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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr DRUMMOND (New England) . - I wish to address myself to this question with some knowledge of child welfare. I must say that as a layman I am indebted to the lawyers on both sides of the committee, and I am indebted to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). However, I regret that he imported into this discussion a reference to known character, which applies to certain specific cases and does not apply at all to general criminal procedure.

The question we are discussing concerns the age at which a person shall be declared an habitual criminal. In a long experience of the administration of child welfare, one thing I found, as we find in every walk of life, is that there is a physical age and a mental age, and the two may be entirely different. One person at sixteen years is much older than another person at 25 years. Let me give a case in point. A young criminal was apprehended at King's Cross a number of years ago. He had a flat, a mistress and a car. He was sixteen years of age and he was the head of a gang of criminals engaged in a very clever form of stealing. That boy was much older than many people are at 30 years of age. He had a high intelligence which he had turned to a wrong purpose. Similarly, some men at 60 years of age are done and others at 70 years of age or more still have a clear and effectively operating brain.

I am not unmoved by the claims put forward by the Opposition. I can claim that I had the Child Welfare Act of New South Wales amended to prohibit capital punishment being applied to any one under the age of eighteen years. So I am not without sympathy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made one good point when he referred to the multiplicity of codes. He made an excellent case, not so much for his amendment but for the necessity to get the authorities together and establish a uniform code throughout Australia. Nevertheless, while the present position stands, I will support the amendment in the bill.

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