Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3402 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
It has been said that this will be in time for the Summernats. My experience with the Summernats, inside, is that with a few exceptions it is very well run. I have been there several times and I have watched it all. It is not the sort of thing I would like to do with my car every day, or with anybody else's car for that matter, but it is very well regulated. Again, I do not know that this Bill is necessary.
The final point I want to make is about the seizure by police of motor vehicles. That is absolutely unacceptable. No matter how troubled I was about the behaviour of young people, I would not support this proposition. If a vehicle is not suitable to be on the road, it can be defected. It can be stopped immediately if there is something wrong with it. There is nothing to stop the police from doing that now. For the police to take it into their possession smacks of a very sad move towards increased police powers which would be completely unacceptable to the community. It would not improve the relationship between police and young people. I have said this about the increase in police powers before. Things like move-on powers do not improve the relationships between police and young people, and these sorts of things will not do it either.
Where do we go from here? Once police have the power to impound vehicles on suspicion, that can go on to all sort of other property. I think this is over the top, to be frank. Yes, I think that would be the kindest thing I could say about it. I think forfeiture and impounding of vehicles is just way over the top. If people break the law they should be fined and brought to book the same as anybody else. There are offences which are punishable by other means, although there are fewer and fewer community service orders here in the Territory. People ought to be punished, but taking their possessions in the way proposed by this Bill is completely unacceptable. I think the Bill is badly drafted and badly thought through, and it will not fix the problem.
MS TUCKER (5.31): I sympathise with Mr Rugendyke's concerns about people doing burnouts or having races in their cars on public streets. However, I do have doubts that this Bill is the best way of dealing with this issue, for two reasons. Firstly, I think the principle of seizing a person's car if they are suspected of doing a burnout is very draconian and out of scale with the offence, and, secondly, I think the Bill has been poorly drafted and needs major amendments to make it effective.
Let me go through the major problems I see with this Act. There is already an offence under section 119 of the Motor Traffic Act for racing with another vehicle on a street which carries a $200 fine and three demerit points. Mr Rugendyke seeks to up this to a $1,000 fine and immediate seizure of the vehicle. If the offence is proven in court the person's licence may be cancelled for up to 12 months and the car impounded for three months. For a second offence the vehicle can be forfeited to the Territory.
The question that has to be asked is whether the punishment fits the crime. It is interesting to compare this punishment with drink-driving, where the fine for first offenders over 0.05 is only $500 and a loss of licence for six months. For over 0.08 it is $1,000 and 12 months' disqualification. Which offence is creating a greater public safety risk?