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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 986

Mr McLEAY (Boothby) - I wish to take part in this debate briefly and simply to place on record the view that I have come to on this matter and to agree, although in very small part, with the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer). He said that, in his view, everyone has a duty to state his position. To that extent, I agree with the honourable member, although I think my position is diametrically opposed to his. I also agree with his statement - I am sure he will be interested in my view - that the death penalty should not be imposed for cowardice in the face of the enemy. No one can force a man to be brave. To that extent, I agree with the honourable member. But that is the end of my agreement with him.

Mr Cohen - Here, catch this bomb!

Mr McLEAY - Unfortunately I missed the interjection. I should like to say something about some of the remarks made by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby). I thought that, in part, his contribution was unworthy of him. I have listened to this entire debate and, to the best of my knowledge, he has been the only speaker to introduce an aspect of party politics into it. The honourable gentleman said that, to their credit, there were no speakers from the Liberal Party supporting the retention of the death penalty and that the only Opposition speakers to support the retention of the death penalty were members -of the Australian Country Party. That, in my "view, is introducing an unnecessary and unworthy atmosphere of party politics.

I should like to put on record right now that at least one member of the Liberal Party is speaking in favour of the retention of capital punishment, namely myself. I should also like to place on record the fact that many other members have this view, but because of the peculiarities of parliamentary proceedings it is not possible for all members to express their views, due to the time factor involved. So, I just wish to correct the Minister for the Capital Territory on this matter. Whatever view he has arrived at is his business. I have come to my view without the benefit of any parliamentary caucus debate and without the benefit of the views of any philosophers of the type he quoted such as George Bernard Shaw, Byron and other people who have been dead for hundreds of years. The view I have come to is my own, derived from my own experience, if I may put it that way.

My position is that I support the amendments. I realise that this may not be a popular view - at any rate, with large sections of the Press and other media. But I believe that it is a view which is held by a large section of the Australian public - and, whatever one says about this Parliament, at least it does represent some of the time a cross-section of the views of the people who live in this country. There are people who live in this country who believe in the retention of the death penalty, and I happen to be one of them.

Mr Uren - There are some who believe in whipping, too.

Mr McLEAY - I regret the interjection of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. On these matters, he invariably draws a parallel with the brutal killings in Vietnam. It is unfortunate that he suffers from this fixation.

I support what was said by a previous speaker from this side of the chamber. In our society today there seems to be what I believe to be an excessive concern for the murderer - the person who has committed the crime - with not very much concern being shown for the victim or the victim's family; they are soon forgotten.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - There is none.

Mr McLEAY - As my friend and good colleague, the honourable member for Griffith, said, there is none. I believe that this was demonstrated about a week ago in Adelaide when the Royal Adelaide Show was. being conducted. A group of prisoners from Yatala prison were released - I think that is a fanway to describe it - and were allowed to go to the Royal Adelaide Show to put on a puppet display. Amongst that group of 17 prisoners were at least 2 convicted murderers. They disappeared from the Adelaide Showgrounds and at least until yesterday had not been apprehended. So far as I am aware they are still at large. This is an indictment of the people who talk about enlightened prison procedures as did the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), who quoted Dr Ramsey and referred to experiments in penal reform. As you are now in the chair, Sir, I remind you of that comment. Experiments in penal reform are great until someone who is involved commits another crime. Why should the people in the community be the ones to suffer?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Dunstan was the puppet on the string.

Mr McLEAY - I defer to the honourable member for Griffith. I am not seeking to secure any party political points but I must point out that the Labor Government of South Australia is in the forefront of development of the passe idea of penal reform at the expense of the rest of the community. I wanted to make that point early in my speech. It is very difficult these days to get the call at question time. This is so far a host of reasons, not the least being the time occupied by Ministers in giving rather long answers. Each day this week I wanted to ask a question of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) but was unable to get the call. As it is relevant to this debate I will ask the question now, not wishing necessarily to attack the Prime Minister individually but making the point that the Prime Minister single handed has sponsored this legislation, perhaps with the enthusiastic support of one or two others, as the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby), who is at the table, will agree. I wished to ask: How does the Prime Minister or anybody else in this chamber who supports his view rationalise his enthusiastic support for abortion on request with his equally enthusiastic support for the abolition of the death penalty for any crime including child murder, hijacking, treason and so on?'

I find it difficult to see how anybody can rationalise that situation. It seems to me to be totally inconsistent and incomprehensible. The Prime Minister sponsored the 2 debates. On the one hand he enthusiastically supports the destruction of the life of an unborn child not knowing whether it would be an hour, a day or a week before it would be born. On the other hand he equally enthusiastically supports the abolition of the death penalty. That strikes me as totally inconsistent and exhibiting a double standard as happens here from time to time. I would like an explanation from the do-gooders and other people who put those 2 extreme points of view. At least I can claim - I am sure that other honourable members on this side of the chamber can also claim - to be consistent.

