ROAD TRANSPORT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (OFFENDER NOMINATION) BILL 2012
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mr CHRIS HOLSTEIN
(Gosford) [7.30 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012. The bill is designed to amend road transport and fine enforcement legislation and it contains other measures directed at corporations that do not act as good corporate citizens and that attempt to shield some drivers from the allocation of demerit points and possible licence suspension. At present the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 provides that when a camera offence is committed the responsible person for the vehicle is deemed to have committed the offence. This provision is necessary as the actual offender is not spoken to or identified at the time these camera offences are committed.
Initially the penalty notice or court attendance notice is sent to the registered operator. If the registered operator was not the driver the law requires the registered operator to nominate the person who was and that person will be sent the penalty notice. If no-one is nominated or if somebody is falsely nominated that in itself is a further offence. Where the registered operator is a real person as opposed to a company and that operator does not nominate another driver it is generally no problem to assign responsibility for the offence, including any demerit points, to that registered operator. However, where the registered operator is a company responsibility for the offence cannot be assigned to a person unless the company nominates a driver. That unfortunately gives the company scope to shield offenders to avoid the allocation of demerit points and future loss of licence.
Currently a company that fails to nominate an offender or falsely nominates an offender can be fined a maximum of $11,000 or incur 100 penalty units. The period in which a person may be prosecuted for falsely nominating a driver was increased from six to 12 months and drivers were allowed to be nominated other than by statutory declaration. The proposals in the bill enhance those measures. The bill amends section l79 to provide that a person who nominates another person in a nomination document, if directed, is to appear before an authorised person or prosecutor for interview to provide more information that may lead to the identification of the driver.
Notwithstanding the above, it is expected that companies will maintain a log of their vehicles' use and will maintain the full identity and address details of their drivers and their licence information which represents the person's authority and legitimacy to drive company vehicles. The bill proposes to reduce the time in which a penalty notice is deemed to be served, when served by post, from 21 days to seven days. To establish time frames for action by the responsible person the legislation contains provisions that presume delivery to have occurred. Evidence has shown that the 21-day period can assist unscrupulous persons to defeat prosecution of the real offender because the statutory time limit expires.
New technologies have enabled cameras to be used to detect multiple driving offences from a single camera incident. For example, a camera at an intersection with traffic lights is capable of detecting in the one camera image evidence of the driver committing a traffic light offence, crashing, speeding, committing a driving an unregistered vehicle offence or committing a driving an uninsured vehicle offence. Currently the operator is allowed to provide only one statutory declaration for a single offence, rendering it impractical for dealing with multiple offences within the single image. The operator would have to provide a statutory declaration for the same offending driver for each of the four offences used in the example. As well as being onerous on the responsible operator, it can also present the illogical scenario of a different person being nominated for each of the offences in the single camera image. It can also expose the registered operator to prosecution for failing to nominate where only one statutory declaration is received for multiple offences.
This bill cleans up all those problems by expanding the current provisions to enable a single statutory declaration to be provided for all offences detected in a single camera incident. Where the registered operator is a company, some companies have adopted the practice of simply paying the fine for the camera offence and not nominating the offender. In order to encourage companies to nominate drivers the bill increases the fine for camera-detected offences where the company elects to pay the fine by up to five times the current rate. For example, at current rates for the majority of camera-recorded offences the maximum court fine is 20 penalty units or $2,200. This will increase to 100 penalty units or $11,000. The prospect of these increased penalties will be a further deterrent to those remaining companies or corporations that have been prepared to incur the current fine levels rather than nominate offending drivers.
It is also proposed that the same fivefold increase will be applied to corporations for penalty notice fines for offences that are not prosecuted through the courts. Members will be aware that the vast majority of offences are dealt with in this way. For example, an individual would be fined $371 for a camera-recorded offence of driving at 20 kilometres an hour over the speed limit in a light vehicle. The new penalty notice to a corporation for the same offence will be increased to $1,855 or five times the individual fine. These increased monetary penalties for corporations introduce a substantial incentive for them to nominate the offending driver. Of course, if they behave properly and nominate the offending individual driver, as a corporation they do not have to pay the increased fines and the individual nominated attracts only the individual fine that is five times lower than that for the corporation.
