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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2409

Senator CHAMARETTE (11.24 a.m.) —I thank the minister for her answer. I am sure that there are more creative ways of penalising infringements of the Social Security Act, because it is clearly being overused and involves far too much imprisonment of women who are not in the category that the minister has referred to, of the large efforts to defraud anybody, let alone the department. We must remember that these amendments refer to the disability wage supplement. They refer to failure to give information. It is ludicrous to justify putting those penalties in there on the basis that some people do engage in large scale fraud.

  My point of asking about the Crimes Act versus the Social Security Act was that surely serious offences will actually fall into a totally different category. If people manage to steal over $4,000 they can be charged with a stealing offence under the Criminal Code. If people are into very large scale fraud, then the fraud provisions—and this is why I wanted the minister's clarification—are clearly under the Crimes Act and should not necessarily be placed in the Social Security Act. I want to issue a challenge to the department. If we are in the business—and I really appreciated the minister's comments—of trying to assist people, then it is a very retrograde step to have draconian penalties for those same people. I will still press my amendments.

  When I ask people to support my amendments I am asking them to vote against imprisonment and to look at the spirit of that as meaning not necessarily supporting fines as the best penalties either. Is there any implication of the penalty provisions in this bill that would not be available if my amendments replacing prison with pecuniary penalties were accepted? If so, are those implications either good or bad? Also, is there any possibility that provision for community service penalties could be used instead of pecuniary or prison penalties?