Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 28 October 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I can hardly say how I stand in respect of this clause, because I frankly confess that I do not understand it The Government have vouchsafed no information as to the kind of offences to be created under it. In my opinion, the Courts will have a very difficult task in determining what is meant by "a political right."

Senator Findley - We know what violence and threats are.

Senator KEATING - It is not enough to know that. We should, under this clause, know what is a political right.

Senator Bakhap - Will the clause apply to interference with industrial rights ?

Senator KEATING - It might include the right of a person to anonymously comment on proceedings at an election. The marginal note indicates that the clause is taken from the Queensland Criminal Code ; but there is a deviation from the provision in the Queensland Criminal Code, and the period of imprisonment is increased by twelve months. Section 78 of the Queensland Criminal Code reads -

Any person who, by violence or by threats, or intimidation of any kind, hinders or interferes with the free exercise of any political right by another person, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment, with hard Labour, for two years.

What is made an offence under this Bill is made a misdemeanour under the Queensland Criminal Code. But the Queensland section does not stop there. There is a further paragraph, which reads -

If the offender is a public officer, and commits the offence in abuse of his authority as such officer, he is liable to imprisonment, with hard labour, for three years.

There is no such provision included in this BUI. Under the Queensland Code a public official guilty of this offence is regarded as more blameworthy than a private person, and a more severe penalty is provided in his case.

Senator Guy - The three years' imprisonment under the clause would apply in such a case.

Senator KEATING - The three years' term of imprisonment would apply in both cases under this clause. The clause is very vague, and should be expressed less vaguely, in order that the Courts and the community generally may be able to determine where an offence under it has been committed. Different persons may regard various things as interference with their political rights.

Senator Gardiner - There must be violence or threats or intimidation.

Senator KEATING - Of course, in many cases the offence would be obvious ; but in many more it would be very doubtful. And I venture to say that a clause like this would lead to a great variety of interpretations in different States and by different Courts.

Senator Mullan - Would picketing come under this clause?

Senator KEATING - Some Courts might consider it an offence, and others might not.

Senator Guy - How has the provision worked in Queensland?

Senator KEATING - I should like to know, and perhaps some, honorable senator from Queensland may be able to tell us. It is possible that proceedings might be taken in a spirit of vindictiveness, asserting that an offence had been committed, when, in reality, there was no offence at all. On the other hand, persons guilty of interference with the performance of a political right by other persons might escape punishment, because people would hesitate to take proceedings under so vague a section.

Suggest corrections