknown to the general public. The offence of espionage can be committed by anybody who makes or communicates a sketch, plan, photograph, model, cipher, note, document or article that is likely to be, might be, or is useful to a foreign power. Such a document might be a time-table, a street directory, a photograph, a book, or a map which is readily obtainable in any shop in Australia. If, however, any person with an adverse political reputation has any such article in his possession, he can be tried and convicted for espionage. Furthermore, a person with such a reputation may be found guilty of espionage if he approaches, or is in the neighbourhood of, a prohibited place in the unspecified and imprecise significance to which I have already drawn the attention of the House.

In the last case, it is possible for a person to be tried and convicted for a serious breach of official secrets if he fails to comply with a direction to give up some article or document which relates to a prohibited place. There is no guilty intent there, but, under this bill as it is leaving us, the mere failure to comply with such a direction, without any guilty intention, amounts to a breach of official secrets.

There are many other features of this bill upon which, by the time-table, we have been deprived of the opportunity to vote. There is, for instance, no remedy available to the citizen who has been arrested or detained in or near a prohibited place unless the Governor-General is satisfied that the arrest or detention was without reasonable cause. The amount of compensation which is to be awarded is at the option of the GovernorGeneral. That is to say, one appeals from Caesar to Caesar. Caesar determines if damages will be awarded, and what damages, to somebody whom Caesar has wronged!

Again and again, in all these provisions, there are novel and unparalleled features which are a disgrace to our law. We should have expunged these Barwick blots from the statute-book of Australia. This is said to be an act which is modernizing the law, and which is necessitated by patriotic motives. But patriotism does not require the betrayal of British principles of justice! Modernization does not require the abandonment of our own traditional principles. The defence of liberty, which is said to be secured by this bill, involves not just a guarantee of investment and business practices, as the Attorney-General seems to think, but also the defence of speech and reputation. Under this measure, crimes can be committed in the name of security just as much as they can be committed in the name of liberty.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order!The time allotted for the remaining stages of the bill has expired.

Question put -

That the bill be now read a thirditme.







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