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Thursday, 29 April 1915

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - The proposed amendment does not, to my mind, meet the case. The principal weakness lies in sub-clause 8, which nullifies sub-clause 6. We are assured by the Attorney-General and the Assistant Minister that no sentence of capital punishment will be carried out until the Executive has had an opportunity to review it. The trouble is that the suspension of sub-clause 6 by the operation of sub-clause 8 will immediately give the military authorities the right to exercise the powers to which we object. Unless it is absolutely set forth that any military decision shall be submitted to the Executive, the military authorities will he able to do anything they desire.

Mr Hughes - But there is to be a proviso that no sentence shall be carried out unless and until it has been submitted to the Governor-General for review, confirmation, mitigation, or remission.

Mr MATHEWS - With other honorable members, 1 prefer working under an Act of Parliament to working under martial law ; and what the honorable member for Flinders said eased my mind a good deal. But the military authorities are very likely to take action before the civil authorities can step in. This I know can be done under martial law, but I am afraid that the military authorities may deal with matters offhand, on the ground that they have no chance to appeal to the Executive, and that the necessities of the case compel them to take action at once. I do not think that this sub-clause is at all necessary, and if it is allowed to remain, we might as well place the conduct of all business under martial law.

Mr Hughes - Sub-clause 8 cannot come into force until it is proclaimed by the Executive.

Mr MATHEWS - And once it is proclaimed, the military authorities are given power to do certain things.

Mr Hughes - The Executive will give the military authorities what powers they please, and not what the military authorities ask for. No sentence can be carried out until it has been submitted to the Executive, and there is the fact that the proclamation will limit the area and the powers.

Mr MATHEWS - The AttorneyGeneral forgets that the provision will not be used for specific cases, but will be of general application in some crisis, such as the presence of the enemy at the gates, and the necessity to prevent espionage and treachery.

Mr Hughes - But the proclamation will have regard to special offences set out in clause 4.

Mr MATHEWS - And it will operate over a protracted period.

Mr Hughes - It will he over such a period as the circumstances warrant.

Mr MATHEWS - It is like the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act or the Riot Act.

Mr Hughes - In the proper and technical sense of the term, it is not a proclamation of martial law that is contemplated.

Mr MATHEWS - I admit that; and I understand from the Attorney-General that if martial law prevails there will be no need for the operation of the Bill. My contention, however, is that we might just as well be under martial law if subclause 8 be retained.

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