The message is simple and clear: corporations that do not nominate drivers will incur a substantial cost but any corporation and individual doing the right thing will have nothing to fear from this bill. The bill also takes the opportunity to correct some oversights in previous reforms, such as the distinction between the offence of aggravated burnout, section 41 (2), and burnout, section 41 (1), of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999, where the intention was that police could seize vehicles for the serious offence of aggravated burnout only. Another oversight to be cleared up in this bill relates to drink- and drug-driving offences. The intention in 2009 by those opposite was to amend the legislation so that a novice driver who was disqualified or whose licence had expired would be subject to a blood alcohol level of zero. Unfortunately, due to an oversight, that did not happen. This bill corrects that oversight. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI
(Drummoyne) [7.38 p.m.]: I commend the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012. Do the crime, do the time, pay the fine. That is not a phrase that would apply to the current legislation for committing traffic offences caught on camera. These offences range from speeding, to driving an unregistered or uninsured vehicle. It is so easy to avoid being named and shamed under the current provisions. There is a desperate need to reverse that situation. It is important to note that this legislation has been drawn up in conjunction with Roads and Maritime Services and the State Debt Recovery Office. The Department of Attorney General and Justice and the Ministry for Police and Emergency Services also played a key role in the development of this bill. Section 179 of the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 needs changing and that will happen through the proposals in this bill.
There is no deterrent to bad driving behaviour in continuing to fine offending companies. Individuals break the law and individuals must be punished. This is fair and ensures that repeat offenders are made accountable for driving misdemeanours. Safety on the roads must be of prime importance if we are serious about reducing the road toll. We cannot claim to be serious about either of these objectives while it is still within the parameters of the law for offenders, no matter how many times they are caught, to continue to drive a vehicle and be in possession of a perfect driving record. That is ludicrous and does not offer any incentive to improve driver behaviour. It offers no deterrent to repeat offending and it guarantees that drivers who are a menace on the road go undetected. That is unacceptable and it is why this bill has been introduced. Under current provisions the camera only picks up a licence plate. That is where the problem lies. It is possible that the licence plate is owned by a company and the company is able to simply pay the fine without disclosing the identity of the driver committing the offence.
Mr Ryan Park:
The Sidoti Corporation, for instance. That is just an example.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI:
Shame on you.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Melanie Gibbons):
Order! I call the member for Keira to order.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI:
The new provisions will also allow for prosecution for any number of offences detected by a camera instead of the previous single offence. To encourage companies to nominate the offenders this legislation will increase the monetary penalties applying to a camera-detected offence when that offence remains in the name of the company. This is an extremely important piece of legislation because its basic aim is to reduce road fatalities across this great State. It is sad fact that for every law there is bound to be a loophole. In this case corporations could get around the law by protecting their drivers—and some of them may have been driving in a dangerous manner—from accumulating demerit points by nominating another party. The principal aim of this bill is to shut down that loophole. The frightening part of this loophole is that dangerous drivers could continue to threaten public safety by endangering other drivers and/or pedestrians. A large proportion of company vehicles on the roads are trucks and we are only too well aware of the number of serious or fatal road accidents involving trucks.
Current laws prescribe that where the registered owner of a vehicle is a company that company can nominate whomever it likes as being the person responsible for the offence. It is not so easy in the case of privately registered vehicles. Measures involving heftier fines have already been introduced as a way of deterring companies from failure to nominate the correct offending driver. Those measures include an $11,000 fine and extending the time in which a person may be prosecuted for falsely nominating a driver from 6 to 12 months. Measures have also included providing alternative means for a person to nominate the offending driver other than by statutory declaration.
Despite these measures there are still companies prepared to shield drivers even though they may risk prosecution. I wholeheartedly support the provisions in this bill because they address the anomalies of the previous legislation in practical and efficient ways. This bill makes it much more difficult for companies that operate a fleet of vehicles to hide the true identity of offending drivers caught on camera. Amendments in this bill applying to section 179 give powers to the existing law to demand that the person who nominates the offending driver as the person responsible for the infringement must provide a statement in writing to establish the identity of the driver.
