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Thursday, 7 December 1911

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I do not think that this amendment should be made. If a sentence of death ought to be reviewed in this case, it ought to be reviewed in all cases, otherwise it is tantamount to saying that a general court martial will do something which the other court martial will not do. . If the amendment is inserted, the effect will be that these cases, if ever they should occur, will be reviewed by Parliament, and other cases will not be reviewed. Under the Naval Discipline Act, practically only two classes of cases are punishable by death, namely, treason in the face of the enemy, and murder. Apart from those two cases, no offences are punished by death to-day under the Admiralty.

Senator Rae - I have no sympathy with the person guilty of treason.

Senator PEARCE - I know that the honorable senator has no sympathy with traitors from the expressions which he used the other day in respect to another class of offenders. He then expressed a willingness to punish them without reference to Parliament, or anybody else.

Senator Rae - I would shoot a traitor at sight.

Senator PEARCE - Furthermore, a Naval court martial consists of five officers, and no sentence of death can be passed except with the consent of four of them. Every sentence will have to be referred to the Australian Government before it can be tarried out. There is every reasonable safeguard that justice will be done, and I ask Senator Rae not to press his amendment.

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