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Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Page: 8823


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (18:08): Before I address these particular amendments, I would like to thank all crossbench senators for their thoughtful approach to the bill. In particular, I would like to thank Senators Lazarus, Wang, Lambie, Muir and Madigan for approaching the government with concerns and assisting the government to address those concerns to pass the legislation.

The minister has agreed with the crossbench to review certain aspects of the legislation 18 months after the commencement of the legislation and to make that review public within 24 months. I understand the minister will be writing to the crossbench senators, Senators Lazarus, Wang, Lambie and Muir later this evening, but a form of words has already been agreed to for the minister's undertaking. The government considers this an extremely important bill and thanks the crossbench for supporting this bill through the parliament.

In regard to the penalties, the maximum 360 penalty points and a two-year term of imprisonment for the criminal offence is already greater than the standard ratio of penalty units to imprisonment prescribed in the Attorney-General's Department's Guide to framing Commonwealth offences infringement notices and enforcement powers,which is five penalty units, which is one month imprisonment, which would equate to a maximum of 120 penalty units for a two-year term of imprisonment. The current level of penalties attracted the attention of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills when conducting their recent inquiry into the bill. We acknowledge that, however, the high penalty units are commensurate with the anecdotal evidence as to the upper limit amount paid in payment for visa cases.

As you indicated, Senator Carr, in your contribution, the penalties for this bill are for in fact each criminal offence and each civil penalty contravention. So a person convicted of charging two visa holders for sponsorship would under the criminal offence be liable for up to 720 penalty units, which may be imposed instead of, or in addition to, a maximum term of four years imprisonment.