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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2412

Senator PATTERSON (11.43 a.m.) —I wish to express my strong objection to Senator Harradine's implying that the coalition had not properly considered this amendment and was using the fact that it had not been referred to in committee as an excuse. I find that suggestion offensive. The coalition has examined this bill in detail through all its committees. This amendment has been considered and indeed I have considered it in detail with the shadow minister.

  The point I was making was that we have a system in place to enable us to go into very great detail and to call witnesses, possibly including the people who wrote the articles to which Senator Chamarette referred. We cannot take such a course in this chamber. I would have liked to have had the opportunity to hear from those people and to consider that material in great detail. That is what the committee provides. Given our limited resources, we are not always able to get time to examine these things. We do not necessarily have time to examine all the research and criminology literature that is available.

  It may be that the answer lies not in changing the penalties, but in changing the culture in the administration of those penalties. I do not know whether that is the answer. If there are provisions to enable community service to be substituted as an alternative to a pecuniary fine or imprisonment, perhaps there needs to be a process of changing of attitudes among those who impose the penalties. Perhaps these issues need to be examined.

  I say to Senator Harradine that we have considered this matter. We are not using this opportunity as an excuse for anything. If that process had been used, it would have enabled all of us in this chamber to be more informed about an issue on which we have a concern, and indeed an issue about which Senator Chamarette is concerned. We have in place a system that enables us to examine issues more closely. In this case that system was not used.

  I was suggesting that as a method of examining the matter on this amendment, or indeed on a broader scale, the matter should be examined in greater detail. That surely is the preferable course rather than that Senator Chamarette, on every occasion that a social security bill is before us, should seek to change `imprisonment' to pecuniary fines, which she does not necessarily believe is the best course. I would rather see a more detailed examination of the issue so that we could then look at a possible amendment in a much more informed way.