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Thursday, 11 May 2017
Page: 3406

Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (12:55): I rise to speak to the Crimes Amendment (Penalty Unit) Bill 2017 on behalf of the opposition. At the outset, I indicate that the opposition will be supporting this bill. This bill implements a Labor policy from the 2016 federal election to increase the value of a penalty unit. Penalty units are the metric that we use to set the maximum fines that can be imposed for Commonwealth offences, such as fraud, firearms offences, drug offences, white-collar crime and workplace crime. By increasing the value of a penalty unit, this bill will increase the pecuniary penalty for all Commonwealth offences.

It was the Keating Labor government that first introduced the penalty unit in 1992. When it was first introduced, the value of a penalty unit was set at $100. Since then, successive governments have updated the value of the penalty unit. It increased to $110 in 1997, $170 in 2012 and $180 in 2015. This bill will increase the value of a penalty unit from $180 to $210, which will be indexed every three years to CPI. This higher value will apply to offences committed after these amendments come into force.

Strong penalties are an important way we deter crime. This is why this increase to the value of a penalty unit was one of our election policies. Labor believes it is important that our penalties are not weakened as the cost of living increases. But strong penalties are meaningless if crimes are not detected, investigated and prosecuted. This week we found that the government has cut over $184 million from the Australian Federal Police over the next four years. Because of these enormous cuts, the AFP will lose over 150 personnel next year, with many more cuts to come as they struggle to make up for the funding shortfall. This government likes to talk a tough game on law and order, but it is Labor that proposes smart policies and it is Labor that resources our law enforcement agencies. Labor is committed to keeping Australians safe. The Labor policy that this bill implements reflects this commitment, so I reaffirm that the opposition will be supporting this bill.