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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2678..


MR OSBORNE (continuing):

Mr Speaker, drink-driving and speeding continue to be the cause of most road accidents in the ACT. Alcohol is implicated in about one-third of all road deaths in Australia, with a slightly higher proportion in most years in Canberra. It is clear that the incidence of drink-driving in the Territory, in spite of harsher penalties, has worsened in recent years and that further action is warranted. In 1996-97 the Territory had 815 drink-drive convictions recorded; the following year there were 949; and during the past financial year there were 1,135 convictions - an overall increase in the last three years of nearly 20 per cent.

A variety of penalties, education and rehabilitation programs is currently used around the world to address drink-driving. In the United States, there is a growing acceptance of impounding cars and using emission locks for convicted drink-drivers. In New Zealand, cars are also impounded for the worst offenders, and home detention and active surveillance by police are also commonly used. Other penalties and useful deterrents are imposing heavy fines, impounding licence plates, issuing electronic driving licences and alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs.

However, research indicates that drivers licence suspension is still the most effective penalty, even allowing for the fact that many of those whose licences are suspended continue to drive. As this is the case, it would seem that treatment or education programs may be used to complement, and not be used as a substitute for, the penalty of loss of licence for those convicted of drink-driving offences.

Mr Speaker, this legislation is similar to the Road Traffic Act in South Australia, which sets out minimum penalties for repeat drink-driving and associated offences. Magistrates may reduce the suggested penalty if they can be convinced that good reason exists to do so, but not below the minimum threshold for each category of offence. The Bill is also based on provisions which were presented to the previous Assembly in 1997 by the then transport Minister, Mr Kaine, and which were subsequently defeated at the time by the Labor-Moore-Green coalition.

The Assembly has taken steps in recent years to discourage drink-driving. We have toughened up penalties for offences to give the message that drink-driving is not acceptable. These additional changes will provide a greater deterrent to drink-driving than ever before by changing the way our courts apply penalties. The message sent by this Assembly needs to be clear: Drink and drive and you will lose the right to hold your drivers licence. I have not sought to increase fines for non-drink-driving offences as I believe the current levels available to the courts are appropriate.

The changes proposed by this legislation are not a revenue-raising exercise. The social and economic impact on the families of people who lose their licence and who can potentially lose their employment is recognised in law through the provision of special licences. A special licence will still be available to drink-drivers who are convicted of their first offence and to certain categories of repeat offenders, provided the person concerned can convince the magistrate that exceptional circumstances warrant the granting of a special licence. However, this Bill will prevent repeat drink-drivers and repeat offenders of serious non-alcohol-related driving offences from being granted a special licence. Those who commit the more serious driving offence will continue to


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