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Wednesday, 28 October 1914

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - The maximum penalty provided for the offences enumerated in paragraphs a to f seems to me to be a very heavy one. Under clause 71, a person who is found guilty of disclosing official secrets - in my opinion, a very serious offence against the Commonwealth - will be liable to the maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment; while, under clause 72, for stealing, a public officer will be liable to a penalty of seven years' imprisonment. With regard to clause 73, a person may omit to do certain things, but it may he a very minor offence.

Senator Gardiner - Then it will only carry a small penalty.

Senator FINDLEY - It does not follow, of course, that a person convicted of an offence under any one of these paragraphs will get a sentence of seven years, but the Judge will have power to inflict that punishment.

Senator Blakey - But the prosecution would have to prove guilt, though.

Senator Bakhap - There does not seem to be any balance in these penalties.

SenatorFINDLEY. - I am not going to make any comment on provisions to which we have agreed, other than to draw attention to what I call seemingly glaring disparities respecting the terms of imprisonment which, to me, seem almost alike. There is very little difference between the offences provided for in clauses 71 and 72 and those provided for in clause 73.

Senator Keating - Some of the other maximums are too low.

Senator FINDLEY - For the offences covered by this clause the maximum is too heavy, or the others are too low.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Are you going to submit an amendment to cut down the period?

Senator FINDLEY - I would like the Minister to give some reason why this extreme penalty is provided for.

Senator Turley - The provision has been taken out of the Queensland Criminal Code wholesale, and put in here.

Senator FINDLEY - It does not follow that it is a good provision to be in this measure. The Queensland Criminal Code was passed at a time when there was no Labour Government in power, and it is not always good to follow the examples of Governments who sat in opposition to Labour. I ask the Minister if he can give the Committee any substantial reasons why the extreme penalty of seven years should be imposed for the offences enumerated in this clause.

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