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Tuesday, 27 April 1971

Senator WRIGHT - The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator's question: (1), (2) and (J) The honourable senatoris presumably referring to the procedures under the National Service Regulations whereby the Minister for Labour and National Service may refer to a court for determination the cases of men where the question of their conscientious beliefs with regard to military service has arisen and the men have not applied for recognition as conscientious objectors.

The position of such men is identical with that of men before the courts as a result of then own application for recognition as conscientious objectors.If they establish to the satisfaction of the court that they hold beliefs which do not allow them to engage in any form of military service they are not required to render any service at all. Alternatively, if they are found to hold beliefs which do not allow them to engage in combatant duties they are enlisted in the Army and employed on appropriate duties for the requisite period. If it is not established that they hold such beliefs, including, for example, in cases where the man referred does not attend at the court as notified, their liability for military service in the normal way is unaltered.

The honourable senator has referred to two cases, one in Victoria and one in Western Australia. In the former, the man who was the subject of the reference attended at the court and was represented by counsel. As this was the first such case to be heard in Victoria, the hearing began with the magistrate exploring with the Minister's representative the statutory basis of the reference procedure. This completed, the way was clear for the court to examine the nature of the man's beliefs but at this stage, on consulting with his client, counsel for the man indicated to the court that he declined to have his conscientious beliefs examined in the normal way. The magistrate stated that he had no evidence which would enable him to make a finding and dismissed the reference.

In the Western Australian case, the man who was referred to the court was represented,as permitted under the Regulations, by an agent who read a prepared statement to the court. The statement was tendered as an exhibit and the magistrate issued an order that the man was not a conscientious objector. He was advised by my Department of his right of appeal against this order but no appeal was lodged within the statutory time limit.

In addition to these two cases, there are five men who on being referred to the courts by the Minister have established that they hold conscientious beliefs which do not allow them to engage in any form of military service and who have been recognised accordingly. Some of them had previously refused to register or, having registered, refused to comply further with the provisions of the National Service Act.

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