Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 3755..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
today in relation to this matter. I think it is rather incongruous in the extreme to have an infringement notice of $100 for a simple cannabis offence-using, smoking or producing cannabis, which is a very dangerous drug, as well all know-and to have parking fines that can go up to, I think, $212.
The most basic speeding fine is, I think, $118. That applies to people who are driving at between one kilometre and 15 kilometres over the limit. The fine is $300 for driving at 15 kilometres to 30 kilometres over the speed limit. Yet the infringement notice is for only $100 under a similar type of system for this quite significant offence. I am well aware of why we introduced the SCON system; in fact, I was quite in favour of it and suggested it when it was introduced. There were good reasons for that. The Chief Minister is probably right about that; it does take these things away from the courts.
I turn to the proposal to reduce the period for the payment of infringement notices to 28 days. In the previous Assembly, as the Chief Minister would be aware, Mr Rugendyke had major concerns about the payment period and produced figures to show that about 40 per cent of the people who actually received these notices did not pay them. I think you will find if you look back through history at the times shown for the payment of infringement notices that people simply forget to pay if the period for payment goes out to that extent.
A period of 28 days is consistent for the payment of most bills. I mention again for the benefit of the Chief Minister and Ms Tucker, if she is listening to the debate, that 28 days is the period set for the payment of a parking fine or a traffic fine. There are a number of other infringement notices that allow for 28 days to pay. Under the SCON system, the period is stuck out on its lonesome at 60 days. Far from having fewer people pay, if you decreased the amount of time for payment and brought it into line with everything else, I think you would be more likely to have more people pay because it would be on their mind. It would be something that they would realise they had to do reasonably quickly. By having such a lengthy period, they are simply going to forget about it. So there is a very strong argument for consistency there.
Effectively, this bill brings infringement notices under the SCON system into line with every other infringement notice and rationalises the penalty. The amount is still pretty piddly, pretty minor, in the sum total of things, but at least it is a bit more realistic and a small step forward, to paraphrase Mrs Cross, in terms of bringing home to people that the possession of a simple amount of cannabis is not legal. I think that it is wrong for our children to think that cannabis is okay, that it is all right to have a couple of plants and that nothing is going to happen if you smoke it or possess it as it is legal to do so.
I think that it is amazing how many young people especially actually think that it is legal to have a small quantity of cannabis. As much as anything, if this debate has raised the consciousness of people, especially young people, in our community that it is illegal, we have achieved something. I think that the sending of that important message through at the lowest end of the scale would be helped immensely in this Assembly-I single out the government especially-had the sense to pass these very sensible amendments to the bill. That would ensure, firstly, that the message is sent that cannabis is bad; two, consistency; and, thirdly, that the proposed penalty is somewhere in the middle of the range in terms of very serious parking offences and minor traffic offences. At present,