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Wednesday, 26 June 1996
Page: 2287

Senator PANIZZA(5.46 p.m.) —I presume the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (Senator Herron) will allow me to speak for a couple of minutes, since I chaired last Friday the meeting of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee when it inquired into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill. On Friday I was very interested to hear Senator Chamarette use, in relation to imprisonment, the rationale of the Aboriginal deaths in custody report. From where I stand and from where any Aboriginal community or organisation stands, the line that Senator Chamarette has taken is that all corruption or misdemeanours that finish up in court will have been committed by Aboriginal people. Senator Chamarette should think about that again.

When I have asked in this place for an inquiry into ATSIC and ATSIC related bodies in Western Australia, I have always said that my worry is—and Senator Kernot had the chance to support me in August 1993—

Senator Kernot —You have got a memory like an elephant.

Senator PANIZZA —Yes, I have a good memory. My worry then, and it still is, is that, as cases evolve in the courts in Western Australia in years to come, we will find out it was not the Aboriginal community that was guilty of some of that corruption but it was what I call the white Aboriginal industry—in other words, those who managed funds and so on. I have to put on the record that the ration ale Senator Chamarette is talking about implies that it is only Aboriginal people who commit this crime. If there was a white administrator, tell me the situation regarding imprisonment would be the same as if the administrator were Aboriginal.

The final point I make relates to the use of penalty points that presumably end up with a fine. In a previous life I had a bit to do with sentencing—

Senator O'Chee —Not on the receiving end!

Senator PANIZZA —No, not on the receiving end. Senator Cooney will know that one of the principles of sentencing is that you should not fine people by an amount that will end up with them going to prison. In other words, the fine should not be so high that they will not be able to afford to pay it and have to go to prison instead. For fine defaults people are imprisoned for certain amounts of time. We have to look at that angle as well. Using penalty points is not necessarily the end of the matter at all. Having chaired that meeting and listened to Senator Chamarette and this debate, I thought I would put my thoughts on the record.