Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 7 November 1935

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [5.50]. - I assure honorable senators that this clause has not been drafted in its present form without good reason. It is based, not on any theory, but on an actual happening - an unsuccessful prosecution under section 25 of the principal act which reads -

(1)   Any person who knowingly attempts -

(a)   to seduce any person serving in the King's Forces from his duty and allegiance; or

(b)   to incite any person serving in the King's Forces to commit an act of mutiny, or any traitorous or mutinous act; or

(c)   to incite any person serving in the King's Forces to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.

About two years ago there was a deliberate attempt to stir up disaffection in the Royal Australian Navy. Some of the ships of the Navy were at Port Melbourne and a week-end newspaper, printed in Melbourne, published a statement to the effect that there had been a mutiny on other ships of thu Royal Australian Navy in Sydney, with the object of compelling the Government and the Naval Board to rectify certain alleged grievances on the part of the men. Not only was that statement published, but also special steps were taken to circulate it among the men on board the vessels at Port Melbourne. A prosecution was laid under section 25 of the act. As I was Minister for Defence at the time, I know all the circumstances. The defence did not deny the publication of the statement or that steps hadbeen taken to circulate it with the object of causing a mutiny, but relied wholly on the statement that the publisher did not know what had been published, and that therefore he did not "knowingly" attempt to seduce anyperson serving in the King's Force from his duty and allegiance, or to incite any such person to commit an act of mutiny. That defence was successful. Because of that experience, and because since that time other attempts of a similar nature have been made to seduce men serving in the Royal Australian Navy, this clause has been framed as it now stands. Had the law read as this bill reads, " Any person who publishes any book, periodical, pamphlet, handbill, poster, ornewspaper containing any matter of such a nature as to, or as to be likely to " do certain things, no judge would have had any hesitation in saying that the publication was of such a nature as to be likely to cause disaffection. More recently a similar case occurred in Western Australia, but there also it would have been most difficult to show that the publisher knew what had appeared over his name. There was also the instance mentioned by Senator Payne in which bundles of typewritten matter, published by the Friends of the Soviet Union, were circulated on ships belonging to the Royal Australian Navy when at Burnie, Tasmania. In each of these instances the Government was advised by the Crown Law authorities that a conviction under section 25 of the principal act was unlikely, notwithstanding that witnesses were prepared to swear to what had taken place. Because of these experiences, the Government now seeks to amend the law in order that this country may be protected against attacks from within. All honorable senators who wish to protect our naval, military and air forces against attempts to sap their loyalty should vote for the clause.

Suggest corrections