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Wednesday, 2 April 1941


Senator CAMERON (Victoria) . - None of us condones fraud ; all that can bc done to prevent fraud should be done. However, the conditions under which the materials necessary for military purposes are produced more or less invite fraud. So long as contractors compete against one another, and prices are cut to the bone, and sonic gain is to be made by committing fraud, we shall always have fraud. This bill deals with effects rather than with causes. If the Government, for instance, were manufacturing its requirements of boots, clothing and other articles, the intensive competition which now takes place among contractors would disappear, and the causes of fraud would be lessened. In addition, by making this legislation retrospective we say, in effect, that what is a crime to-day was not a crime, say, two or three months, or a year. ago. That is very dangerous. All authorities that have examined the matter as closely and critically as possible, 'believe that the more severely the law deals specifically with effect, without dealing with causes, the position is not improved.


Senator Allan MacDonald - That involves a reconstruction of human beings rather than of the law.


Senator CAMERON - Not necessarily; but it involves a change of the conditions under which human beings work. The more congenial conditions are made the more favorable will be the reaction, but conditions similar to those which now govern tenders for the supply of materials to the Government, under which a good deal is to be gained by the perpetration of fraud, with a chance of escaping detection, invite fraud. If the Government were manufacturing its own requirements under conditions more or less approximating those under which it manufactures munitions, legislation of this kind would not be necessary. At any rate, this kind of legislation is dangerous, and places a weapon in the hands of people who may be tempted to abuse it. The provisions of this bill are to be made retrospective to September, 1939. No one can f oresee just how long the war will last. We should take a long view of the position and organize our means of production of military requirements under conditions that will make the perpetration of fraud practically impossible. One of the worst features of legislation of this kind is that usually the rich man who commits fraud, and can afford to brief able lawyers, has a much better chance of escaping the consequences of his crime than a poor, unfortunate individual who does not possess a penny. Our gaol population does not include many rich men who have committed fraud, or writers of lying advertisements which practically constitute fraud ; it consists of poor unfortunate victims who are not in a position to protect themselves. Very often Parliament prepares the crime, and punishes the victim. That was done in 1932, when Parliament enacted legislation which caused wide-spread poverty almost overnight. The result was that fraud and crime increased almost simultaneously, and unfortunate victims were sent to gaol in hundreds, and, possibly, in thousands. Then, when it was discovered that the policy of Parliament made a position which was already bad infinitely worse, that policy, was changed, and the number of cases of fraud and crimes of all sorts decreased. Legislation of this kind will not lessen the number of frauds, unless the Government pays particular attention to the causes of fraud, and assumes control of those industries and services which are so essential to the prosecution of our war effort.







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