Page 4025 - Week 09 - Thursday, 26 August 2010

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MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Land and Property Services, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (11.29): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This bill clarifies provisions in the Road Transport (General) Act for giving notice to people who have not paid certain infringement notice penalties or court fines that their driver licence, vehicle registration or right to drive will be suspended, if payment is not forthcoming. Licence and registration sanctions are an extremely effective tool for enforcing payment of infringement notices, penalties and fines, and they are used in all Australian jurisdictions. These sanctions have worked successfully in the ACT since they were first produced in the late 1990s, with the ACT having one of the best payment rates for vehicle-related infringement notice penalties in Australasia.

Recent experience in prosecuting drive-while-disqualified offences has highlighted certain technical issues with the existing legislation, particularly in relation to when a suspension takes effect and the contents of suspension notices. In particular, one aspect of the decision by the Chief Magistrate in Davies v Jilbert, that a suspension takes effect when a notice is served on the person, creates significant practical difficulties for the Road Transport Authority.

While the authority has already addressed the particular ground of the court’s decision that led to the failure of the prosecution case against the defendant, through administrative changes to the contents of suspension notices, the finding by the court that a suspension does not take effect until the notice is served has serious practical implications for effective maintenance of the driver licence register and the vehicle registration registers. To put it simply, the Road Transport Authority simply does not have the resources to manually track and record the date of service of the many thousands of suspension notices sent to clients under section 44 or section 85 of the act every year.

To overcome the problem, the bill amends sections 44 and 84, to make it clear that a suspension takes effect by operation of law on the date specified in the suspension notice, if payment is not received by that date. That date cannot be earlier than 10 days after the notice is sent to the person.

This means the person will be notified of the suspension date beforehand and given a further opportunity to avoid the sanction by paying the outstanding amount. The person will be sent a confirmation notice after the suspension occurs, confirming the type of action that has been taken and the date of effect.

The reason for sending a notice to confirm the type of action is that there will be a period of at least 10 days between sending of the suspension notice and the date of effect of the suspension, during which time the rights held by the person may change. For example, the person may cease to hold an ACT driver licence, because he or she moves interstate or is disqualified from driving by a court, or a relevant vehicle may be sold or written off.

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