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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 997


Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - I move:

After clause 5, add the following new Clause:

6.   This Act does not apply to the Geneva Conventions Act 1957'

I have no doubt that all honourable members of this House generally would be aware of the Geneva conventions but I am sure that not too many would know just what are the Geneva conventions. They were adopted in about 1949. They represented the consensus as to what should be the proper treatment of personnel who were involved in war and conflict. The 4 conventions were the subject of a ratification by an Act of this Parliament in 1957. The 4 conventions, briefly, were: The Red Cross convention, which was the first convention. It provided for the protection and care of sick and wounded and the protection of medical units, voluntary aid personnel and so on. The second convention applies to the protection of the wounded and sick and shipwrecked members of the Armed Forces who are at sea. The third convention deals with the treatment of prisoners of war and the obligations the captor nations must observe towards prisoners of war. The fourth convention is concerned with the protection of civilians in times of war. The convention itself is something which I think all members of this House would agree is very desirable and it is only regrettable that there are so many countries that apparently do not comply with the provisions that are included within it.

Part 2 of the Act provides for the punishment of persons who commit grave breaches of the convention. The grave breaches are, for example, wilful killing, torture, inhuman treatment, wilfully causing great suffering and extensive destruction of property. For those offences, the death penalty is prescribed by our own law. It is prescribed by an Act of this Parliament of 1957. If one thinks of the frightful cases that came out of World War II, both in the Japanese theatre and in the Ger man theatre, I think one would agree that it is necessary that the sanction of the ultimate penalty be retained in this area. The year 1957 was not very long ago, but it was only in 1957 that the Act which incorporated the penalties which this Bill will now abolish was adopted.

I believe that there are difficulties in the degree to which the death penalty will serve as a deterrent force. I have listened with interest to the arguments advanced by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) and other speakers in this chamber who believe that neither in the deterrent nor in the moral sense should the capital penalty be retained. I do not adhere to that view, yet I have explained that I would see no reason to enforce the law at this stage. Again. I would assert as I did earlier in this debate that the writing in of a law does not require that that law be enforced. This is not a court of law; this is a house of parliament and in this House of Parliament we are setting the parameters within which the law in a particular case can be judged. I do not believe that in this day and age we should take a stand with respect to the Geneva conventions which removes that ultimate sanction which the death penalty represents. It is for that reason that, with respect to the Geneva Conventions, 1 have moved the amendment, the passing of which will mean that the death penalty will be retained in accordance with the provisions of the Act passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1957.







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