I support the termination of pregnancy under certain conditions. I do not for the life of me, irrespective of whether this motion is carried, understand how the situation could be codified. I do not see how that can be done within the human mind. The nearest form of codification I can think of is the Menhennitt ruling on abortion. I can understand and support the termination of pregnancy under certain conditions. I and people like me are consistent because we can also support the termination of the life of murderers and other people under certain conditions. I believe that stand to be totally consistent and the position taken by the Prime Minister and his supporters to be totally inconsistent.

I want to refer briefly to some of the remarks of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), although he is not in the chamber at present. I appreciate the sincerity of his point of view but he made the point, as did an honourable member on this side a moment ago, that we are to have a free vote on the motion. The position with the Labor Party is that its supporters have very few chances for a free vote. I am proud to be a member of the Liberal Party and the position in my Party - and I believe in the Country Party - is that I can claim the right to a free vote on every issue that comes before this Parliament.

Mr Innes - As they do in Rhodesia?

Mr McLEAY - What an inane, stupid and infantile interjection. Of all the people with a mental hiatus the honourable member takes the plum. I was saying that I always have the right to a free vote but in this chamber we do not really get a true reflection of how members feel. I am more and more concerned as the weeks go by when reading reports of what happens in the back rooms of the Labor Party where moves are made to control the use of the free vote. In this respect I will mention what the honourable member for La Trobe had to say because bit by bit, in my view, Parliament is becoming irrelevant as supporters of the Government completely lose the right to a free vote.

I want to refer briefly also to the contribution to this debate by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). He spoke in this debate yesterday when proceedings were not broadcast. I thought he spoke superbly but I hold the opposite view to his. He is a lawyer and on this occasion I make a concession to lawyers. Frequently they become personally involved with the clients they defend. I can understand how that sort of involvement could affect their views. The honourable member referred to the deterrent aspect of the death penalty as many others have done. They used different words from mine. In any case, I do not regard the deterrent value as the first point. I regard the death penalty as a punishment; perhaps vengeance' is a more colourful word. I regard it as punishment and the deterrent is something that comes after. Personally I would find the death penalty to be a fairly significant deterrent.

Mr Scholes - Would you go out and carry out the hanging?

Mr McLEAY - I do not mind the interjections but I thought we were to arrive at a consensus by a free vote on this matter and that we were not to be influenced by what the people in Caucus had to say. I do not even know what the people in our Caucus think on this matter as we have not discussed it.

Dr Jenkins - But you were criticising previous speakers.

Mr McLEAY - I have been critical of the way they have arrived at a view. I realise that we are committed to hurrying through this debate and I will not delay the vote very much longer. Contrary to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) had to say, in my view treason is one of the worst crimes in the book and most certainly traitors should be subjected to the death penalty. I have already said that I cannot go along with supporting the death penalty for cowardice in the face of the enemy. Nobody can turn us into brave people. I know the feeling when someone is trying to kill me and how easy it would be to get up and run. Many remain where they are because they are just as likely to be shot down when running. I am not in favour of the death penalty for that so-called crime.

The method of execution is a matter that has not been discussed as far as I am aware. The idea of hanging appals me. Although I support the retention of the death penalty I should like to find some other form of execution. Perhaps this could be a matter to which the Minister for the Capital Territory, with all his historical knowledge, might care to devote his undoubted intellect.

Mr Enderby - Have a royal commission.

Mr McLEAY - We must just about be running out of judges and commissioners. On a few occasions I have asked myself the questionmy enemies would say that I didnot get a sensible answer - whether I would be prepared to pull the lever or do whatever is necessary to be done to take a life. Other honourable members probably have asked themselves this same question. I have thought about this for many years.

Mr Enderby - Is that all you have thought about?

Mr McLEAY - No, I have thought about other things but I have not let the philosophies of George Bernard Shaw or some other external historic person train the way I would think on this subject. I have worked it out for myself, rightly or wrongly, and have come to a conclusion. Would I, in the final crunch, be prepared to pull the lever or manipulate whatever instrument is involved in taking life? If I saw a person commit a crime of the type that we all know has been committed in Adelaide in recent weeks or crimes of the type committed by Arab terrorists, I would be very pleased to take the life of the person responsible. Therefore, as a legislator, I claim the right to authorise someone else to do it. It is one thing to take life in the heat of battle. The Minister for the Capital Territory tended to attack my intellect but he may not have had the experience that I have had. It is one thing to take life in war but another in peace time, and we are talking of peace time. I support the amendments moved by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and I trust that there are sufficient members who are prepared to resist so-called public opinion and so retain the death penalty in our statutes.

Question put -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

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