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Thursday, 7 November 1935

Senator BRENNAN (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) . - The statement has been made that a man may be sent to gaol on an indeterminate sentence, whether previously convicted or not. That is not accurate. The sections under consideration deal with the case of a man who has been convicted.

Senator Brown - The Assistant Minister's words were, " Whether he had been previously convicted of any offence or not ".

Senator BRENNAN - Before a person can have imposed on him an indeterminate sentence he must have been convicted of an. indictable offence against a law of the Commonwealth. Senator Brown said that in Victoria a board of laymen inquires into certain cases before trial.

Senator Brown - That was in regard to indeterminate sentences.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - There is an Indeterminate Sentences Board in Western Australia.

Senator BRENNAN - The Victorian board consists of three members, one of whom, is a well-known humanitarian, Mr. Samuel Mauger. Prisoners are kept under observation to ascertain whether the reformatory treatment is having n good effect on them. When satisfied with their conduct, the board may recommend their release. The prisoners may leave gaol at the expiration of the term fixed by the judge, or they may be detained for a further period and kept under observation. It has been said that this Senate has no right to endow a judge with the power to keep a man " indefinitely in durance vile ". We empower a judge to impose sentences according to his discretion, but after the sentence has expired, the judge's power ceases. Senator Collings suggested that we should not grant to a judge the. power to order a person to be detained in custody after he has served his sentence. If Senator Collings will study this section, he will see that part of the sentence is that the prisoner shall be detained in a reformatory during the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral.

Senator Collings - The original act does not give that power.

Senator BRENNAN - Is the prisoner any better off because the judge sentences him to five years' imprisonment, and thereafter to be detained in a reformatory during the Governor-General's pleasure, than if he were merely detained during the Governor-General's pleasure, without a fixed sentence having been imposed? I have stressed that the bill is ameliorative, and docs not increase the harshness of the original act. Senator J. V. MacDonald mentioned that the Senate had a serious duty in defining what is a crime. Are we to shirk our duty because it is serious? Is not one of the first duties of civilization to deal with crime and the maintenance of order ? The Government has approached this matter with a full realization of its responsibility, and does not treat it in a spirit of levity.

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