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Thursday, 9 March 1972
Page: 663

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - 1 wish to take up the argument thai Senator Murphy has just concluded. It is a repetition of something that he has said before. It is that the state should set the example. When I come to deal with one of my amendments, I intend to bring to the notice of honourable senators a vivid illustration of this case. I remind honourable senators that during the second reading debate I referred to the principle underlying self defence and said that if somebody were to raise a pistol at me and I got in first, I would lawfully kill according to the laws of this country. There can be no argument based upon the state setting an example. The state exists to administer the law with justice. We in the Parliament formulate the law so that courts will have a law capable of being applied with justice. To illustrate just how vivid is that situation, 1 draw to the attention of honourable senators the incident that occurred a day or so after our debate on 1st October when 2 policemen were shot in Sydney. One was going to the house of a man who had committed murder. He was shot while approaching it. His companion followed the criminal in the car. As the cars were turning at an intersection, the criminal levelled his revolver at the second constable who was pursuing him. Fortunately, the constable killed before he was killed; What 1 say is not h lawyer's theoretical matter but actual experience. 1 have not a record of the second incident, but honourable senators will remember it. It took place 4 or 6 weeks ago when a young constable, pursuing a criminal in the afternoon, was shot almost in the presence of his wife. As for the law setting an example, I would think that if those pursuers had been fortunate enough to be surrounded by force so that the criminal could have been overpowered without being killed, in a case of sufficiently heinous murder, the state would set a very good example by taking the life of the man who had taken life in such disgraceful circumstances. The, other case I cite is of an incident which occurred in London on 4th November 1971. A young policeman, having fallen in love with another girl, strangled in bed his own wife, who was 8 months pregnant. He left signs of a forced entry on the windowsill and a note at the bedside consistent with an attack by an assailant. That is an instance of the state setting an example. I hope I have set that argument at rest for all time. 1 address myself now to the first argument that Senator Murphy restated. He read most carefully certain quo' at ions a second time. I did not detect the same emphasis being placed on his first recitation.

Senator Murphy - 1 used the same words as I used the first time.

Senator WRIGHT - I said I did not detect the same emphasis the first lime he read the quotation which showed that the Gowers Commission was dealing Wit murder, nor did 1 detect in the passage that he read from Christopher Hollis the same emphasis. How ashamed Senator Murphy must feel now that he has confessed that the quotations which he put forward were confined to murder. They were put forward in answer to an argument I had put to the Committee on murder by treachery - treacherously surrendering a post to the enemy or by treacherous correspondence with the enemy enabling the enemy to torpedo one's own troops. It was in answer to that argument that Senator Murphy first put forward these authorities. How could he say that they were quotations of propriety to put forward in answer to an argument that in respect of military murders, murders committed by treason and military treason the death penally should be abolished? Neither the Gowers Commission nor Christopher Hollis were asserting any such thing.

As Senator Murphy failed to refer to the fact that the United Kingdom still has not abolished the death penalty for treason or any other military offence, nor has Canada or New Zealand, T must say that I have some strength in suggesting to honourable senators that nothing Senator Murphy has yet adduced to us would advance the acceptance of proposed sub-clause (2.), which includes in it a repeal of the Imperial Acts which still apply the death penalty to the matters T have mentioned, that is to say, the treacherous surrender of a military post and treacherous correspondence with the enemy and consequent murder. I hope that the Committee will discuss this matter objectively now that it is in possession of the knowledge of the position in the United Kingdom. At first the United Kingdom abolished the death penalty for . a degree of crime - a degree of murder - but it has recently gone much further. I cannot stale the precise position at this stage, but 1 do know thai discussions are going on in that country at the present time in regard to this matter. But I would point out that, although the United Kingdom has repealed the death penalty for civil offences, it has retained it for all military offences and treason, as have Canada and New Zealand.

I plead with honourable senators not to put this chamber in a position where it could bc accused of precipitant irresponsibility by accepting this proposition. Let us give it further consideration and clarify the position. In the pressures of the day since mid-day when I knew that this matter was coming on for debate I have not had time to clarify the position lo my own satisfaction. I do not mind if somebody clarifies the position for me and convinces me to adopt a certain course as it is a matter of no import to me. I shall not be involved in military service or anything of the sort. But f do plead with the Committee to take full acceptance of its responsibility and not enter into a precipitate decision to accept proposed sub-clause (2), which would repeal provisions in the defence legislation which are' absolutely indispensable to a proper system of defence.

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