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Tuesday, 18 October 1949

Dr EVATT (BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Attorney-General) - I thought that the honorable member would probably infer from the proceedings to which he has referred, and from the result of them, that the public of Australia are adequately safeguarded. The principle that he has mentioned is very important. T have not seen the remarks attributed lo His Honour, Mr. Justice Dwyer, who tried the case. The importance of that case is that it was a prosecution under existing law that is applicable to everybody in the community. The fact that the accused was a member of the Communist party would not put him in a better or worse position. In other words, in the application of the principle all persons are bound equally by the law of the land. In this case the defendant Sharkey was found guilty of sedition and he was sentenced. That principle is exactly in keeping with that embodied in the important legislation that the Parliament passed during the coal strike. As a result of that legislation eight persons who had disobeyed the law enacted by it were proceeded against in the Arbitration Court and were committed to gaol, six of them being members of the Communist party. They were proceeded against not because they were i ii embers of the Communist party, but because they broke the ordinary law of the land. The ordinary law and that contained in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which is not special legislation but has been in force since 1920, are very sharp weapons which can deal adequately with persons who are guilty of seditious activity in this country.

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