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Thursday, 7 November 1935

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - I commend the Minister for having moved this amendment. The proposed new sub-section is one of the most savage provisions ever sought to be included in Commonwealth legislation. I remind the Minister that, in his secondreading speech, when answering an inquiry by Senator Brown as to whether the provisions of this clause would apply principally to youths, he answered in the affirmative, and added that the purpose was to give convicted youths a chance to reform whilst still young. Is it contended that they would have a chance to reform if -they were declared habitual criminals and ordered to be detained during the GovernorGeneral's pleasure? The Minister can be quite sure that we on this side of the chamber will support the amendment. But it does not get rid of our objection to the clause which deals with much more important matters than the seizure of a wireless receiver for the non-payment of the licence-fee. The act, as amended by this bill, will become operative during times of great public excitement and I object to the provision in this clause empowering the prosecution to have regard to the antecedents, character and associates of persons who may be charged with offence? under this act. Let me take my own case as an illustration. If I were the victim of a prosecution under this proposed new sub-section, and if the prosecutor made inquiry into my antecedents, he would learn that my father was much the same kind of individual as myself. Then if he inquired about my associates he would discover that in times of political excitement I was associated with others in advocating the overthrow, at the ballot-box, of the present Government. That, no doubt, would be distasteful enough to ensure my detention during the GovernorGeneral's pleasure. The prosecutor might go further and inquire into my health and if it were impaired, as it was a few months ago, he might conclude that l ought to be hurried along; while if he made an investigation of my mental condition in times of great political excitement it is almost certain that he would decide that I ought to bo completely suppressed. But I assure honorable senators that I am not joking. When the amended act becomes operative, as no doubt it will towards the end of November - the British elections are fixed for the 14th November and the application of sanctions against Italy for the November - there will be many in active opposition to the Government's proposals, and were I the person against whom a prosecution was launched .my antecedents and associates and perhaps also my mental condition would be suspect. Thus I might be regarded as a. menace to the

Government, and I might be detained during the Governor-General's pleasure. I should like to hear some explanation from the Minister to justify this extraordinary enlargement of the power of the prosecution.

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