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Thursday, 7 November 1935

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I have referred to wireless sets particularly only for the purpose of instancing what may be done under this legislation. We have learned from the Minister's statement that wireless sets have been seized by government officials, who have entered people's homes without a warrant.

Senator Brennan - No.

Senator BROWN - Unless I heard him incorrectly, the Minister stated that when an officer is refused entrance, he, or the department, may apply for a warrant, and, on obtaining it, he may conduct his investigation.

Senator Brennan - Only with a search warrant.

Senator BROWN - Last week, I referred to property other than wireless sets and the Minister interjected that I was incorrect when I said that the officer could seize certain books. Now, in answer to Senator Collings, he has stated that it is quite possible for books to bo seized. They may relate to an unlawful association which preaches a certain political doctrine. But because a person has in his library certain books that are printed by an unlawful association, it does not follow that he agrees with the views they express. In my own library, I possess books dealing with philosophical anarchy, general strikes, communism, and the lives of Trotsky, Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler. At some future time some of these books may be seized, because the Government has declared that a certain organization is unlawful, and that all books dealing with it are liable to be condemned. I advance this merely as a hypothetical case. The latest book by Mr. W. M. Hughes - a reasonable and logical exposition of present day circumstances - may be seized.

Senator Collings - Literature antagonistic to the present Government will come under the ban.

Senator BROWN - If a book is seized by a government official, and is condemned by the court, the Attorney-

General may decide whether it shall be returned to. the owner or sold and the proceeds paid into Consolidated Revenue. The Attorney-General may be a tory and bitterly opposed to the sentiment contained in certain books. He is given wide powers. It should not be in the discretion of the Attorney-General to seize and dispose of a person's property. I favour the insertion of a proviso that if the court, for instance, condemns a wireless set for non-payment of the licence-fee the goods shall be returned to the owner if he pays what is due to the Government. If the Minister believes in fair play, how can he justify the seizure of, say, a wireless set, valued at £40, because a person has not paid the licence-fee of 21s., and the sale of the instrument by the Government to benefit the Consolidated Revenue?

Senator Dein - Some goods may merit destruction altogether.

Senator BROWN - I admit that, but this bill covers a fairly wide range of goods.

Senator Brennan - It covers any goods that are liable to be forfeited. Books in the honorable senator's library would bo quite safe unless he is declared to be an unlawful association, and I do not thiink that he will make himself liable for that.

Senator BROWN - I can read into this new section the possibility of certain individuals being singled out because they are propagandists or radicals, and the Government is suspicious of their doctrines. Their goods may be seized. While not advocating that stolen or counterfeit goods should not be liable to seizure, I fear that in times of stress, perhaps in the near future, as a result of the present trouble in Europe, an innocent man, who conscientiously advocates certain principles or studies certain ideals, may be liable to have the books in his possession relating to such subjects seized.

Senator Brennan - Not under this bill.

Senator BROWN - The Minister said that books could be seized, and that the court would hear the defence of the owner. Nevertheless, it does seem grossly unfair that because a person has not paid the licence-fee on a wireless set, the instrument may be seized and condemned, and that it shall rest with the Attorney-

General to say whether it shall be returned to him or sold.

Senator Dein - Only eight out of about 700,000 have been seized.

Senator BROWN - If only one were seized improperly a wrong would be done. Possibly we shall get some information from the Minister as to the exact number seized for the non-payment of the listener's licence.

Senator Dein - The seizure of a wireless receiver may not necessarily mean its forfeiture.

Senator BROWN - Perhaps not; but it should be possible to insert in the clause a provision making mandatory the return to the owner of any wireless receiver that has been seized, upon payment of the full amount owing for the licence, together with any expenses that may have been incurred in connexion with its seizure.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 5 -

Section seventeen of the Principal Act is amended -

(a)   by inserting, after sub-section (1.), the following sub-section: - " (1a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding subsection, wherea person apparently of the age of seventeen years or upwards is convicted of an indictable offences against any law of the Commonwealth (whether he has been previously convicted of any offence or not), the court before which he is convicted may, if it thinks fit, having regard to the antecedents, character, associates, age, health or mental condition of the person convicted, the nature of the offence, or any special circumstances of the ease -

(a)   direct,as part of his sentence, that, on the expiration of the term of imprisonment then imposed upon him,he be detained during the Governor-General's pleasure in a reformatory prison; or

(b)   without imposing any term of imprisonment . upon him, sentence him to be forthwith committed to a reformatory prison and to be there detained during the GovernorGeneral's pleasure."; and

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