A penalty notice for a camera offence will be sent in the first instance to the registered operator. This can also be a company. Currently a single maximum court fine exists irrespective of whether the offender is an individual or a corporation. The maximum court fine is 20 penalty units or $2,200, as the previous speaker said. Drivers of heavy vehicles caught speeding at more than 45 kilometres an hour over the limit face a fine of up to 30 penalty units or $3,300. This bill proposes that in cases of heavy vehicle speeding if the company decides to cop responsibility for the offence that company may face maximum court fines of 150 penalty units or $16,500. These increased penalties are aimed at deterring corporations from shielding employees from facing the music on their own. It is envisaged that in the future they will be more likely to nominate the offending driver.
We are all aware of the high number of fatalities involving speeding trucks. A number of media reports have shown that the practice of speed limiter tampering is alive and well. But that is a matter for another debate on another day. This Government has also introduced legislation entitled the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012, the aim of which is to severely penalise speeding drivers. It will give police the authority to confiscate licence plates as an alternative to impounding a vehicle. Speeding is by far the biggest killer on the roads. This Government is committed to introducing legislation that will reverse that trend. In New South Wales speeding is a factor in over 40 per cent of road deaths.
Nearly 200 people die each year in speed-related crashes. Speed was a factor in the deaths of 886 people over the five years between 2005 and 2009. In addition to those killed, over 4,200 people are injured in speed-related crashes each year. The lives of those people and their families are changed forever. In addition to the human tragedy, other factors are at play. Speed-related crashes cost the community about $1.7 billion each year. Those costs include emergency services, hospital and health care costs and loss of productivity in the workplace. Through this bill the Government has displayed its ongoing commitment not only to increase penalties for driving offences but also to reduce the road toll. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr KEVIN ANDERSON
(Tamworth) [7.47 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012. This evening we have heard some excellent debate on why this bill is timely. The purpose of the bill is to improve the operation of provisions relating to fine enforcement. It would be good if we did not have to go down this path because everybody abided by the law and did not speed. It would be good if people drove responsibly, thought about those in their vehicles and in oncoming vehicles, played by the rules and did not speed. This bill is also timely because Easter is coming up. Families heading off on holidays will load the car up with kids, cargo and bags and away they will go. The Government sincerely asks them to ensure that they watch their speed and not do anything reckless, foolish or dangerous. The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012 targets companies that do not operate under best practice by closing the loopholes that those companies have been using.
The bill will amend the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to introduce the requirement that the person who has completed a relevant document nominating the offending driver—directed by the authorised officer in the case of a penalty notice or the informant in the case of a court attendance notice—is to attend before an authorised officer or prosecutor and provide such additional information that it is in the person's power to give and which may lead to the identification of the driver. A maximum penalty of 20 penalty units will apply to non-compliance with that direction. The type of information that may be requested includes a drivers licence number and State of issue, date of birth, work address, and phone number or email address. For the life of me, I cannot understand why a company would not want to give up someone who has broken the law.
A person who is operating a company would want to implement best practice, ensure compliance with occupational health and safety and ensure that there is openness, honesty and transparency in the way that the business is being transacted. That includes drivers who may be driving a company's fleet of vehicles, such as taxis, trucks, B-doubles, pantechnicons, et cetera. For companies that like to try to find their way round laws by discovering loopholes, what a wicked web they weave when they practice to deceive. The bill will show them that they are doing the wrong thing and will get them back on track to make our roads safe again. Moreover, it will reduce the company's operational bottom line. It is tough enough to make a living in small business without having to fork out thousands and thousands of dollars in fines.
