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Tuesday, 18 April 1972
Page: 1134

Senator BROWN (VICTORIA) - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service if I can claim his attention.

Senator Wright - I am listening to the honourable senator.

Senator BROWN - The Attorney-General may be able to contribute to the answer and this will become clear during the course of my question to the Minister. Is it a fact that Paul Fox, who was sentenced to 18 months gaol on 3rd March 1972 for allegedly failing to comply with the requirements of the National Service Act, applied on 3rd March 1972 to the Department of Labour and National Service for an exemption on the grounds that he was a conscientious objector? Is it also a fact that the Department of Labour, and National Service did not acknowledge receipt of the application until 6th April 1972 and advised Mr Fox's lawyer that the matter had been referred for legal advice? ls it also a fact that 2 letters which Paul Fox's lawyer has written to the Department asking for a speedy hearing have not. been acknowledged by it? I ask him why there has been such an inordinate delay in fixing a date for a hearing to enable the application by Paul Fox to be tested by a court of summary jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions of section 29b. of the National Service Act? Finally, will the Minister, without further delay, comply with the mandatory provisions of section 29b. (1.) of the National Service Act and fix a date forthwith for the hearing?

Senator WRIGHT - The honourable senator introduced his question with some discourtesy. I wish him to know that my eyes were directed to the papers in front of me when he commenced his question only so that I could assemble such material as was relevant to the subject and give him an answer. It is not a fact that this man Fox on 3rd March made application to be classified as a conscientious objector. The tact is that, at the hearing on 3rd March, Fox who was not represented refused to plead to the charge and a plea of not guilty was entered by the court. He was convicted and sentenced on the same day - that is, on 3rd March - as a person having a clear liability to report for and to render service who had not done so. He was given an opportunity by the court to undertake to report for service, but refused to do so. He was sentenced as the law requires to a period of imprisonment equivalent to the period of service for which he was liable.

By virtue of section 51d of the National Service Act, as a person sentenced to prison for failing to report for service, Fox no longer has any liability to render service under that Act. However, on 6th March - that is, 3 days later - after his conviction the Registrar for National Service received a letter dated 3rd March from a different firm of solicitors to that which had represented Fox at the pre-trial hearing, purporting to represent Fox and enclosing an application for consideration as a conscientious objector. That matter received immediate attention. It is a matter upon which legal advice is necessary. Every effort will be made favourably to give an opportunity to have the claims of this man to be classified as a conscientious objector tested by the court if the terms of the Act permit that now to be considered by the court.

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