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Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2010 (“Hoons”)

Extract from Hansard: Thursday, 18 March 2010

MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [11.58 am]: The Greens are supporting this legislation because it is better than nothing. The government’s amendments are piecemeal and reactive. They are certainly a much needed fix-up. However, they do not go far enough. That is why I was very happy to support the amendments moved by the opposition last night. I congratulate the member for Girrawheen for her amendments, because they seek to protect innocent third parties. It is very disappointing that the Minister for Police is not willing to take those amendments on board

I want to mention also the member for Mindarie’s concerns about the injustice that this legislation may cause for not only sole parents but parents in general. I did not make this point in the second reading debate, but my mother was a sole parent, and she was in the situation in which my teenage brother would occasionally take her car for a drive. She could not control that. She was working to support two children on her own. If that vehicle had been impounded, she would have lost her job and been in really big trouble.

Mr R.F. Johnson: She would have got it back under the hardship provisions, I can assure you.

Ms A.S. CARLES: I do not know whether they would have gone far enough. In the situation reported in “Inside Cover”, the woman did not qualify under the hardship provisions.

Mr R.F. Johnson: “Inside Cover”?

Ms A.S. CARLES: On 8 March, 2010. I ask the minister to read that article because it is a very similar situation to the one that I am describing, and that woman did not qualify under the hardship provisions. Clearly, the hardship provisions need to be widened so that the law captures those parents who are trying to raise their children but who cannot necessarily control them at every moment of the day and night.

Mr R.F. Johnson: As I understand it, if that was the situation that the member for Forrestfield was talking about last night, that vehicle was impounded because the son was driving the vehicle while he did not have a licence because of a court order. I have not touched that legislation. That is their legislation, not mine.

Ms A.S. CARLES: The point is that it was the mother’s vehicle. The legislation must target him and not her vehicle. That is the whole issue with the hoon legislation.

I foreshadow that the Greens (WA) will move amendments in the upper house to address the issue that the member for Mindarie has talked about today, the cost impost on third parties and the suggestion that the Supreme Court is where third parties have to go for ultimate justice.

Mr R.F. Johnson interjected.

Ms A.S. CARLES: That is what the Attorney General has confirmed. The Greens have looked at the impoundment of vehicles in New Zealand, where the appeal system is much fairer. People there appeal firstly to the police and then to the District Court. We believe that there are good grounds for arguing that road traffic matters should be appealed in the State Administrative Tribunal, and we will move an amendment to that effect. SAT already hears road traffic appeal matters when a vehicle licence or a transfer of vehicle licence is refused.
There is a precedent to appeal to SAT. I am talking about SAT because it is quick and low cost. That is the type of appeal process that we need to resolve an issue when an innocent third party has no other option because the police have said no to them. I hope that when our amendments are put before him, the minister will listen with an open heart and mind to our suggestions to fix the legislation in a genuine way.

Mr R.F. Johnson: Before you sit down, I have already given a commitment to the shadow minister—the real shadow minister, the member for Girrawheen, not the member for Mindarie, the joke of a shadow minister—that I am seriously considering parts of the amendments that the opposition put forward. I did not want to make amendments on the run. We have seen that happen before and mistakes have been made. I have given the member for Girrawheen a commitment that I will look more closely at the opposition’s amendments between now and when the legislation reaches the upper house. I will almost certainly recommend to my colleagues in the upper house that they move an amendment, but not one that is identical to the member for Girrawheen’s amendment. I have seen some flaws in the opposition’s amendments, which is why I was not prepared to accept them last night. What comes out of the upper house will benefit the sort of people that the member for Girrawheen talked about—small business people, taxi owners and that sort of thing. I am prepared to look at that. I can assure the member for Fremantle that the opposition’s amendments would not have covered all the areas that the government would like to cover.

Ms A.S. CARLES: Is the minister referring to the manifest injustice catch-all amendment, because that was the crux of the amendments?

Mr R.F. Johnson: No, I am not talking about that. That is too airy-fairy. Under the act, the Commissioner of Police must personally consider the applications. If he is to carry out his functions under the act properly, he must do that. I do not want him spending every day of the week looking at the cases that have come to him, because that is not necessary. He would be flooded with applications under that amendment.

Ms A.S. CARLES: I received some interesting statistics from the minister’s department during the briefing, and I do not believe that the Commissioner of Police would be flooded with applications. Since the impoundment provisions were enacted, only six applications for hardship for hoon offences were made, and that included the applications for the Lamborghini, the Mini Cooper and the motor journalist’s vehicle. There have been only six applications. I do not believe that the commissioner would be flooded with applications to release vehicles.

Mr R.F. Johnson: I can assure you that in the figures I got recently there were 300-odd applications for release on the grounds of hardship.

Ms A.S. CARLES: They were for driver’s licence offences. There were 387 applications for driver’s licence offences and six for hoon offences, which is what we are talking about now. The minister’s argument that the commissioner will be flooded with paperwork is not supported by the evidence from his own department.

Mr R.F. Johnson: The argument that was put forward last night by the member for Forrestfield was for driver’s licence offences, not hoon offences. I am trying to fix the whole lot up.

Ms A.S. CARLES: I encourage the minister to fix this legislation, so that we can protect a parent whose child has taken her vehicle and had it impounded, because it will be very embarrassing if it has to come before Parliament again and we waste another couple of days.

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