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Thursday, 29 April 1915

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE (Flinders) . - I did not hear the latter part of the Attorney-General's speech because of the circumstances in which it was made. As I understand the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman, it provides in sub-clause 2 that no civilian, other than an alien enemy, shall be tried by court martial. If that provision be inserted, sub-clause 6 will become entirely inoperative, and a consequential amendment to omit it will have to be moved, since it contains a general provision that any civilian may be tried by court martial. Sub-clause 6 being thus deprived of any effect by the amendment, sub-clause 8, for the same reason, would have no effect, since it merely provides that, in a certain contingency, subclause 6 shall not be held to apply. I understand the honorable member for Batman to Be bringing forward in the form of his amendment an assertion of the general principle that every civilian shall have the right to be tried by a civil

Court. Let us test the question on that straight-out issue. Do not let us think for one moment that any alteration in subsequent parts of the clause will enable us to make the two inherently antagonistic views come together. It is better that we should decide once and for all whether the sub-clause is to stand. I am just as much opposed to a provision that will take away these rights, except in a case of extreme urgency, as is any honorable member. I agree with much that was said by the honorable member for Bourke as to the struggles of our fathers to secure certain liberties, which, no matter what our political opinions may be, are equally prized on both sides of the House. I therefore repeat what I said last night - that it is only because of the assurance of those who are intrusted with the government of the Commonwealth in a time of great national peri] that it is necessary to take this power - and because of their solemn promise that they will not exercise it, except in a case of extreme national peril - that I, for one, am prepared to support them in this matter. Let us vote on this straight-out question. Honorable members who say that they are not prepared in any circumstances to give the Government this power should support the honorable member for Batman's amendment, but not under the impression that these two hostile views can be reconciled. They can no moire be reconciled than water can be made to mix with oil. If the honorable member for Batman's amendment be carried, then sub-clause 6 and sub-clause 8 will have to be struck out, because they are inconsistent.

Mr Hughes - I do not admit that.

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - I am aware of that, but I am unable to agree with the honorable gentleman's interpretation of this provision. The honorable member for Batman's amendment is, in form and substance, intended to be a definite and absolute guarantee to all civilians that they shall be entitled to trial by jury before a civil Court, no matter what the peril or the circumstances may be. If it is carried, the subsequent sub-clauses 6 and 8 will become absolutely meaningless, and should be struck out. That is the plain issue. I do not think we ought to try to whittle away anything bearing on such a grave issue as that which the Committee has now to decide. Let us face the question directly and vote ' ' yes ' ' or " no."

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