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Wednesday, 11 May 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- I think that honorable senators have gripped the position quite clearly. My amendment aims at the abolition of capital punishment anywhere - either in the Army or out of it. I think that a majority of the people of Australia share my view. Senator Earle seems inclined to vote against the amendment because he is of opinion that no punishment is too severe for some of the horrible deeds that have been committed. . Least of all is the death penalty. But it is not the horrors associated with certain crimes that we have to consider; it is merely the effectiveness of the penalty. What is the claim put forward on behalf of the death penalty? It is urged that the imposition of this penalty is a preventive of crime. Can we imagine the fear of death acting as a deterrent to crime in the case of soldiers who see their dead comrades being carried out from the line every minute ?

Senator Fairbairn - But one is a glorious death, whilst the other is the death of a criminal.

Senator GARDINER - That is to say, as was put by Senator Pratten, that the finer feelings of these men are such that the distinction drawn between two kinds of death will make them fear death. The crimes which stain the records of nearly all military and naval nations, and which even . a century will not wipe out, are those caused by unwise death sentences which have been inflicted by superior officers. Quite recently, we have been celebrating the anniversary of Napoleon's death. But the court martial which he held in Egypt constitutes the blackest stain upon his record. What darker stain is there upon Lord Nelson's name than that caused by the republican surrender to the Allied Forces when the former were promised a free passage to France. We all know that when Nelson sailed into Naples he had the prisoners hanged to the masthead, whilst the Queen of Naples and Lady Hamilton were enjoying the spectacle. These are the deeds which have stained the escutcheon of nations. I have quoted the lives of two great' men whose records are besmirched owing to the execution of the decisions of courts martial. Our own re-, cord has been similarly stained, although we have only recently become engaged in war. Personally, I am opposed to the death penalty . upon all grounds ; but more particularly am I opposed to it in the Army, where the atmosphere is so different from that which obtains in civil life. I ask for a clear-cut vote upon this question - the death penalty or no death penalty.

Amendment negatived.

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