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Monday, 16 November 1964

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) . - I have listened with great interest to Senator Murphy and Senator Wright. I am bound to say that I find myself in almost complete agreement with the argument put forward by Senator Wright and in disagreement with the argument put forward by Senator Murphy.

Senator Sandford - I thought that would be the case.

Senator GORTON - That may be so, but it seems to me that in this case 90 per. cent, of the logic - it is rarely that you get 100 per cent., of the logic on one side - rests with Senate Wright. Senator Murphy said that in his opinion the Australian Capital Territory laws need reforming. Per-? haps they do. If they are reformed, they will be the laws which will apply to these persons. At the moment, the present Australian Capital Territory laws apply to Australian citizens abroad. If they are reformed, the reformed laws will apply.

The real question is: If it is possible, should Australians who go abroad in the circumstances outlined in the Bill be protected by Australian law and be subject to Australian law? Senator Murphy asked: " Who can explain to these Australians who go abroad what the law of the Australian Capital Territory is? " Who can explain to them when they go to another country what the law of the particular country is? Are they not far more likely to understand the law of the country in which they grew up than the law of some country -to which they have gone? Furthermore, it is not 'only a question of Australian representatives, for such they are, living under the protection of Australian law abroad and doing something which is an infringement of some local criminal law, compared with a local citizen? There will be other Australians there; and there will also be Britishers, Canadians and New Zealanders. If two Australians happen to be living in a country where something which is a crime in Australia is not a crime in that country, are we to say that if one Australian wrongs the other Australian in that country he is not to be subject to the Australian law on the matter? This is not a matter only between Australians and the people of the country in which they live.

In the Government's view the Bill gives the best possible protection that could be achieved for Australians who are serving abroad with the United Nations under an agreement negotiated between the United Nations and the country in which they are serving. Assume that somebody in the Senate put the proposition: Do you want an Australian who goes abroad to be subject to the laws of the country to which he is to go and also to Australian laws, or do you want him to be subject only to Australian laws with the protection and the penalties of Australian laws? I believe that most of us would say that the best thing for an Australian in those circumstances would be for him to be subject to the laws he knew and to have the protection of the laws he knew. That is the sort of agreement we want the United Nations to negotiate with a country in which our people are serving.

But this Bill does not insist on this. It provides for the United Nations to negotiate an agreement with some foreign country. Then the Commonwealth can either agree or disagree to send its people to the country in accordance with the agreement that has been negotiated between the United Nations and the country. Clause 4(b) indicates that the United Nations might make an agreement with another country under which people from Australia, New Zealand, Canada or elsewhere might be subject to proceedings in the courts of that country. If the United Nations did make such an agreement, it would be up to the Commonwealth to decide whether or not it would send Australians to that country under those circumstances. It would require much more thought to send Australians under those circumstances than it would to send them under circumstances where they were subject only to Australian laws and had the protection of Australian laws.

As I said when I spoke before, I admit that somebody driving on the right hand side of the road in, say, America might theoretically be committing an offence. But is it really seriously held by anybody in this Senate that such a man would be brought back to Australia and charged with a traffic offence because in the Australian Capital Territory people drive on the left hand side of the road? I suggest that to say that would be carrying theory far into the realm of fantasy. It seems to me that every country which has its troops abroad - this. Bill, of course, does not apply to troops; it applies to civilians - tries as far as it is possible to make sure that its troops are subject only to the law of the country from which they come, and are not fully subject to the laws of the country to which they go.

I cannot answer in detail the request of Senator Murphy for information about what other countries have done. We know that in this instance New Zealand is doing precisely the same as we are doing. We know that during the last war, for instance, when American troops came to Australia at Australia's request, the Americans insisted that the troops be subject only to American law and to the protection of American law. This Bill applies, of course, to areas other than Cyprus, but the same pattern will be followed. The United Nations has negotiated an agreement with Cyprus as well as with Australia, New Zealand and, I believe, other countries. It required this protection if it is possible to achieve it. Since it has been possible to achieve it, we would not wish to retreat from the protection and have Australian citizens abroad not subject to Australian law, or not subject to its protection.

Clause agreed to.

Postponed Clause 5 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.

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