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Tuesday, 17 July 1906

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) . - I hope that the Minister will agree to a recommittal of the clause. When we were considering the Bill in Committee, I stated that I objected to creating, a new offence unless it was intended to punish the offender, but at the same time I said - and I am glad that the Government agreed to the alteration - that we ought to be easv with a first offender. In another part of the Bill we provide for a penalty as high as£500 and imprisonment ; but this clause provides a penalty of only £100 in a case where a man has wilfully made a false statement.

Mr Isaacs - There is no imprisonment for a first offence under the other part of the Bill.

Mr HUTCHISON - That is right. But the reason for that decision was that there was no desire to punish a man who might have committed the offence unwittingly.

Mr Isaacs - No ; that is a case where he has committed the offence with intent.

Mr HUTCHISON - Yes; but the AttorneyGeneral will see that now power is only given by the Bill to take out an injunction against an offender in the first place.

Mr Isaacs - No; he is liable to a fine of £500, but to no imprisonment, although he mav have done it with intent.

Mr HUTCHISON - For committing the offence with intent, he. will be liable to a fine of £500 and to imprisonment.

Mr Isaacs - No; there is no imprisonment for a first offence.

Mr HUTCHISON - No imprisonment if a man has done the thing with intent?

Mr Isaacs - Not for a first offence.

Mr HUTCHISON - But if the man were to repeat the offence, he would be liable to fine and imprisonment.

Mr Isaacs - Yes; but, in this case, no man could repeat the offence, because the Minister would not take the word of a man who had been convicted of wilfully misleading him.

Mr HUTCHISON - At all events, it would be a wilful offence, and I contend that a wilful offender ought to be severely punished. I ask the Minister to look back to the history of his own Department during the last year or two. What do we find? We find that commercial men have robbed the country to the extent of thousands of pounds. What is a paltry penalty of£100 to a man who is making thousands of pounds out of the country ?

Mr Isaacs - This will not be the case of a man who was making thousands of pounds out of the country, but the case of a man who has given information to the Comptroller-General that somebody else was injuring thepublic.

Mr HUTCHISON - Exactly. If a man makes a false declaration he may injure another man to the extent of many thousands of pounds. In my opinion, any one who would take that course should be very severely punished. The least we can do is to deal with a man who is wilfully guilty of an offence, in exactly the same way as we deal with offenders on a small scale, and that is to place them in the dock. The imposition of monetary penalties is simply absurd. It is high time that we treated oneclass of offenders precisely as we treat every other class of offenders. For committing a comparatively trivial offence, we put a man in the dock and give him no opportunity of paying a fine. But here, although a man has committed an offence which might seriously injure another man in his business, in fact, might ruin him,yet he is to be subjected to a fine of only £100.

I ask the Minister to agree to a recommittal of the clause, so that the punishment in such a case may be made imprisonment.

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