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Friday, 26 May 1972
Page: 2220

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - Having had some notice that this matter would be raised in the debate on the motion to adjourn the Senate I have some information on it. I welcome the fact that Mr Fox applied for conscientious objection under the National Service Act and I welcome the fact that having had the matter throughly tested before a court he was granted conscientious objection. In those circumstances he has created what is a first occasion in our administration in that the application for conscientious objection was made after he went to gaol, having been duly convicted and having failed to enter into a recognisance, and then the exemption application was heard. Of course his exemption application had been dated prior to the day on which the matter for which he was convicted came before the court and was heard, and that was curious. But nevertheless it was in order. He was thoroughly tested in cross-examination before the court hearing his application for exemption as to why he had not mentioned that he had made an application for conscientious objection at all during the hearing at which he was convicted. But he nevertheless said that his reason for not doing so was that he wanted the utmost publicity. I think that is the salient fact.

There is provision under the National Service Act at all stages for people who have conscientious objection to apply for exemption, and that should never be for gotten. May people who call themselves conscientious non-compliers or conscientious objectors do so only for the publicity, and Mr Fox has indicated in sworn evidence before the court that that was his purpose in not mentioning at the court hearing that he had an application for conscientious objection. He has been established to be a conscientious objector. That is respected, but I think it ought to be known also that his reason for not applying earlier was simply to build up this great publicity.

On the issue that he is now in gaol, it is appropriate that application be made to the Governor-General, because it is the Governor-General's decision, but I can assure Senator Brown that steps will be taken as expeditiously as possible now that I am free of the chamber and will be able to attend to it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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