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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1684

Mr JACOBI (Hawker) - I support the amendment. It is quite obvious that the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has completely lost the point of the amendment. I fail to comprehend how any government can isolate this particular offence, which is a criminal offence, and treat it in a special and repressive way. It seems to me to be completely illogical and indefensible and totally unjust that a person sentenced under the provisions of the National Service Act should be, in contrast to every other criminal offender under the Commonwealth Prisoners Act, denied not only the right to release on parole but also the right to have a non-parole period set. The situation exists at present where prisoners in State prisons who have been indicted for larceny, rape, embezzlement or even murder are entitled to be paroled - they are even entitled to have a non-parole period set - but a man who is gaoled under the provisions of the National Service Act simply because he has exercised his conscience is not entitled to this right. The only provision that applies in relation to people who are gaoled under the National Service Act is the provision that a person who is put into gaol for 2 years has the right to remissions.

Charles Martin, who has been imprisoned in South Australia, would be entitled in that State to what is termed a 10-day a month remission for good conduct. The position is, briefly, that had this Act remained unaltered and Martin remained at Cadell prison and served his full 2-year sentence, apart from the remissions he received, he would be released without parole on 27th January 1972. Let us assume that the 18 months provision had been passed. Once again he would be entitled to a remission. He would in fact have been entitled to a discharge on 25th August 1971. I would like the honourable member for Corangamite to tell the House which State jurisdictions contain no parole provisions. Despite what he said, all State jurisdictions contain parole provisions. What is not understood is that under South Australian law prisoners can apply for and normally be granted remissions and parole after serving one-quarter of their sentence. If the conviction was for embezzlement the time to be served before applying for remission and parole is one-third of the sentence. There is a reluctance on the part of parole boards to grant parole to those convicted of embezzlement if they have served only one-quarter of their sentence. 1 invite the honourable member and the Government to look at statistics. The South Australian position would be similar to the current position in all States. I am dealing now with parole for ordinary prisoners in South Australia for last year. There 234 applied for parole; 100 applications were granted, 61 were deferred and 73 were rejected. Seven lifers, including murderers, applied; 4 applications were granted, 1 was deferred and 2 were rejected. Bight habitual criminals applied; 6 applications were approved, one was rejected and one was deferred. Eight special prisoners, including sex offenders, applied; 3 applications were granted, 3 were deferred and 2 were rejected. Eight prisoners who were sentenced to imprisonment at the Governor's pleasure, including prisoners charged with murder and found not guilty on the ground of insanity, applied; 2 applications were granted, 3 were deferred and 3 were rejected.

The yardstick that is used by the Government which is totally indefensible is that the punishment must fit the crime. If that is the yardstick which is used by the Government, it should be used in all cases. If the honourable member for Corangamite knows anything at all about prison sentences, he will know that people who are sentenced to life imprisonment for murder - lifers - at least can apply for parole after 5 years. A person in Martin's position, who is in gaol because of his conscience, cannot so apply. There is an old Indian saying that there are 2 tribunals in which a man stands in judgment. One is his conscience. The second is God. Charles Martin satisfied one. History will determine the other. The whole range of criminal offences under all State jurisdictions is such that on each occasion the prisoner convicted of a criminal offence has a right to do one of two things. If he is convicted under a non-parole provision his case is automatically looked at because of the sentence passed by the magistrate or other presiding officer. If convicted under a parole provision he has the right to make application for parole. Most criminal cases come up for review after one-quarter of the sentence has been served. I would like an answer from the Minister tonight as to how he can differentiate between a man in Martin's position and a man serving a sentence for a criminal offence. That is what Martin will be. He will carry this stigma for life. He will not be able to apply for a position in the Commonwealth or State Public Service. Because of his conviction that is one thing that he will have to suffer for the rest of his life. I would like an explanation from the Minister and the Government as to how they can possibly justify the granting of 2 privileges to other prisoners throughout Australia - remissions and parole - but give only the right of remission to an individual who has exercised his God-given right of conscience. It is completely indefensible. I ask the Committee to support the amendment moved by the Opposition.

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