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Friday, 30 April 1915

Senator GUY (Tasmania) .- When this Bill was previously before the Chamber I took it to be very largely an emergency measure. I regarded it as being intended to provide for a contingency which seemed very remote indeed. Nevertheless it is wise for the Legislature to make provision for every possible emergency. I was prepared at that time to trust the Government. I believed that they would not make any improper use of the power to suspend the trial of persons by a civil Court if the occasion for taking such a course of action arose. There has been a great deal of discussion as to depriving people of the liberty of the subject in some respects. If the amendment which has been inserted in another place will allay any feeling of alarm in that direction I have no objection to it. A good many honorable senators apparently apprehend more danger from the establishment of courts martial than appears to be justified. We must not forget that in Australia we are raising a military force which is comprised of citizen soldiers, and we hope that the men comprising that force will be imbued with the spirit of the citizen soldiery rather than with that of the old military caste.

Senator O'Keefe - No doubt a lot of them are.

Senator GUY - I have read a good deal about military matters', and I must confess tha.t I have never had much love for militarism. I hate militarism as I hate sin, but there are times when we have to submit to it because of the conditions with which we are surrounded. To-day we are in a state of war, and, consequently, have to accept military conditions which otherwise we would not tolerate. To my mind the danger to beapprehended is not so much the court martial as the fact that a private or ranker will not often be in a position todefend himself before such a tribunal in the same way as will an officer. I hope that when cases under this provision do arise the ranker or civilian will be provided with leg'al assistance to enable him to have his case presented just as well as the prosecutor will present the other side. In connexion with civil cases, I have time and again heard an attorney put a question to a witness which has been misunderstood, with the result that a wrong answer has been given. Thus the jury has been led to a wrong conclusion because of a misconception in the mind of a simple man. The simpler the individual the more chance there is of injustice being inflicted upon him. I have every confidence in the Minister of Defence, and I trust that when representations are made to him in any case in which a ranker may be charged with an offence he will see that legal assistance is provided the accused, so that his case may be presented in the best possible light.

Senator Guthrie - And promptly too.

Senator GUY - Yes. I hope, too, that civilians who are tried before a civil tribunal will have equal facilities offered to them.

Senator McDOUGALL(New South Wales [12.42]. - I desire to say a few words in reply to the remarks of the Minister of Defence. In bringing forward the case which I did I had no intention of conveying the impression that I was dissatisfied with the punishment that had been meted out to the offending sergeant. But I am undoubtedly dissatisfied with the punishment inflicted on the officer whom I mentioned, who was guilty of practically the same offence at very nearly the same time. Whether the sergeant deserved his punishment I am not going to say. But if he did, certainly the officer merited similar punishment. The Minister asked me for the name of the offending officer, but I do not think it would be a fair thing to mention it here. The papers relating to the matter are in the Department - they set out the names of the individuals concerned, so that everything is in order. I do not think it would be fair to drag the officer's name before the public, seeing that he has practically been acquitted of the offence with which he was charged. I do not object to the punishment which was; meted out to the sergeant, but I do protest against the differential treatment to which he was subjected as compared with the other culprit.

Motion agreed to.

Clause 4 -

(7)   The expression " British subject " in subsection 6 of this section includes a woman who has married an alien, but who before marriage was a British subject.

House of Representatives' Amendment. -Omit sub-clause 7.

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