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Thursday, 9 March 1972
Page: 672


Senator BYRNE (Queensland) - Of all the cases which might attract one to resist the abolition of capital punishment this is possibly the most conspicuous because it is a situation where there is extreme vulnerability in the case of the victim and virtually a total immunity in the case of the perpetrator. As I say, that might well induce one who is opposed to capital punishment to resist its abolition in this particular case. However, I do not fe.el that one can select particular exceptions. I suggest as an example the. hijacking of an aircraft. There may not be the same immunity from punishment but possibly there is an ever greater vulnerability. If one puts emphasis on vulnerability as against immunity I think that one would say that of the 2 cases capital punishment should be retained in the case of a hijacking rather than in the case of an assault on a policeman.


Senator Wright - The honourable senator will have, an opportunity to vote on the mutter in a minute.


Senator BYRNE - Yes. I do not want it to be thought that there is any callousness of attitude, particularly in relation to the police. I am sure that every honourable senator in this place is particularly sensitive to and aware of the work and the courage of the police and of the danger into which police duty necessarily takes members of the police force. Therefore the Senate is not being callous and saying: They can take the risks and we will deny them the protection which the law could give them.' I certainly would not like anybody to think that that dictates my attitude in this matter. It is primarily to make that clear that I rise. But I do not mink that one can go on making particular exceptions. If the philosophical principle is there then I think it has to be given legislative expression. We still do not appear to have resolved the basic question of the purpose of the exaction of capital punishment. It has been referred to as capital punishment. Is it punitive?


Senator Wright - What about the facts Senator Hannan brought forward?


Senator BYRNE - That is right. But I do not know that we have altogether discovered the real purpose. Is it to be punitive or is it to be deterrent in concept? One of the great dangers to which Senator Hannan drew attention when he spoke of most horrifying circumstances and to which the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) drew attention earlier is this: It can have the effect of clouding the calm, objective assessment of the position. About 18 months ago I was in the House of Commons when the Bill dealing with the abolition of capital punishment was presented. I could stay for only a limited period but the Bill was presented by a most distinguished bevy of members of the House of. Commons. It was brought in by the Home Secretary, then Mr Callaghan. It was spoken to by Mr Quintin Hogg, the former Viscount Hailsham and by Mr Duncan Sandys. One thing which impressed me was the. calmness and the lack of emotionalism in the discussion which took place in the House of Commons. It was a sensitive matter. Tt was a matter which might well have evoked the emotive response of every member of the House as could the matters which Senator Hannan and Senator Wright brought forward. But in the calm objective committee atmosphere of the House of Commons the matter was discussed with complete objectivity. I think that that is the only way in which this matter can be or should be discussed.


Senator Hannan - I do not think I was emotional.


Senator BYRNE - No. The honourable senator raised very emotional circumstances which would certainly produce emotive response in a person of ordinary sensitivity and sensibility. If one went into these matters one could build up a totally emotional atmosphere which might completely destroy the ability to approach this situation in an atmosphere of calm intellectual ism. I think that that is how it has to be approached. While realising that in this case a person might be persuaded to resist abolition, I do not think that an exception can be made in particular circumstances. If this is an instance in which an exception should be made I am afraid that I cannot support it, even in this case. In those circumstances I do not support the amendment as propounded by Senator Wright. I can see the merit, the apparent logic and many other qualities in the amendment which would induce the honourable senator to present it and other honourable senators to support it. But in the total balance I find myself unable to be with him in the acceptance of this principle and this proposition.







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