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Issue #1919      June 15, 2020

Paterson sees “sinister” motive in Sharkey trial

Defending the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mr L. L. Sharkey, against a charge of having uttered seditious words, Mr F. W. Paterson, Queensland Communist MLA, said he had to ask whether there was not a sinister motive behind the prosecution of a man for saying that the object of the Communist Party was to struggle for peace.

A jury convicted Mr Sharkey, but sentence was postponed pending the result of a challenge to a section of the Crimes Act in the High Court.

Appearing for Mr G. Burns in Queensland last week, Mr Paterson claimed that under the Commonwealth Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament had no power to enact the section.

The High Court reserved its decision.

Mr Sharkey was released on bail. Mr Dovey, for the prosecution, claimed that the prosecution of Mr Sharkey was non-political and asked the jury not to be prejudiced by the fact that Mr Sharkey was a Communist.

He asserted that “under our system of Government no man shall be improperly attacked because of his political views.”

The courts, said Mr Dovey, were entitled to take “notorious” facts into consideration.

It was a notorious fact, he said, that in the recent war Britain and the Dominions had fought against Germany with a number of allies, among them the USSR.

“Hostilities had ceased, but peace has not been signed.”

It was also notorious that there had been “very marked differences of opinion between responsible statesmen of the Western powers and those statesmen who directed the policy of Soviet Russia.

“We are not here to discuss the rights or wrongs about help to Germany. That is not a matter which calls for discussion.

“It is also notorious that a certain section of the community in Britain, France and Australia have feelings towards the Soviet Union not shared by other sections.”

Communists were among the minority who had different views to the majority.

This did not constitute an offence.

This article originally appeared in Tribune June, 1949

Next article – “Long live international peace!”: Sharkey in dock

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