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Wednesday, 28 April 1915

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) (AttorneyGeneral) . - As I believe that the objections which have been urged against sub-clause 8 arise only out of a misunderstanding of what the provision is intended to do, I have drafted an amendment which will insure that before sentence is imposed on civilians it must be confirmed by the Executive of the country. As an effect ofsub-clause 8, civilians might come before military tribunals, and I understand the gravamen of the objection is to the trial and sentence of civilians by military tribunals. The amendment will safeguard the rights of civilians in such a case. It reads -

Provided that while such proclamation is in force any sentence passed by a court martial upon a person to whom sub-section 6 of this section applies shall be referred to the Governor-General for confirmation.

That should be ample assurance.

Mr Joseph Cook - That is nothing but what is already in the Bill.

Mr HUGHES - If it is not ample assurance to honorable members, all I have to say is this: I have listened in my time to some very stirring attacks on officials charged with the administration of the law of this country, but I have never previously listened to an attack - not from this side of the Chamber, at any rate - upon the capacity and the willingness of members of the Labour party to give fair play to any one, whether he be civilian or soldier. This proviso I suggest places in the Bill the assurance which I gave when introducing the principal Act; which has been observed for six months, and which was intended to continue; oven without statutory sanction.

Mr Glynn - It will only extend section 98 of the Defence Act. As a matter of fact, I think that all sentences of courts martial are subject to confirmation by the Governor-General under Letters Patent.

Mr Groom - Section 1 of the War Precautions Act incorporates the measure with the Defence Act, and section 86 of that Act refers all sentences to the GovernorGeneral.

Mr HUGHES - If the amendment I have read is adopted, we shall make assurance doubly sure. Section 86 of the Defence Act may be held not to apply to courts martial of civilians. Probably section 98, dealing with death sentences, does bo, too. The Defence Act applies generally to members of the Defence Forces. We are dealing here with persons who are not members of the Defence Forces.

Mr Glynn - Theregulations provide that a man arrested by a unit becomes subject to the laws applicable to the unit. For instance, take regulation 23.

Mr HUGHES - I am perfectly satisfied that the amendment I have outlined will meet the case. It does not matter two straws whether it duplicates the law or not. It may be that this amendment will be a duplication. It may be that the Defence Act would apply; but I think the safest course is to make the amendment I have outlined, which guarantees that no sentences imposed upon civilians who may be sentenced under sub-clause 8 shall be effective unless and until such sentences have been referred to the Governor-General for confirmation, and, I have added, mitigation, or remission.

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