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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2411

Senator HARRADINE (11.35 a.m.) —Senator Patterson's remarks made me rise to my feet. I was going to ask a couple of questions, but now I want to say quite clearly that I will not accept, nor should any senator accept, that a rejection out of hand almost of any amendment that is placed before the committee of the whole should be based on an assertion that a particular bill has been referred to a particular standing committee. In this particular case, as I am advised, that matter was not even a matter for consideration by that committee. But, even if it were, that is not the point. We have access to the Hansard; we have access to the report. But the essence of the amendments are that they come before the committee of the whole and it is an obligation of every senator to examine those amendments and to decide how they will vote.

  To use the reference of bills to committees as an excuse for not even properly considering amendments that come before the committee of the whole is, I believe, an attempt to undermine the function of the committee of the whole. It was made perfectly clear by me, by others and indeed by the proposers of the orders that certain bills may be referred to committees. It was made perfectly clear that those committees could not in any way, shape or form undermine or take the part of the debate in the committee of the whole. Let me make that perfectly clear.

  Twice in so many days it has been said, `Oh, this matter has already gone off to the committee.' I do not accept that that should be an excuse for not properly considering here and now amendments that come before the chamber. Clearly, it is the responsibility of persons who are proposing amendments to ensure that sufficient notice is given of those matters. In this particular case sufficient notice, in my view, was given by Senator Chamarette. Certainly it has been sufficient notice for me to give consideration to the principles underlying her amendments. I have listened to the debate. I have been sitting here listening to the debate.

  I have a couple of other questions to ask the minister, and I do so. I refer the minister to proposed subsection 446(8) on page 24 of the bill, which subsection says, `Penalty: imprisonment for 6 months.' That is contained in the Social Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2). If this clause is accepted, that will go into the legislation. If a person is charged under this particular section of the social security legislation: firstly, is there no option for a fine; and, secondly, is there an option for the magistrate to impose a community work order as an alternative to imprisonment, as is said here?