Some of the fines will increase to $16,500, which is a hefty penalty. If a company has a number of those fines adding up management will have to start to think seriously about the person who is behind the wheel of a company vehicle. The bill also will introduce efficiencies in the penalty notice life cycle by aligning the deemed service period of a penalty notice, which is currently 21 days, to the period applying to a penalty reminder notice, which currently is seven days. The bill also will improve administrative efficiencies and relieve the person who is responsible for a vehicle, and who is nominating an offender, from the burden of having to provide multiple declarations when multiple offences are detected in one camera image. One nomination document will be acceptable for all offences in a single image.
The sad part about that is that multiple offences will be committed.. Again the issue comes back to responsible driving. The person who is driving a vehicle is at the wheel of a lethal weapon, and there is no doubt about that. When that person is speeding, pushing their luck, running a little behind time, and the green light turns to amber they start to think, "I think I can, I think I can." They are being blinded by a desire to get across the intersection but they do not know what is coming along the cross street. They put themselves at risk and put the company at risk of receiving heavy fines. Moreover, they are putting people's lives at risk. So often we see the tragic accidents that occur at intersections because of a speeding driver. An opportunity is being taken by introduction of this bill to rectify an oversight that incorrectly empowers police to seize vehicles for burnout offences.
The bill also amends the Fines Act 1996 to mirror amendments to the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 relating to the type of information that is to be provided in a nomination document, and for the provision of a single nomination document for multiple offences that are detected in a single camera image. The bill will amend the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 to correct an oversight that will confirm that novice drivers whose licences have expired can be arrested and charged with special range proscribed concentration of alcohol [PCA] offences in the same way that licensed novice drivers can be arrested and charged. How sad is it that we have to make sure that such a provision is included in the bill to specify that novice drivers whose licences have expired or have been cancelled can be arrested and charged with special proscribed concentration of alcohol offences.
For a start, a novice driver should not be behind the wheel if their licence has expired, or their licence has been taken from them for some reason, and should not be charged with a proscribed concentration of alcohol offence at the same time. There are double whammy penalties for doing absolutely crazy stuff. People need to be reminded that they are putting themselves at risk by being foolish, reckless and dangerous enough to drive a car with any blood alcohol concentration whatsoever. Alcohol affects people in different ways, depending on their metabolism, their height and their weight, so I encourage novice drivers to abstain completely from drinking alcohol. To do otherwise is just crazy stuff.
The bill also includes amendments to regulations to provide that the penalty notice fine for a camera-recorded offence that is in the name of a corporation is five times the amount of a fine that applies to an individual. A consequential amendment to the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 provides that the maximum court fine will be five times higher than the fine that applies to an individual. The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012 is intended to capture companies that are doing the wrong thing, companies that do not want to operate in accordance with best practice, and companies that are looking for loopholes to avoid their drivers having demerit points imposed. Companies are trying to take the rap to protect their drivers, and that has to change. There is a new team in town that will make sure that companies get it right, ensure that they apply common sense, and ensure that there is honesty, transparency and decency in doing the right thing when driving one's own vehicle or a company vehicle.
Think about it: Just because it is a company vehicle, it should not be treated as though it is just a hire car. It is a lethal weapon. First, if these reforms will slow drivers down and keep our roads safe, that is a tick—fantastic stuff. Secondly, if these new laws remind companies that when they do the wrong thing they will no longer be protected and will suffer fines up to $16,500—at the end of the day, when they are trying to make a quid it makes a triply tough to get ahead in a tough market—the penalties will have the desired deterrent effect. The advice for companies is that they should do the right thing, advise their drivers to slow down, and inform their drivers that they will not tolerate speeding drivers. Companies should apply zero speeding tolerance and ensure that they nominate offending drivers. It is a matter of doing the right thing out of a spirit of common decency. Closing the loopholes will ensure that road fatalities decrease. I commend the bill to the House.
Mrs LESLIE WILLIAMS
(Port Macquarie) [7.57 p.m.]: I am pleased to contribute to debate on and support the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to increase the maximum penalty that a corporation will be liable to pay for a certain kind of camera-recorded traffic offence under section 179 of the Act when the corporation is liable for the offence because of a failure to nominate the actual offender. Section 179 of the Act provides that the responsible person for a vehicle is deemed to have committed a camera-detected offence in the absence of the responsible person nominating another person as the driver. That is because the actual offender is not spoken to or identified at the time the camera offences are committed.
