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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr HUGHES - First of all I would deal with the last point raised by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). He asked me, in effect, about Burchett's activities in Vietnam and whether anything could be done about them. The answer is that under the law as it presently stands - that is, the Crimes Act which now has an extra-territorial operation - a prosecution for the offence of treachery or the offence of treason cannot be mounted unless the war is a proclaimed war and there is a proclaimed enemy. Those conditions are certainly not-

Mr Barnard - Now we are getting to the truth about Vietnam.

Mr HUGHES - 1 think that is a singularly irrelevant remark. Even at this late stage of the evening the honourable member might have done better than that.

Mr Hayden - lt is relevant, if it is embarrassing.

Mr HUGHES - lt is not in the least embarrassing. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) might, in fairness to the House, treat it with the respect with which I am trying to treat it in dealing with questions of law.

Mr Barnard - 1 was only commenting on the position.

Mr HUGHES - The honourable member is behaving like a nasty little person. I am not trying to make political capital. 1 have spoken to the House tonight because I have been asked to say something about the matter of law. That is the answer to the question raised by the right honourable member for Melbourne. 1 give the answer quite dispassionately. 1 do not propose to deal with the other matters that the right honourable gentleman raised because, as he will appreciate, they are not within the area of my ministerial responsibility.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) asked me about the common law crime of treason. The matters which he raised have not escaped my attention in my consideration of this problem. Because I do think there is virtue in not giving something in the nature of general advice on evidence to people who may be future offenders, all 1 propose to say to the House is that the matter not having escaped my attention or my consideration, I have formed the view that the hurdles, obstacles and legal difficulties are of such a character as to make that particular form of procedure quite impracticable in the circumstances. But I assure the honourable gentleman that I have considered that aspect of the problem.

Mr James - What . have you got against him?

M r HUGHES- I have tried not to speak as a politician tonight or as somebody pressing a partisan viewpoint, and it really does little credit to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), as it did little credit to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), to taunt me with little pieces of political invective. It would have been better if they had remained silent.

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