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Thursday, 7 November 1935

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) . - I am not convinced by the arguments of the Opposition. Senators J. V. MacDonald and Brown have seized on this clause to attack the judges of our courts. I imagine that the notorious Judge Jeffreys has been introduced into this discussion only with the object of prejudicing the minds of honorable senators, since there is no evidence that any Australian judge of a similar disposition has ever delivered a judgment under the Crimes Act. If there is one thing that Australian judges have proved it is that in times of political excitement they can remain calm and even-tempered, notwithstanding that the rest of the community, or at least sections of it, are greatly excited.

Senator Collings - There was not much calm and judicial atmosphere in our courtsbetween 1914 and 1918.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - The more excited certain sections of the community become, the greater the need for penalties which may act as a deterrent.

On examining this clause I cannot see the slightest justification for the diatribes to which we have listened to-day. Unlike the section which it amends, it applies not. to a person who has been convicted three times and may be declared an habitual criminal, but to a person who has been convicted of an indictable offence whether or not he has been previously convicted of an offence. In such cases, the clause provides that - . . the court before which ho is convicted may, if it thinks fit, having regard to the antecedents, character, age, health or mental condition of the person convicted, the nature of the offence, or any special circumstances of the case -

(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 GovernorGeneral's pleasure in a reformatory prison.

Senator Brown - Does the honorable senatorbelieve in that provision?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Certainly I do. Is a man who is not sane to be allowed to roam about to the danger of the community.

Senator Collings - There are laws to deal with such persons.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - There may be in the community persons who, although not insane, are mentally weak and easily led astray by bad associates, and whose best interests would be served by detention in a reformatory prison. Paragraph b of proposed new sub-section 1a provides an alternative in that the court may if it thinks fit - without imposing any term of imprisonment upon him, sentence him to be forthwith committed to a reformatory prison and to be detained during the Governor-General's pleasure.

Senator Collings - " Let him that is without sin cast the first stone ".

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - When we reflect on the drastic action taken by the governments of some countries to deal with persons who do not agree with them, we must conclude that the provisions of this bill are most reasonable. Our judges will see that this power is exercised reasonably, and in the interests, not only of the community as a whole, but also of the offender himself. The outcry of the Opposition in relation to the judges of our courts has nothing to do with the clause which, in my opinion, is most moderate-

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