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Thursday, 30 June 1949

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Leader of the Opposition) . - The Genocide Convention Bill is designed to approve of ratification by Australia of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide as adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations at Paris on the 9th December. I do not desire to debate this bill. The rather formidable word " genocide " was apparently brought into use at the time of the Nuremburg trials, and is defined in the convention as meaning -

.   . any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, facial or religious group, such: . . .

The article then goes on to define the actions that may be taken in line with such an objective. The contracting parties under the convention undertook to enact the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the convention, and in particular to provide effective penalties for persons guilty of genocide, or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III. of the convention. This bill, I understand, is necessary if Australia is to ratify the convention. Subsequently, no doubt, legislation will be put before us to make genocide a crime inside Australia, if that becomes necessary. All I wish to say about the present bill is that in the last ten years, abominations have been practised in this world, and in no place more terribly than in Germany under the Nazi regime. Every member of this Parliament must view with equal horror the practice of mass killing, and of persecution of people to the death, for reasons of race or religion, or for other reasons of the kind referred to in the convention. Of course, the crime of genocide was not peculiar to Germany; I am not without my suspicions, nor are other honorable members, that it is still going on in some parts of the civilized world, and for all I know may be going on in countries, one or more of which are signatories to this convention.

There will be no dispute in this House about the abominable character of the crime of genocide. Every Australian will agree that in respect of those who enter Australia to become citizens of the country, there must never be any blind prejudice based on their race or religion or other circumstance of the kind. We are all at one in saying that when people become citizens of Australia they become part of one people. Persecution of the kind against which the convention is directed must never be tolerated. However, I hasten to say that persecution of that kind has never been tolerated in Australia, and I am perfectly certain that it never will be tolerated here. The natural feelings of mankind have been put into the form of a convention. I must confess at once that I have no faith in conventions. I take leave to doubt whether, if the League of Nations had framed a genocide convention in 1930, theNazis would have refrained from perpetrating the horrors of the concentration camps. The real answer to this kind of crime is to make peoples and governments all round the world civilized peoples and civilized governments. I do not think that we can get rid of evil of this kind by carrying resolutions against it. However, the last thing I should dream of doing would be to speak or vote in such a way as to cast any doubt on the proposition that in Australia we abominate the crime of genocide. Nobody has ever doubted it. If it needs our subscription to a convention to advertise our feeling to the world, then let us subscribe to it.

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