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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr BRYANT (Wills) (12:40 PM) .- I support the case made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) as forthrightly as one can support it. I believe that the death penalty is the lowest act of barbarism. In ordinary civil cases in which people have committed murder it is sustained vengeance and there is no justification for it. Vengeance is probably one of the lowest motives that can activate either the community or the individual. I believe that there is nothing in either history or statistics to justify the retention of the death penalty on the statute-book. I would completely dissociate myself from the act of any government which implemented the death penalty. It is to the recurring disgrace of some sections of the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party that they continue to carry out the death penalty. Recently, there has been a case in Western Australia and the death penalty has also been carried out in South Australia. Fortunately, in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania it has been abolished. In Queensland it was abolished almost 40 years ago. It is to the credit of the present Victorian Government that it has implemented the policy of the Labour Party by not carrying out any death penalties that have been imposed by courts.

I also believe that the fact of the death penalty being a deterrent is open to dispute. I believe it is unnecessary in this context. I have quoted the fact previously - and I think honorable members can surely take some courage from it - .that in both world wars our Australian troops were able to face up to their enemies without having this penalty hanging over their heads. Although there was provision for it in the law, it was never implemented. During the First World War the Government was quite forthright about the matter and demanded that the penalty toe not carried out even when the sentence had been pronounced. During that war, Lord Birdwood and Field-Marshal Haig continually used all the pressure at their command to get the Australian Government to implement the death penalty because they said, " You cannot keep soldiers loyal and true unless you shoot some now and again." Of course, the record of the First Australian Imperial Force in particular was ample evidence that that was not the case.

So, in support of the case presented by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I say that it is time members of this Parliament, no matter which party they happen to represent, accepted the new and more humane principles of administration of justice which operate in every other civilized country in the world. We should not tolerate this lowest act of barbarism being on the statute-book in any form. If people have to be hanged to keep them loyal, there is something wrong with the whole community. There is no justification for it. Australia has never had a traitor. The death penalty is not a deterrent, lt is an insult to every member of the community who, unfortunately, is associated with the carrying out of this dreadful act.

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