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Thursday, 7 November 1935

Senator BRENNAN (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) . - The whole section proposed to be amended .deals with a very important subject, including incit ing to mutiny. Notwithstanding the serious statements made concerning the Crimes Act the prosecutions under it - the most drastic portions of it have been in force since 1926 - have been remarkably few. The argument of the Leader of the Opposition goes to the root of the administration of criminal law. In connexion with every crime there must be" a time when certain matters have to be proved in accordance with the law. It may be left to a judge who, after hearing both sides, accepts the statement of one side as having been proved. It is quite true that, in cases of this kind, we can have only fallible human beings as material, and a judge may be wrong in his finding on facts. All judges make an honest endeavour to give a just decision. The clause relates to an indictable offence., which means that persons charged shall be tried before a jury. The jury is directed by the judge, and the meaning of the words " as to be likely to" have to be interpreted by him. He has to determine whether they are of such a nature to seduce any person serving in the King's forces from his duty and allegiance, or to incite any person serving in such forces to commit an act of mutiny or any traitorous or mutinous act, or incite any person to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly. It is quite true that there may be difficulties in coming to a decision on such a matter; but, if there should be, the invariable rule of law is that the accused person shall be given the benefit of the doubt. In such cases a direction is given to the jury by the judge. After all these precautions have been taken a jury may arrive at an erroneous conclusion. They must act on the evidence before them, and they must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the words used are of such a nature as to or as to be likely to incite to mutiny. If the court were so satisfied, the accused person would be found guilty. The time to adopt precautionary measures is in comparatively, peaceful times. This proposed amendment is not likely to apply to any person to whom it should applied.

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