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Thursday, 22 April 1915

Senator MILLEN - There was a case of a German pastor in South Australia, who was called upon to deliver up certain documents or property, and I understand that no general order had been issued.

Senator Pearce - A general order was issued with regard to those subjects.

Senator MILLEN - If the Minister gives me the assurance that all the legal requirements were satisfied I will accept it, but that is not the information that was given to me.

Senator Pearce - There was a general order issued in the instructions to deliver up certain property, and in that case it was not done.

Senator Guthrie - The man acted on the opinion of his legal adviser.

Senator MILLEN - Though the Minister says that the legal requirements had been met, I believe they were not. Referring more particularly to the measure before the Senate, I desire to point out that there has been a change so far as Great Britain is concerned, due to the fact that the conditions at Home have become less onerous, and I think there ought to be some modification of the great powers to be intrusted to the officials in this country. The Minister has stated that our liability to attack is less now than it was a few months ago, and, therefore, under these circumstances, the exercise of powers should proceed with greater moderation and greater circumspection than would have been the case if we were liable to be attacked. So far as the measure is concerned, I would like to say that no punishment, in my opinion, could be too great for any one who does anything to jeopardize the interests of the State, and, therefore, anything that I may say will, I hope, not be regarded as an excuse or plea for the wrongdoer. The traitor to his country should suffer the full penalty provided by the law for his actions.

Senator Guthrie - You would give him a fair trial, would you not?

Senator MILLEN - Unquestionably, and that brings me to the point that British people have always prided themselves on the fact that they have invariably afforded to. the man who is a criminal the fullest opportunity of defending himself. For that reason I am particularly pleased that the Minister is now introducing into this Bill a proposal which will enable a citizen who may be brought to trial the option to have his case tried in a civil Court. I am sure, therefore, that the measure will command support and sympathy from members of this House, as well as the general public. I candidly admit that I cannot discuss the various details of this measure, because while the Minister delivered me a copy of the Bill yesterday, he has now brought in a long list of amendments, which will have the effect of transposing certain provisions, and enlarging or altering them. I would like to point out for the consideration of the Minister the fact that there is a clause in the Bill which does not appear in the Imperial Act. I refer to paragraph 6 of sub-clause 3 of proposed new section 4, the effect of which is to prevent the transmission abroad, except through the post, of any letter, post-card, or letter-card, written communication, or newspaper. I see no objection to that proposal, because it seems there might be an advantage in having it inserted in the Bill to meet Australian conditions. Naturally, in comparing this measure with the Imperial legislation, one's attention is directed readily to points of discrepancy rather than to points of similarity. As there will probably be little opportunity in Committee of considering suggestions, I would direct the attention of the Minister to the wisdom of including in paragraph d of sub-clause 3 of proposed new section 4, provision for dealing with the publication of disloyal utterances, the necessity for which was brought under my notice recently. A little while ago a German resident of Sydney was very free in his utterances on this subject, and I am only surprised that they did not bring him some personal inconvenience or violence. Not long ago when a report reached Australia of what appeared to be a little temporary British reverse, this man ,gave a dinner in Sydney to celebrate the occasion, and he freely made utterances of the character I have referred to. I think, therefore, that as we are asked to pass legislation of a drastic character for what appear to be no more serious offences, it would be reasonable and fair if we introduced a provision to deal with the publication of disloyal utterances.

Senator Guthrie - Would you continue that after the war?

Senator MILLEN - No. The Act itself will terminate withthe conclusion of peace. I candidly admit my inability to follow this later list of amendments, and I merely content myself with asking for the Minister's assurance that this Bill is in all essentials a reproduction of the Bill recently assented to by the Imperial Parliament.

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