Page 860 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 20 March 2012

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Motion agreed to.

Road Transport (General) Amendment Bill 2011

Debate resumed from 8 December 2011, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Molonglo) (11.00): Mr Speaker, Mrs Dunne adjourned the debate but I shall be speaking to this on behalf of the opposition. The primary purpose of this bill is to empower police officers to request people to remove head coverings that partially or wholly obstruct their face. This is an important power as it is necessary for police officers to be able to establish a person’s identity to allow functions under road transport legislation and also allow for the operation of alcohol and drug testing.

I have noted from the explanatory statement that this bill does not prohibit the wearing of head coverings nor is this bill aimed at those who wear head coverings for religious or cultural purposes. Whilst I acknowledge that this bill does cover head coverings for these purposes, the police have stated that they have not had any issues when dealing with community members who choose to wear items that identify them as belonging to a particular religious or cultural group.

However, this bill does address the issue of people who refuse to remove items obscuring their identity for reasons not related to religion or culture. Currently if a person refuses to remove a head covering, a police officer must let the traffic matter go or arrest the person, and this is not an adequate response to this problem.

It is important to note that whilst cultural and religious rights must be respected, we feel that this bill places a reasonable limitation on these rights. It is important that police can carry out their road safety functions in an efficient and effective manner. This bill is adequately drafted to provide not only acknowledgement of cultural or religious rights but also an acknowledgement of medical conditions.

This bill also provides technical amendments that bring the concept of first offender and repeat offender under division 4.2 of the Road Transport Act 1999 into line with the amendments the Assembly passed last year in relation to the Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977. The amendment definition of these two concepts seeks to explicitly displace the common law principles of statutory interpretation that applies. Whilst this is a small amendment, the significant consistency across road transport laws is important.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge that the provisions under this act will allow police officers to more easily carry out random roadside drug tests by asking people to remove head coverings for identification to conduct tests. The Canberra Liberals welcome provisions to aid the conduct of these tests and further remove motorists driving under the influence of illegal drugs. The Canberra Liberals will be supporting this legislation.

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