The bill aims to encourage companies to nominate the offending driver by increasing the maximum court fines to $11,000 and extending the period of time in which a person may be prosecuted for falsely nominating a driver from six months to 12 months. While there previously have been changes to the Road Transport (General) Act, instances still exist of companies having failed to nominate the offending driver to protect them and have opted to simply absorb the increased fines. This ploy to shield offending drivers is unacceptable. The ongoing flouting of the law by companies clearly demonstrates why this amending bill is both appropriate and justified.
Therefore, this bill will introduce penalty notice fines and maximum court-imposed fines for companies that are five times higher than those applied to an individual person who has been detected breaking the law by way of a camera that has detected speeding, running a red light or a public vehicle lane offence. However, if the company does the right thing and nominates the offending driver then the person nominated as committing the offence will be fined as an individual person would be by way of a penalty notice. The amendments as specified in new section 179, subsections (10B) to (10D), will also enable an authorised officer or prosecutor to obtain additional information with regard to the identity of the nominee. In addition, the Minister has made some other minor changes to the legislation.
First, schedule 2.3, which amends the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999, will ensure that novice drivers in addition to learner and provisional licence holders are subject to lower blood alcohol provisions regardless of the status of their licence. Each of these amendments will ensure a more efficient system with regard to nominated drivers and, importantly, will make sure that those drivers who have committed offences are punished for their actions rather than companies absorbing the fines to save the drivers from allocation of demerit points. My colleague the member for Clarence said in debate on the bill that the most important priority on our roads is safety for all road users—the mums and dads, the young drivers and our truck drivers who play such an important role in transporting goods, particularly along the Pacific Highway.
As someone who uses the Pacific Highway regularly and who has had to share the road with heavy vehicles, often at night and in wet conditions, I cannot stress enough how important it is that we do everything possible to encourage all drivers to do the right thing. I have a daughter who lives on the Gold Coast. I cannot describe the anxiety I feel—just like, I am sure, thousands of other parents—when she travels the Pacific Highway, particularly at this time of year heading home for Easter. While it is wonderful to see your children and to have them with you, even for a few short days, it is such a relief to get their phone call to say they have arrived home on the Gold Coast or back to Newcastle, where many young people from Port Macquarie live to attend university. I know that thousands of parents would feel similar relief when they know their children are home safely after driving on the Pacific Highway.
Far too often we hear of heavy vehicles being involved in fatal crashes, particularly on the Pacific Highway. Despite the fact that they make up only 3 per cent of vehicle registrations and 5 per cent of crashes, they are involved in almost 20 per cent of road fatalities. These are frightening statistics, so anything we can do to make the Pacific Highway and all our roads safer is a good thing. I reiterate that the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals are committed to the upgrade of what is considered to be a notorious stretch of road, particularly the area that is left to upgrade to dual carriageway. That stretch of highway is between Port Macquarie and the border. We have demonstrated our commitment to this project by committing an additional $468 million towards the upgrade.
Recently I toured parts of the Pacific Highway. I joined both the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, and the Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon Duncan Gay, and we witnessed yet again our Government's commitment to making this busy highway as safe as possible. On this visit the Premier announced a new point-to-point camera for heavy vehicles travelling between Urunga and Valla. Urunga was the site of a fatal crash not so long ago. This is in addition to a recently announced point-to-point camera on the highway between Kempsey and Port Macquarie. That means there will now be 16 point-to-point enforcement links across the State, with 13 issuing fines and three issuing warning letters to speeding heavy vehicle drivers. Six more are planned. However, improved road conditions and upgraded safety measures need to be complemented with legislation that ensures that all road users comply with the law and that those who break the law are punished accordingly. This is what this legislation is about, and therefore I have no hesitation in commending it to the House.
