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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 985

Mr JARMAN (Deakin) - I will speak very briefly today because I think most of the arguments have been covered fairly fully during the debate in this House, in the Senate and of course in the community. We all know that the Bill will be passed because the abolition of the death penalty is the policy of the Government and a number of members of the Opposition will vote with the Government on this issue because we on this side of the chamber have a conscience vote on this Bill. At the July meeting of the State Council of the Liberal Party in my State of Victoria, a motion was passed recommending that the Victorian Liberal Government abolish capital punishment. I am hopeful that the progressive Liberal Government in Victoria very soon will introduce in Victoria the same legislation as has been introduced in the Federal sphere. I believe that to abolish capital punishment the decision of State council was a rational and enlightened decision.

During the debate on abortion in this House on 10 May, I said that I found it difficult to believe that any Christian who claimed to believe that God created life should at the same time believe that anyone other than God should take that life away. I believe that my attitude in the abortion debate and in this debate is consistent with an attitude in favour of the preservation of life, whether it be of a foetus or of an adult even if he has commited the crime of murder. I do not believe that the State has the right to take a life in any circumstances and for that very reason I will vote for the abolition of capital punishment and will oppose all the foreshadowed amendments.

As was mentioned by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the last hanging occurred in Victoria. That was the hanging of Ronald Ryan. I remember that day very well. I was driving to work in my car and the 8 o'clock news came on the radio. I heard the pips indicating the hour and then the announcer said: 'Ronald Ryan has just been hanged at Pentridge by the neck', or words to that effect. In my mind I got a visual picture of that man hanging by a rope and it made me feel sick inside. I believe anyone who heard that broadcast and who knew what was happening at that moment also should have felt sick inside. As the honourable member for Wills said, that man killed a policeman accidentally or in the heat of the moment of escaping over the wall at Pentridge. I did not think his crime was half as bad as that of the man who escaped with him - a man by the name of Walker - who, while he was at large, deliberately took a man into a toilet at Albert Park, put a gun to his head and shot him. Yet Walker got off with manslaughter while Ryan was hanged, even though Ryan had killed in the heat of the moment. The whole situation seemed to be the wrong way round. I felt that it was a great pity that Ryan was sacrificed because he killed a policeman accidentally, yet Walker got off with a charge of manslaughter. I am not saying that it was not a terrible thing that the policeman was killed, but I think it was wrong to act against Ryan purely because, in the heat of the moment, he killed a policeman.

If this Bill goes through - of course it will - and capital punishment is abolished, the community must be protected from certain types of criminals such as the psychopathic criminal who goes out and rapes and kills a child. I think there should be some provision for those sorts of people never to be released from prison. We have coming up shortly the case of a man in South Australia, Rupert Max Stuart, who in 1959 was convicted of raping and killing a little girl. I see that now, after 14 years, there is talk in the newspapers that he is to be released. I hope that there will be no repetition of the crime of which he was convicted, as there has been in other similar cases in which men in that condition have been released from prison. I should like to think -

I direct this to the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) who is at the table and who represents the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) - that some provision can be made in the law of the Australian Capital Territory to ensure that those sorts of people are not released to recommit their crimes on the community, because once they have that type of mental problem they probably will never get better and could repeat a similar crime again.

I understand and respect the feelings of those who cannot vote for this Bill, but I cannot agree with them. I regard deliberate killing by the state as not only abhorrent but also archaic. At this point I will conclude my remarks because my colleague the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) wishes to speak in this debate and I am sure that his contribution will be well worth hearing. I certainly will welcome the decision which we will reach in this House this afternoon to abolish this archaic and barbaric law.

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