Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1043 ..
CHILDREN'S SERVICES (AMENDMENT) BILL (NO. 2) 1998
REMAND CENTRES (AMENDMENT) BILL 1998
CRIMES (AMENDMENT) BILL 1998]
Debate resumed from 30 April 1998, on motion by Mr Humphries:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with the Motor Traffic (Amendment) Bill 1998, the Children's Services (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1998, the Remand Centres (Amendment) Bill 1998 and the Crimes (Amendment) Bill 1998? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of the day No. 5 they may also address their remarks to orders of the day Nos 6, 7, 8 and 9.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.58): Mr Speaker, the Opposition has indicated previously that it supports this legislation. It actually accepts that it is a significant and commendable advance in the process for collecting fines from fine defaulters. It starts from the basic assumption that governments should do whatever they can to keep fine defaulters out of gaol. I think we all applaud that as a fundamental point in relation to fine defaulters. Certainly, the Opposition does. Over many years there has been significant concern within the community that people who, for whatever reason, fail to pay fines can, as a result of their failure to do so, end up in gaol. I think it is a significant principle that one should not end up in gaol for an offence that, at the time of its commission or in relation to its commission, a court or a parliament felt that a fine was the appropriate penalty.
Having said that, of course, there are a lot of people that quite deliberately abuse the fact that the collection of fines is, at times, an administratively difficult and expensive task. As the Minister indicated in his presentation speech, the ACT has a significant backlog of unpaid fines. I note the auditor's comments on that. There is a significant equity issue involved here, in that the majority of citizens do pay their fines and pay them on time and the community has, to some extent, been taxed in its efforts to actually gain those moneys from recalcitrant defaulters.
In accepting this legislation in principle, there are, as with every legal issue, significant philosophical issues in relation to on-the-spot fines and the collection of fines. This is not the appropriate time to debate them, and I will not - other than to mention that there are some issues that might, at some stage, be appropriate for review by a committee of the Assembly, perhaps, in relation to some of the philosophies underpinning on-the-spot fines. I concede that on-the-spot fines are, at times, very convenient and perhaps appropriate; but there are some significant issues regarding the extent to which on-the-spot fines are being used as an ever-increasing means of law enforcement and social control.