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Wednesday, 26 June 1996
Page: 2288

Senator BOB COLLINS(5.53 p.m.) —I want to explain to the minister why I am interested in pursuing this matter. I make no bones about it; it is fundamentally for my continuing education and that of all other legislators. We are now confronted with this interesting new term `units' rather than `dollars'. I have been advised, by those who know, that one unit is $100.

Senator Panizza quite correctly made a reference to the sentencing guidelines that judges take into account. What Senator Kernot said astonished me. I am puzzled why we need to have units instead of dollars. This is a serious matter and it will be interesting to see what advice we get. If the reason for having units instead of dollars is so that courts will have some discretion to convert the units into prison sentences as well as money, then I am going to run a campaign that is as good as yours, Senator Chamarette, to get this pernicious business of units taken out of legislation and to have dollars put back in.

That is for a reason, in terms of what I think is a very important relationship between parliaments and courts. I always understood that an important sentencing guideline, as well as the one Senator Panizza mentioned, was that judges are supposed to have some regard to what the legislators—in their wisdom or stupidity from time to time and who are elected by the people—think is a reasonable punishment or a reasonable provision in a piece of legislation. If the parliament in its wisdom or stupidity believes that a non-custodial sentence is appropriate and, indeed, by inference, that a custodial sentence is not appropriate—and I am prepared to be educated; that is why I find this a very interesting point; I have puzzled over this new term `unit', but not enough to lose sleep over it—if that means that judges can at their discretion send people to gaol—

Senator Cooney —It doesn't mean that.

Senator BOB COLLINS —It doesn't? You worried me, Senator Chamarette; that is what I am saying. I am about to be reassured, apparently. With the explanation that the minister will now give, you will probably support us, Senator Chamarette.