Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3335 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
The defaulter will know that the worst that might happen to them if they resist all other attempts to make them pay their fines is that they will have to do unpaid community work. The amendments, therefore, would be unlikely to reduce compliance with penalty notices and default notices, and that would reduce the effectiveness of the scheme overall. That will certainly incur further costs to the Territory in arranging and supervising the performance of community service orders. I would confidently predict, based on estimates by ACT Corrective Services, not on my own estimates, that for those who get through the earlier process, a large number of fines would remain outstanding because of the option of CSOs being present. Fines would not be paid, because CSOs would be an option for people to avoid the payment of those fines.
Of course, the Territory could be said to have gained some benefit from having community service performed, but the whole system is geared around encouraging people to pay their fines. If people see CSOs as an alternative to paying fines, we will find ourselves in the position of not having the fines paid, and the whole purpose of the scheme will be avoided. "Recalcitrant" is the word used in my notes - I think it is a good word - to describe people in this position. Let us not confuse them with people who are either too poor or too disorganised to pay their fine.
I will not speak any further. I simply ask the Assembly to bear in mind that this is not the way to proceed with legislation of this kind. There may be some alternative to imprisonment that could be devised. It is not present in this legislation, and I ask members not to support the legislation in those circumstances.
MR RUGENDYKE (11.32): Mr Speaker, I rise briefly to inform the Assembly that I feel unable to support these amendments. I am sure that Mr Stanhope will understand, given my background. This is a difficult matter. People would soon cotton on to the fact that if they failed to pay a fine imposed by the court and they hung on for long enough they might end up just doing a bit of gardening and getting away with it. Whilst I understand the awful conditions that people are subjected to in prisons, I believe that it is necessary to have the threat of imprisonment at the end of the line for people Mr Humphries described as recalcitrant to ensure that outstanding fines are paid, fines that obviously contribute greatly to the Territory coffers.
Mr Speaker, I had hoped that I would be able to support the Children's Services (Amendment) Bill. My concern for children is well known. But I am reminded that most children facing fines are drivers of motor vehicles who often come before the courts on serious drink-driving matters.
Mr Humphries: Not necessarily licensed, but certainly drivers of motor vehicles.
MR RUGENDYKE: Unlicensed drivers and drivers of unregistered motor vehicles. I do believe that the threat of imprisonment does need to be there. Community service orders appear to be far too soft an option. The penalty for not paying a fine could be the odd bit of gardening or graffiti removal rather than imprisonment, the final sanction of the law. I am unable to support this legislation.