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Wednesday, 11 May 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I rise to refer to a statement made by the Minister' for Defence (Senator Pearce) in concluding his last remarks. He said that men who had committed murder while abroad, because of the absence of this provision, could not be punished.

Senator Pearce - Could not be punished for murder. They could be tried for manslaughter only.

Senator GARDINER - That is a different statement altogether from that which the honorable senator has already made. I interjected, " Could not be punished at all ? " and the Minister eat down without replying, leaving me . and other honorable senators under the impression that those men could receive no punishment because of the absence of this provision from the Defence Act. Our men, while abroad, were under the British Army Act in respect of everything in connexion with which the Army Act was not inconsistent with our Defence Act. If our Defence Act made-no provision' for. a penalty for murder, surely there is some punishment provided for that offence in the Army Act.

Senator Pearce - Section 98 of the Defence Act says that the death penalty shall not be inflicted except for certain offences, of which murder is not one. .

Senator GARDINER - I do not accuse the Minister of deliberately misleading the Committee, but hu certainly said that" these men could not be punished.

Senator Pearce - They could not be tried for murder, because, under the Army Act, the punishment for murder was death,and we had said in our Defence Act that the death penalty should not be inflicted except for- offences of which murder was not one.

Senator GARDINER - I suggest to the Minister that we might adjourn the further consideration of this clause. He surely will not contend that because a man could not be punished by death for murder, he could not have imposed upon him any other penalty than death.

Senator Pearce - He could not be tried for murder.

Senator GARDINER - We have become so. tangled up as to what is covered by the clause that I suggest that an adjournment now would help us to get more rapidly through the Bill. I can assure the Minister that I am as anxious to get through this Bill as he is.

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