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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1090

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (10:35): I move:

(1) Schedule 2, item 7, page 23 (lines 31 to 33), omit subsection 10C(4), substitute:

(4) The recipient is liable to pay the Commonwealth, by way of penalty for the contravention of section 7A (the current contravention), an amount equal to:

(a) if the recipient has not contravened that section, or has contravened that section once, during the period of 12 months immediately preceding the day on which the claim to which the current contravention relates is made-200% of the amount to which this section applies; and

(b) if the recipient has contravened that section 2 or more times during the period of 12 months immediately preceding the day on which the claim to which the current contravention relates is made-400% of the amount to which this section applies.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are you going to speak to them?

Ms SHARKIE: I would certainly like to. The amendment relates to the penalties, and it is fair to say that a 25 per cent penalty is inadequate. The public will roll their eyes and they will see it for what it is. It is a slap in the face to the public and their hard-earned taxpayer money.

In essence, a $1,000 rort would mean a penalty of just $250. A penalty under my provision would see that if you take $1,000 of the taxpayers' money inappropriately, in the first instance, you would have a $2,000 penalty and, for three offences or more, within 12 months you would be paying $4,000 back on top of that $1,000 rort. I think that is a fair penalty, because what we want to do here is restore, for the public, our integrity.

The Nick Xenophon Team is committed to greater accountability and transparency, in relation to parliamentary entitlements, and I believe that a much larger penalty is needed as a greater deterrent. We have greater deterrents in the criminal system. We do not give somebody who murders another person just three months. We recognise that there are aggregated offences and, for the same thing, what we are looking at here with repeat offending is aggregated offences. If an invalid claim is made, the penalty would either be 200 per cent or 400 per cent depending on the number of transgressions.

This amendment would increase penalties significantly, and I would like to think that both of the major parties would support this and see this for what it is. This is us being far more accountable for our own behaviour, because, when we have one person who decides to take their family on a holiday to Central Australia or they decide that they are going to take their family to Noosa, it affects us all. For those of us who do not stop and ask ourselves whether it is appropriate to spend taxpayers' money in this way, the larger penalty may force them to stop and think.

I urge this House to support this amendment, as it sends a message to our communities that says that most of us are honest, that most of us do the right thing, and that we are prepared to impose harsher monetary penalties on those of us who do not.