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Wednesday, 11 May 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) .- A vote on this amendment will not indicate how I desire to vote on the clause. I am quite in accord with giving a court martial full power to deal with a man while Australia is at war, because I recognise that a .law pertaining to a state of war must be absolutely different from a law applying to a state of peace. There are two of these offences which might be committed while the nation is at peace - mutiny and murder. I am opposed to giving a court martial power to inflict capital punishment in - any such case which might be tried before a civil Court.

Senator Pearce - In Australia, it would be tried by a civil Court.

Senator EARLE - It might not be. If, however, the object of the amendment is to remove from the government of the Army the power of execution for some of those heinous offences which might sacrifice the lives of. thousands of men, then I cannot agree to it. Much as I am opposed to capital punishment, and much as I wish to see it abolished as far as possible in our civil life, I am not going to give to a man who is prepared to sell, not only his comrades, but his country, immunity from the punishment which he richly deserves. I should like to see the words "unless Australia is in a state of war" inserted.

Senator Pearce - It will not apply at other times.

Senator EARLE - If the honorable senator can convince me of that, I shall vote for the clause as it stands.

Senator Foster - The Defence Act as it stands provides that all these cases* shall be tried by a civil Court if they are civil offences.

Senator EARLE - Then I shall vote against an amendment which has for its object the abolition- of the power to award the death sentence to a man who has no right to live if he is convicted of committing such a crime as I have indicated.

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