Mr JOHN FLOWERS
(Rockdale) [8.04 p.m.]: I speak in support of the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012. I acknowledge the Minister for Roads and Ports in the other place and his commitment to ensuring not only that our roads are safe but that those who do the wrong thing are held accountable for their offences. The main purpose of the bill is to amend the road transport and fine enforcement legislation to provide for efficiencies in the process of the penalty notice life cycle. The bill also introduces measures directed at corporations who attempt to shield their drivers from penalties for breaking the road rules.
I begin by providing some relevant background information. The Road Transport (General) Act 2005 provides under section 179 that when a designated offence or parking offence is committed the responsible person for the vehicle is taken to have committed the offence. The responsible person can be a real person or a company. In the event that a person issued with a penalty notice or court attendance notice is not the driver, the law requires the person to nominate the person who was. The responsibility for the offence is transferred to the person nominated. This ensures the offender is held accountable for the offence and that the registered operator is protected.
When the registered operator is a company, responsibility for the offence cannot be assigned to a real person unless nominated by the company. This allows the company to shield the offender. A number of measures have been introduced in recent years to deter companies from failing to nominate the offender where he or she is known to the company. While these measures have been successful in encouraging increased compliance, there remains a number of companies that are prepared to shield drivers who commit offences. Measures that have previously been agreed to by this place include increasing the maximum court fine for a company that falsely nominates or fails to nominate an offender to 100 penalty points or $11,000, extending the period in which a person may be prosecuted for falsely nominating a driver from six to 12 months and allowing drivers to be nominated by means other than by way of statutory declaration.
The proposals in the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012 both complement and strengthen these existing measures. I also point out that it has been possible for companies to circumvent the Road Transport General Act 2005 by paying the fine for the camera offence but not nominating the offender who was driving at the time, thus avoiding further and additional penalties. The bill increases the monetary penalties applying to camera-detected offences where the offence remains in the company name with the intention of encouraging companies to nominate offending drivers. When the company does the right thing and nominates the offending person, a new penalty notice is sent to the nominated person and the company does not have to pay any of the fines.
It is expected that a company that allows its drivers to drive company vehicles would maintain accurate and precise details of their identity. Further, clause 90 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Regulation 1999 provides that the person responsible for, or in charge of, a vehicle, before permitting another to drive the vehicle, must cause the driver to produce their licence and the person responsible must inspect it. I refer now to the section 179 amendments, which provide for efficiencies in the process of the penalty notice life cycle. Under the current provisions, when nominating the offender a responsible person is required to give the name and address of the person.
However, the State Debt Recovery Office often does not have sufficient information to issue a new penalty notice or court attendance notice to the nominated person. Section 179 is amended to provide that a person who nominates another person as the offending driver in a relevant nomination document is to appear, if directed, before an authorised officer or prosecutor for the purposes of interview or to provide additional information that it is in the person's power to give that may lead to the driver's identification. If so required, a signed, written statement can be provided. A maximum penalty of 20 penalty units applies for not complying with the direction.
The bill seeks also to amend the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to introduce efficiencies in the penalty notice life cycle by aligning the deemed service period of a penalty notice, currently 21 days, to that applying to a penalty reminder notice, which is currently seven days. Further, the bill seeks to provide administrative efficiencies and relieve the responsible person for a vehicle who is nominating an offender from the burden of having to provide multiple statutory declarations when an offender has multiple offences detected in one camera image. For example, new technologies have enabled a single camera to now detect multiple offences in the one camera image, such as a speeding offence, an unregistered vehicle offence, an uninsured vehicle offence and a traffic light offence. Enabling a single statutory declaration assists the responsible operator who is trying to do the right thing.
The bill also rectifies oversights from previous reforms. Importantly, the Road Transport Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012 includes a definition of a "special category driver", which catches drivers with expired licences who had been avoiding being charged if caught with a blood alcohol limit up to 0.05. I am pleased to support the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012 as I believe the people of New South Wales and the residents in my electorate of Rockdale will welcome the changes it proposes. I commend the bill to the House.
Dr GEOFF LEE
(Parramatta) [8.14 p.m.]: I contribute to the debate on the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012.
Mr Mark Coure:
Mr Jai Rowell:
A great member.
