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Monday, 16 November 1964

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) .- I do not think that the Minister has offered a satisfactory solution to the problem which arises. We are dealing with a field of general application. The Bill does not purport to deal merely with the situation of our police officers at present in Cyprus. It purports to cover all civilian persons who, from the time this legislation becomes law for the indefinite future, may be serving in a country outside Australia under arrangements made between the Commonwealth and the United Nations Organisation.

Civilians who are serving in a country under arrangements made between Australia and the United Nations will be covered, and that means persons living in that country. It does not mean only members of a disciplinary force. Those persons living in foreign countries ought to observe the oldest of international rules. On the face of it, they ought to be observing the laws of the country in which they are serving and doing as the residents of that country do. They will live with' them, drive on the roads with them, drink with them, and have all forms of social intercourse with them'. On reflection, it seems to me fantastic that during the whole of their residence in that country - it may be for an indefinitely long period - Australian citizens or British subjects ordinarily resident in Australia who happen to be in that other country will be subject to the law of the Australian Capital Territory and not to the law of the country in which they are present, so the intent that if they do something which is perfectly permissible under the law of the country in which they are present, but which happens to infringe the law of the Australian Capital Territory, they will be committing a crime in greater or lesser degree.

It is no answer to that situation to say that the considerations are theoretical. The Minister says - no doubt upon advice - that a person would be committing an offence even though he were doing something which was perfectly permissible in the place where lie \v:is. No-one could think that it is sensible to have a' law that a person driving on the right hand side of the road in some place where it is perfectly permissible would nevertheless be committing an offence. Yet under the precisely plain terms of this statute he would be committing an offence. If he drinks throughout 24 hours of a day, under this statute he would be committing an offence, but nothing much presumably, would bc done about it. There must come a point when something would be done about an offence. Who is to be able to tell when that point is reached? Who gives the men going overseas the assurance that they will be perfectly all right doing some things and hot when doing other things? It is wrong that any civilian person should be placed in that situation where he will be constantly commiting offences and somebody has to exercise discretion as to whether fac is to be charged with committing those offences. A person in that situation would not know where he was placed. This is no charter to have in a law of general application. There ought to be something clear and definite. A law ought not to be made in a way which is absolutely ludicrous. That is how I would describe this legislation. I have made a suggestion. I am not saying that it is the perfect solution.

Senator Wright - What was your suggestion?

Senator MURPHY - If it errs, it errs in the direction of the citizen; that is, it ought to be a defence for any person charged that what he was doing was permissible under the laws of the country where he was serving. If something further was intended - that special offences be made - let them bc made, but he should not be left in a completely indefinite situation. I ask honorable senators: Does it not sound wrong that a civilian person resident abroad perhaps for a lengthy period- rit may be years that he is serving in some other country - may be observing the Jaws of that country and necessarily, perhaps daily, breaking the provisions of this Act, because, he would be doing something which is contrary to the laws of the Australian Capital Territory? Obviously, the two sets of law might differ in many respects. Either there ought to be a complete code by which to measure these persons or they ought to be given the benefit, at least, that if what they are doing is permissible under the laws of the country where they are, they should not be committing an offence against this Act. I ask that further consideration be given to this matter. If it is not to be given, the Opposition cannot support this particular clause.

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