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Wednesday, 26 June 1996
Page: 2277


Senator BOB COLLINS(4.55 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

3.   Schedule 1, page 4 (after line 11), after item 4, insert:

4A Subsections 31(2) and (3)

Repeal the subsections, substitute:

(2)   Subject to subsection (3), a person is not qualified to be appointed as a Commissioner if he or she has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory by imprisonment for one year or longer.

(3)   Subsection (2) does not disqualify a person from being appointed as a Commissioner if the Federal Court of Australia, on application by the person, declares that in spite of the person's conviction, he or she ought not to be disqualified from being appointed as a Commissioner.

5.   Schedule 1, page 7 (after line 12), after item 15, insert:

15A Paragraphs 40(7)(a) and (b)

Repeal the paragraphs, substitute:

   (a)   has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory by imprisonment for one year or longer;

7.   Schedule 1, page 13 (after line 3), after item 28, insert:

28A Paragraphs 102(1)(d) and (e)

Repeal the paragraphs, substitute:

   (d)   the person has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory by imprisonment for one year or longer;

10.   Schedule 1, item 34, page 14 (line 25) to page 15 (line 8), omit the item, substitute:

34 Paragraphs 122(1)(a) and (b)

Repeal the paragraphs, substitute:

   (a)   has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory by imprisonment for one year or longer;

The amendments are to repeal the subsections and substitute the clauses as circulated to the committee which will, presuming the committee supports the amendments, then read:

Subject to subsection (3), a person is not qualified to be appointed as a Commissioner if he or she has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory by imprisonment for one year or longer.

All honourable senators will be very familiar with those provisions—because they do, in fact, apply to us. They must be fairly common around the Commonwealth of Australia. They certainly were the provisions that applied when I was a member of the Northern Territory parliament.

Importantly, the committee should note that it is not a question of being actually sentenced to 12 months that triggers this disqualification. It is being convicted of an offence which is punishable by a sentence of 12 months or longer. I do not resile from the fact that, in that sense, it is a tough provision. It is an appropriate condition that is certainly placed on the tenure of members of parliament, and it is not unreasonable to have it placed on members of the ATSIC board. Paragraph (3) reads:

Subsection (2) does not disqualify a person from being appointed as a Commissioner if the Federal Court of Australia, on application by the person, declares that in spite of the person's conviction, he or she ought not to be disqualified from being appointed as a Commissioner.

It simply, explicitly, puts in there that there will be a check and balance—there will be an opportunity for the person to have their day in court if they feel they have been unfairly dealt with. But it is, in my respectful submission, a tougher provision than the one proposed and, in that sense, should be.