Dr GEOFF LEE:
I acknowledge the member for Oatley and the member for Wollondilly for their support not only of me but also of the Liberal-Nationals Government in introducing legislation that makes our roads safer and easier to use. Our Government is all about looking after people and listening to them because their safety is paramount. I acknowledge the support and efforts of the Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon. Duncan Gay, in introducing the bill. Before proceeding, I acknowledge the Minister's visit to the Parramatta electorate last week. As we know, Parramatta is the capital of western Sydney, located at the eastern point of the region. The member for Riverstone agrees that Parramatta is the capital and most important part of the city. The Minister attended a morning tea with leading community members and the media to talk about people's concerns regarding our roads.
I noted from the Minister's discussions his vision and also the stresses and difficulties associated with the Roads and Ports portfolio, especially in light of the recent floods in the north and the west that have resulted in something like half a billion dollars of unexpected road maintenance. The long-range weather forecast suggests possibly worse conditions over the coming year, as more rain is expected for April and May. I join all members in this House in their thoughts and prayers for those on the land who are protecting not only their assets but, importantly, their families. Many farmers include their animals and livestock as part of their families. Minister Gay spoke to the people about road safety and what can be done in the Parramatta electorate and throughout the State to make our roads safer and more convenient not just for commercial users but also mothers and fathers who drop their kids at school each morning and those who perhaps go to the northern beaches on the weekend.
Mr Rob Stokes:
Dr GEOFF LEE:
The member for Pittwater is a fantastic advocate for the fantastic people of Pittwater. There is no better place to fish than Pittwater.
Mr Richard Amery:
Don't let us stop you talking about the bill.
Dr GEOFF LEE:
The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012 closes some loopholes in the law, which is particularly important. The member for Rockdale—
Mr Rob Stokes:
An excellent member.
Dr GEOFF LEE:
He is an excellent local member. He went into fine detail about some of the consequential amendments in the bill. The bill will amend the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to make further provision with respect to the nomination of offenders for certain camera-recorded and parking offences, and make consequential and other minor amendments to the Fines Act 1996 and the road transport legislation. As the member for Rockdale has covered the bill in fine detail, I shall talk only about its salient points and not concentrate on the consequential amendments. Schedule 1 to the bill contains amendments to the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 No. 11 and states:
 Section 179 Liability of responsible person for vehicle for designated offences
Insert after section 179 (1):
(1A) Maximum penalty payable by corporation that is taken to be guilty of certain camera recorded offences
If a corporation is taken to be guilty of a camera recorded offence (other than an unauthorised vehicle use offence) by the operation of subsection (1), the maximum monetary penalty that a court may impose on the corporation for the offence is taken to be 5 times the maximum monetary penalty for the offence for which the actual offender (as a natural person) would be liable.
The other salient point in the legislation states:
 Section 179 (10B)–(10D)
Insert after section 179 (10A):
(10B) Provision of further identity information an authorised officer or prosecutor to whom a relevant nomination document is supplied for the purpose of subsection (3) or (4) may, by written notice served on the nomination information provider, require the provider to do one or both of the following:
(a) provide such relevant identity information that is in the provider’s power to provide (including, if so required, by means of a written statement signed by the provider), as may be specified in the notice, within the period specified in the notice.
(b) appear before the authorised officer or prosecutor at a specified time and place and provide (either orally or in writing) such relevant identity information that is in the provider’s power to provide as may be specified in the notice.
In conclusion, the bill closes a loophole in the law. It increases fines by five for an individual when a company is nominated. This will address the problem of disreputable people in the business community who choose to hide behind their companies and not self-identify.
Mr Richard Amery:
We call them Liberals out my way.
Dr GEOFF LEE:
The aim is not to attract any more penalty points. I am disappointed in the member for Mount Druitt for making such trivial comments about an important piece of legislation. The Coalition Government is standing up for those people who do the right thing; the member for Mount Druitt makes snickering, snide remarks about good government.
Mr Richard Amery:
I feel ashamed of myself.
Dr GEOFF LEE:
I acknowledge the apology from the member for Mount Druitt. In my experience the University of Western Sydney had a strict policy of nominating who would be driving at any particular time, and this had to be endorsed by a signature.
