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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 1639

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - I listened to Senator Wheeldon and I am grateful to him for bringing a matter of this sort under notice so that I can refer it to the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I am grateful to him also for the terms in which he submitted the matter. My response is that I will not leave it to the routine method by which these matters are conveyed to the Minister; I shall convey the sense of his submissions to the Minister, if not tonight then tomorrow morning, so that he can give it the earliest possible attention in the hope that if there is substance for the representations they will be acceded to.

Turning to the matter raised by Senator Brown, I wish to acknowledge the courtesy that he paid me of ringing me this afternoon to advise that failing an interview with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) he would raise the matter of Paul Fox again this evening. I wish to inform Senator Brown that the Minister for Labour and National Service has this matter under close and active consideration. He is well aware of the full circumstances of the case, most of it having been transversed in this chamber on a previous occasion when Senator Brown spoke about it on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.

I merely want to add one or two further points. At the court hearing which led to the conviction of Mr Fox for failure to report for national service, he did not claim to hold conscientious beliefs which would entitle him to recognition as a conscientious objector; nor did he even suggest that he may have applied, or intended to apply, for exemption on those grounds.

Senator Cavanagh - But he does now. Give him a hearing. That is all we ask.

Senator WRIGHT - Please! Moreover, he was not represented at the hearing notwithstanding that, on the basis of the date of his application for conscientious objection and the date of the letter forwarding it to the Department of Labour and National Service, a firm of solicitors was acting on his behalf in relation to his national service liability. I understand also that Mr Fox has admitted that his conscientious objection application was not dated when he signed it and that he has declined to indicate when he signed it. The Minister nevertheless, as I said, is giving close and active consideration to Mr Fox's case. As soon as he concludes his consideration of the case - it demands very careful consideration - a decision will be made and communicated at the earliest possible opportunity to Paul Fox, his solicitor and Senator Brown.

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