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Thursday, 7 November 1935

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - The proposed new sub-section as amended provides that - . . where a person is convicted of an indictable offence 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 . . . direct, as part of his sentence, that, on the expiration of the term of imprisonment then imposed upon him, lie be detained during the Governor-General's pleasure in a reformatory prison.

There is a great fear in the minds of the leaders of certain organizations in Australia that, in the event of an international or industrial upheaval, they may be subject to the Crimes Act, and be punished unduly. It is all very well for the Assistant Minister ('Senator Brennan) to say that this measure has nothing whatever to do with periods of unusual excitement, but during a strike the leaders of certain industrial organizations may be accused of seditious utterances. Under the act certain organizations, including industrial organizations, may be declared unlawful associations, and the members of such organizations are afraid that they may be charged with an indictable offence. Oan the Assistant Minister deny that that is probable? If he can, many intelligent members oi working-class organizations throughout Australia are entirely wrong. Only a few nights ago the speakers at a huge meeting held in Brisbane expressed the fear that if this amending measure becomes law industrial leaders may bo brought before the court and placed in gaol for an indefinite period. We do not wish to prevent the Government from taking any action it considers necessary to deal with persons who preach sedition, or who attempt in any way to suborn the members of the naval, military or air forces in Australia; but the members of certain organizations who have no interest whatsoever in military, naval, or air force operations may be brought before a court and punished. Under the proposed new section a person who has not been convicted previously may be incarcerated for the remainder of his life. Under the Queensland law a convicted person must have two or three previous convictions against him before lie. can be detained in prison for an indefinite period. Under this measure a person who has not been convicted previously may be kept in gaol indefinitely.

Senator Brennan - If found, guilty of an indictable offence.

Senator BROWN - Guilty of only one indictable offence. During a period of international or industrial trouble a particularly enthusiastic person may make certain statements which in ordinary times would be disregarded, but under this legislation he may be detained indefinitely. During periods of comparative international and industrial peace, the most alarming statements are made in Hyde Park, London, and in the Domain in Sydney, by the representatives of certain organizations, and no action is taken.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator is not prepared to trust the judge.

Senator BROWN - I am not. Instances have occurred in this country where innocent persons have been imprisoned for fifteen years. Mr. Donald Grant, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council and also of the Sydney City Council, who was sentenced to imprisonment for fifteen years was eventually released.

Senator Dein - That does not say that he was not guilty.

Senator BROWN - It was found on further inquiries being made that he was not guilty. He was supposed to serve a term of imprisonment for fifteen years, but he served only three years.

Senator Dein - Judge Ewing said that he was guilty.

Senator BROWN - Further inquiries were made, and he was released. I cite this case to show that during periods of excitement judges as well as others may be biased. Yet it is proposed to give to the court power to say that a man, after serving the sentence for his original conviction, shall be kept in durance vile for an unlimited period.

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