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Thursday, 9 March 1972
Page: 675

Senator RAE (Tasmania) - 1 wish to speak about this particular amendment. lt is the only occasion on which I propose to speak about any of the amendments and therefore to an extent I shall address myself to all of them. The absence of facts and material to enable us to debate this aspect of the matter wilh greater particularity is a disappointing result of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I had hoped that, amongst the other things that Committee would do. it would have ascertained some of the facts about the matter raised by Senator Hannan. One. must bear in mind that the total number of murders in the United Kingdom is very small. In 1965 1 think there were 32 capital murders and in 1967 there were 49 capital murders.

Senator HANNAN (VICTORIA) - - Last year ' 1 think there were 56.

Senator RAE - Yes. The increase may or may nol be of great significance. If there were some particular event in one year, such as a particular action on the part of one man, mad or otherwise, who shot it out with police officers, there could be a dramatic rise in the number of deaths of police officers irrespective qf the existence of the death penalty. I make no further comment on thai point. These are the sorts of things that I hoped the Committee might have been able to consider and report on to the Senate. The argument that if the death penalty is not provided persons convicted of murder and certain other crimes may be let out again and may commit further crime was dealt with, 1 think, in the earlier debate. To Senator Wood I would simply say that surely the 2 questions are separable. If one thinks of a person such as Bradley, the murderer of the Thorne boy, one would not find it very hard to imagine that if one had the opportunity to shut the door and throw the key away one would feel like doing it. 1 am not sure that that is a justification for taking Bradley's life. After all, we hope that we have reached the stage in civilisation where the taking of life is abhorrent to the organisation of our society.

I cannot see that the arguments put forward in relation to times of war, the conduct of persons, the administration of law and the keeping of law and order justify the reintroduction or continuation of something which our society generally regards as abhorrent. The question is not an emotional one, although the approach is usually emotional. I rather regard it as a matter of the ideals of a society. To what do we aspire? Is there a justification for a departure from that to which we aspire? Much as I can sympathise with the problems that have been raised by Senator Wright and other speakers who are in favour of the amendment, who have spoken of the problem of the wartime situation and the problem generally of the control of prisons, 1 suggest that these are not justifications for the continuation of something which is totally abhorrent. There must be other ways in which our society can organise itself to deal with those problems.

Senator Wright, Senator Hannanand Senator Wood have referred to what has happened in other countries in relation to the increase in the number of deaths by murder of police officers, prison officers and other people in similar positions. Let us look at the experience of Australia. Has there been a dramatic increase in murders in the States which have abolished capital punishment? Do those facts which may be perfectly proper and relevant to be brought into the argument in relation to other countries actually apply in Australia? I have not heard anybody giving the figures, although it is my recollection that in the earlier debate Senator Greenwood made some reference to them. There does not appear to be any fundamental statistical evidence to support the argument as being applicable in this country, at this time. In conclusion, let me support Senator Carrick. I wish to make it quite clear that no vote of mine in relation to this matter which we have been debating should be taken as in any way supporting or approving the action which I regard as infamous conduct on the part of Senator James McClelland this evening. Because I have voted continuously in one particular way I do not wish to be taken as in any way condoning or accepting that behaviour. I make that point quite clear.

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