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Wednesday, 12 September 1973
Page: 922

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - While I respect the point of view that has been put by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) who preceded me in this debate, I think it needs to be said that society has changed, not necessarily for the better, over the last 2 decades. It was only in 1957 - a matter of 16 years ago - that the last person was banged in Australia, yet since that date the incidence of crimes of a heinous nature and the threats of further crimes have not lessened; they have extended. As a young articled clerk I oan remember attending in the Central Criminal Court in Sydney on the occasion of a man being sentenced to death. For all of us who have seen the trappings of the law there is a measure almost of archaic nonsense in the. garments that are worn and the somewhat uncomfortable and barren atmosphere that a court presents. Yet, until the judge puts on that black cap and pronounces sentence of death, there is still a sense almost of having seen it all before- of having listened to the proceedings on the radio or perhaps viewed them on the television.

I do not know in what way a House such as this can best examine questions of a legal and moral character. I do not believe that any of us is competent to make a judgment on an issue as critical as this. It is true that, in the terms of the enforcement of the death penalty in the past, the Governor-General, in his Executive Council right, has been the person responsible for finally exercising the death penalty. But we are here not to determine the fate of individual men or women; we are here to set the laws of this land. We are not judging on individual cases; we are setting the parameters within which others more competent than we - others who have the facts set out before them - might consider and determine in the circumstances which are there to be judged the nature of the penalty that should be enforced.

Neither on moral nor on deterrent grounds have I any objection to the abolition of the death penalty for a range of offences which I see as the product of society and attitudes towards our fellow men. I believe that there is a very real problem in our society which relates not only to the Bill that is before us and the enforcement of the death penalty but also to the enforcement of the law itself, the respect for the law, the nature of our penal institutions and the way by which, in a society where licentiousness generally is extending, there can be bred in the hearts and minds of the citizens of this world - not just of Australia - a respect for the rule of law. I know that one can turn to statistics and can demonstrate at least to the degree that statistics can demonstrate anything that the death penalty does not ensure that capital offences are less likely to occur where the death penalty is enforced. But equally, one cannot disprove it. Indeed, if one has a look at other countries - there has been a recitation in the debate tonight of a range of countries that have already abolished the death penalty - it can be seen, for example, that there has been no lessening of activities such as those of the Black September Movement because of the abolition of the death penalty. All of us are aware that there have developed patterns which we would see as almost unique in our time and if there is a greater condemnation of our society, perhaps it lies in the peculiar nature of some of the perverted crimes that exist in our world today. I have been interested in the Black September Movement. Debate interrupted.

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