The following is a speech made in Queensland Parliament yesterday by State Member for Bulimba, Aaron Dillaway.
I rise today to provide a short contribution to the debate on the Police Powers and Responsibilities (Motor Vehicle Impoundment) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. I congratulate the Minister for Police and Community Safety on the introduction of this bill that honours the Newman government’s election promise to Queenslanders to deliver the toughest anti-hooning legislation in the country. I acknowledge the work of my colleagues and the research team on the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee in the examination process and thank all the individuals and bodies who made submissions.
This bill addresses the concerning issue of hooning in our local communities—the antisocial and high-risk driving behaviour that is occurring on our streets that endangers not only the offenders but puts communities, businesses and property in jeopardy. The Bulimba electorate is certainly not immune to this type of behaviour and a number of local streets see this type of antisocial activity occurring on a too regular basis. In fact, across the South Brisbane district in 2012 we saw 21 type 1 offences with 15 vehicles impounded and 2,991 type 2 offences with 451 vehicles impounded. Unfortunately, that is over 3,000 offences too many.
Road safety is an aspect of Australian society that affects each and every one of us. We all in this chamber can relate to the experiences of hearing the latest story of a tragic car accident involving a Queenslander—young or old. That familiar sick feeling surfaces as we think of their families and friends—that feeling of their pain yet feeling so distant from the trauma, trapped by a perception that something like that would never happen to us or one of our family members or friends. However, it still serves as an important reminder of how easily cars can become weapons and how we can never be too cautious on the roads.
This is why we as a government are committed to delivering on road safety initiatives to reduce the road toll. The challenge is improving safety in difficult traffic situations that can be caused by intersections, tough conditions, congestion, blind spots and inexperienced drivers. My heart really goes out to people whose lives have been affected by car accidents. Often they are not their fault; they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So it really is a kick in the guts and a rude slap in the face when I travel across the Bulimba electorate and talk to constituents who report incidents of hooning—individuals who brazenly get in their car, drive recklessly, intentionally endangering their lives and especially others. They take for granted their life and fail to consider the potentially fatal consequences for the innocent bystanders and their property—all for the thrill, the adrenalin rush, the deceptive feeling of power behind the steering wheel.
Our government has committed through the Safer Streets Crime Action Plan to introduce the toughest anti-hooning laws in the nation. This bill does just that through amending the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 and the Corrective Services Act 2006. The amendments included in this bill will see offenders off our roads at least temporarily, with repeat offenders off our roads permanently. It introduces a two-strike penalty for serious offenders, demonstrating our government’s zero tolerance for recklessness. This behaviour will no longer be taken lightly or tolerated. I can vouch for the citizens of the Bulimba electorate who are all too tired of the slap on the wrist the current system gives perpetrators. By the former government’s own admission, hooning laws were too weak. It did not improve the situation and hoons were not deterred.
The current type 1 vehicle related offences in the vehicle impoundment process include any of the following that involves a speed trail, race or burn out: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, careless driving of a motor vehicle, racing and speed trials on roads, wilfully starting a motor vehicle or driving a motor vehicle in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke. Type 2 offences include driving an uninsured motor vehicle, driving of a motor vehicle without a driver’s licence, driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle while over the high alcohol limit, failing to supply specimen of breath or blood and driving while on a 24-hour suspension and driving a non-conforming vehicle.
Previously the first type 1 offence would result in a standard 48-hour impoundment and the second would receive an additional three months impoundment. However, that could only be determined via an application to the court. On the third strike the vehicle would be forfeited but only when the courts ruled it to be so. However, these cats with nine lives will receive a rude shock when they realise that they have run out of chances with our two-strike system implementation. The proposed changes in this bill are a lot less forgiving, with the first type 1 offence seeing a 90-day impoundment period with proceedings beginning simply from a traffic infringement notice. The second offence in the space of five years would result in the forfeiture of the vehicle. We are not stuffing around. Hooning is an illegal activity and there is no excuse. Driving is a privilege, not a right.
This bill also amends the act to include ‘evade police’ and ‘high-end speeding’ as type 1 and type 2 vehicle related offences respectively. It also sees the introduction of additional measures as an alternative to impounding vehicles, such as clamping, removal of number plates and vehicle production notices.
Two particular amendments are worth noting. Firstly, the previous vehicle impoundment scheme dictated that repeat offences must have been offences of the same kind for type 2 vehicle related offences. The amendments remove this requirement and repeat type 2 offences will not have to be the same offence to entail impoundment or forfeiture of the vehicle. This change recognises that repeat offences in this category demonstrate a driver’s careless and irresponsible behaviour regardless of whether it is the same offence or not. The change will give offenders less room to move, improving safety on our roads.
Secondly, the bill allows police to take action against offending drivers by infringement notice rather than by arrest or a notice to appear. Currently, after charging a driver with an impounding offence, the police have 48 hours to apply to the Magistrates Court to have the vehicle become the subject of an impounding or forfeiture order. Under the new scheme, vehicles will be impounded or forfeited automatically upon an offender being charged. This shifts the impoundment regime from being part of a court process to an administrative process as the police may proceed to actual impoundment and forfeiture without any supervision by a court. As the committee noted, it is expected that the QPS will develop appropriate internal policies to assist its members in the operation of the new provisions to avoid inconsistencies from occurring and ensuring officers are all on the same page when enforcing these provisions.
I would also like to draw to the attention of the House that it takes an average of eight hours for an officer to currently complete an application to the court for an impoundment or forfeiture order. Multiply that by 10,000 impoundments over 2012 and that is a huge cost to the state. It would be much better served to have those fine police officers out on the beat being more proactive and undertaking other crime-fighting activities and prevention initiatives. Just in the South Brisbane district based on the 2012 numbers that equates to 466 eight-hour shifts taken up by red tape or just under an extra 11⁄2 officers on the beat per year.
I would also like to discuss a number of submissions received by the committee which were from car enthusiasts. They were particularly concerned that they will be targeted under these new laws, especially the type 2 offences of driving a non-conforming vehicle. I believe it is worth noting that at our public hearing the QPS indicated that over the course of 2012, of the 49,000-plus tickets that were issued, there were 10,000 impoundments and only 23 of those were for illegal modifications or non-conforming vehicles. That is just 0.2 per cent.
The bill, however, does have protections available and provides for the commissioner to release impounded or immobilised motor vehicles upon application by the owner or usual driver in certain circumstances including if the impoundment offence occurred without the owner’s consent; if the impoundment will cause severe financial or physical hardship; or if the impoundment offence has been remedied or the commissioner considers the impoundment or the immobilising of the motor vehicle to be unreasonable.
This amendment strikes the appropriate balance between reducing red tape and maintaining citizens’ rights to have their matters appropriately reviewed if they consider that they have not been dealt with appropriately. We are burning out the burn-outs, we are straightening out the doughnuts and we are putting the brakes on hoons. I congratulate the Minister for Police and Community Safety once again for the delivery of this election commitment. The Newman government is a government that does deliver. I also commend the Minister for Police and Community Safety for supporting all four of the recommendations made by the committee in our report No. 24. I commend the bill to the House.