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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3534


Senator LEWIS(4.58) —I would like to ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce: Why does the Government believe that the offence must be one for which a person, on conviction, has served or is serving a sentence of imprisonment? It seems to me that that does a number of things. It creates a burden on the judge who is considering what penalty he will impose on a person convicted of some offence. No doubt the barrister making the plea for the accused will draw the judge's attention to the fact that a penalty of imprisonment has a different consequence for the accused than the conviction on the offence.


Senator Georges —Why should that not be the case?


Senator LEWIS —Senator Georges asked me why that should not be the case. I would have thought the situation is that it is the offence which is important rather than the consequences applied by the judge. Let me give Senator Georges an example. Let us presume that a person is charged with drunken driving which has nothing whatsoever to do with his union qualifications or his membership of the union.


Senator Button —That is not what you were saying last year.


Senator LEWIS —With respect, I do not think Senator Button could have been talking about comments made by me last year. I was trying to give Senator Georges an explanation of what I was talking about. A person may be charged with drunken driving-or even with some other driving offence not to do with drunkenness, which is now so strictly a criminal offence it ought perhaps be put in a different category-and the magistrate or judge may decide to send him to gaol for seven days. Under the proposed provisons the magistrate would have some difficulty in sending that person to gaol because it would be pleaded very strongly that the person's employment would be placed in jeopardy as a result of that term of imprisonment being imposed.


Senator Georges —And so it should be argued.


Senator LEWIS —Certainly it should be argued in favour of the accused if loss of employment is to be the consequence of the imprisonment, but is it not much more important that the nature of the offence with which he is convicted should determine whether his position as a union organiser will be placed in jeopardy? It seems to me that if the offence were of such a nature that on conviction the person would be liable to a substantial term of imprisonment his union ought to get rid of him. Even if the magistrate or judge decided in the circumstances to grant the person a bond or give him some leniency it would not alter the fact that he had beem convicted of a very serious criminal offence. The same sort of thing happens with public companies and company secretaries. It seems to me that to limit prescribed offences to those for which the person on conviction 'has served, or is serving, a sentence of imprisonment' goes about it the wrong way.