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Wednesday, 28 April 1915

Mr JENSEN (Bass) (Assistant Minister) . - I have listened with a good deal of surprise to what has been said. An endeavour has been made to show that the Government are attempting to do something terrible. I remind honorable members, however, that at the present moment every person in Australia is under military law, and that this Bill is intended to alter the present position of affairs.

Mr Glynn - No, it is not.

Mr JENSEN - It is; the object of the Bill is to give civilians the right to be tried in a civil Court - a right that they have not now.

Mr Glynn - Oh, yes, they have.

Mr Groom - The Assistant Minister means that this Bill is intended to give the right of trial by jury, a right that is not given under the original Act.

Mr JENSEN - Of course.

Mr Watt - Sub-clause 8 of clause 4 takes away that right again.

Mr JENSEN - No. The sub-clause states that the Governor-General, or the Executive, may by proclamation take away the right; but even if that were done, we should then only be in the same position that we are in to-day. The Government have had this power for many months now; and I ask honorable members to say whether under it anything drastic has been done. If honorable members read the Act and the proposed amendment they will see that we have that power now.

Sir William Irvine - I think you are wrong.

Mr JENSEN - Any person who now offends under the Act or regulations may be dealt with by the military authorities and court martialled.

Sir William Irvine - That is not quite correct.

Mr JENSEN - That is what I am given to understand by the Minister of Defence. I telephoned the honorable gentleman before the House met. and he assures me that that is so.

Mr Joseph Cook - Is he the last authority on the subject?

Mr JENSEN - He is, and has been, administering the Act for some time in conjunction with the Attorney-General?

Sir Robert Best - To some extent the Minister is correct.

Mr JENSEN - The Government have the power now and have not abused it; and the proposal is to give civilians a certain right they do not possess at the present moment. The Bill merely proposes thai if it be deemed necessary the Government may, in this connexion, be placed i n the same position as they are in to-day ; and, surely, in view of the administration of the Act during the last six months the Government may be trusted.

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