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Monday, 16 November 1964

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works and Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research) . - Madam Temporary Chairman, this clause was deferred in view of certain suggestions that were made by Senator Murphy. If I interpret the honorable senator's remarks correctly, he suggested that it should be possible to make some sort of alteration so that Australian members of a force stationed overseas would not be accused of committing a crime against Australian law unless what they did was also considered to be a crime in terms of the law of the country in which they were serving, The Australian Government does not believe that it should alter the provisions of this clause in any way.

Under the provisions of the Bill, a person who is serving in another country under an agreement made between the United Nations and that country and which states that such persons are to be subject to Australian law will not be subject to being charged with or tried for any act unless that act would have been a crime had it been committed in the Australian Capital Territory. It is possible for a person who goes abroad in these circumstances to be subject only to Australian law - I do not mean subject only to Australian trial or trial only in Australian courts, but subject only to Australian law as is the case with members of the police force that is in Cyprus under an agreement made between the United Nations and the Government of Cyprus - or subject only to the law of the country in which he is serving, or subject to both Australian law and the law of the country in which he is serving. I emphasise again that I am talking of the law to which he is subject rather than the courts in which any alleged transgression of that law is tried.

It is believed by the Australian Government that the best conditions which can be applied to Australian citizens who go abroad in circumstances of this kind is to subject them only to their own law and to make them subject to trial only for acts which would be crimes if they had been committed in Australia. We believe that if this arrangement can be negotiated between the United Nations and the country concerned, it would be the best situation in which Australian nationals could, find themselves. There are certain acts for which theoretically Australian nationals might be tried which would be crimes if committed in the Australian .Capital Territory but which would not be crimes in the country in which they find themselves. Theoretically, driving on the right hand side of the road could be a crime. Theoretically, drinking liquor after the prescribed hours of drinking in the A.C.T. could be a crime. I think these objections are more theoretical than real. The Australian Government would not wish its nationals serving abroad not to be considered guilty of a crime if they did things which might be legal in the countries in which they were serving but would not be legal in Australia. I refer, for example, to bigamy or to carnal knowledge of a girl who had not reached an age fixed as the age of consent in Australia. I could cite a number of offences of that nature. The Australian Government would prefer its representatives serving abroad in the United Nations forces not to be relieved com pletely from the obligations of the Australian law, but to be subject to Australian law as far as possible and not to be subject to the law of the country in which they are serving. That is the object of this legislation. The Government therefore does not wish to accept the amendment proposed by Senator Murphy.

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