Mr Jai Rowell:
A great university.
Dr GEOFF LEE:
I acknowledge the interjection by the member for Wollondilly. It is a great university. This bill is not aimed at good companies that do the right thing or at organisations such as the University of Western Sydney; it is aimed at those individuals who use their companies so as not to incur fines or penalties. I commend the Minister for Roads and Ports, and I commend the bill to the House.
Mr MARK COURE
(Oatley) [8.23 p.m.]: I also acknowledge the Minister for Roads and Ports in the other place. The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Offender Nomination) Bill 2012 seeks to make our streets, roads, freeways and highways safer. I acknowledge speakers on both sides of the House who have contributed to the debate. By way of background, section 179 of the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 provides that the responsible person for a vehicle is deemed to have committed a camera-detected offence in the absence of a responsible person nominating another person as being the driver. This is because the actual offender is not spoken to or identified at the time when these camera offences are committed. Penalties are applied to the responsible person for failing to nominate the driver or for falsely nominating a driver. A responsible person can be either a corporation or a natural person.
When an offending driver is not correctly identified demerit points cannot be applied and a drivers licence cannot be suspended. A number of amendments have been made to section 179 of the Act in the past few years in an effort to combat this sometimes deliberate ploy to shield drivers. The changes have included increased fines for failure to nominate offences and to register suspension action against companies that fail to nominate on two or more occasions, as members representing the electorates of Parramatta, Rockdale and Port Macquarie have said. Despite these changes, some registered operators, particularly companies, are prepared to absorb the increased fines to protect the offending driver, as occurred in the case last year documented by the Sydney Morning Herald
and mentioned by the member for Parramatta.
The bill before the House proposes to make further amendments to the Act to strengthen provisions for companies who fail to nominate offenders and to provide for administrative efficiencies in the processing of penalty notices and subsequent nominations. That is a key point in the legislation. This was a major issue in 2011, as documented in the Sydney Morning Herald
. The significant change is the introduction of penalty notice fines and maximum court-imposed fines for companies that are five times higher than those that apply to an individual person where a camera-detected speeding, red light or public vehicle lane offence is committed. It is extremely important. There will be a point when companies will pay their fines on time and many more companies will abide by the legislation. If a company does the right thing and nominates the offender, the increased penalty will not apply as a penalty notice and the lesser amount will be sent to the person nominated.
The amendments that introduce administrative efficiencies will see a new provision introduced to allow an authorised officer to request additional information that is within the provider's power to give and will assist in identifying the nominated offender. The bill allows a single statutory declaration to be accepted where multiple offences are captured by a single camera. To reduce the processing time, a penalty notice is deemed to be served in seven days, reduced from 21 days. This will align with similar provisions that apply to penalty notice reminder letters. The bill also takes the opportunity to make some minor corrections to road transport legislation. These include removing the reference to a burnout offence as a relative offence for which vehicle sanctions can be imposed. It was only intended that aggravated offences be included. A further amendment will ensure that novice drivers continue to be subject to low blood alcohol provisions regardless of the stature of their licence.
That is background information and an outline of some of the amendments. The amendments to the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 introduce the requirement that the person who has completed a relevant nomination document that nominates an offending driver, if directed by the authorised officer in the case of a penalty notice and the informant in the case of a court attendance notice, is to attend and to provide such information that is within the person's power to give that may lead to identification of a driver. A maximum penalty of 20 penalty units will apply for noncompliance with a direction. This legislation of course is overdue. I believe it is supported by both sides of the House. It will stamp out the practice of many companies of stretching the law in this regard.
Dr Geoff Lee:
Mr MARK COURE:
I will not name them tonight. Stamping out that practice is the reason I speak on this bill. Owing to the short time available, I conclude by saying that the main purpose of the bill is to amend road transport and fine enforcement legislation to provide for efficiencies in the process of the penalty notice life cycle. Other measures in the bill are directed at corporations that do not do the right thing—a big issue last year—and attempt to shield their drivers from the allocation of demerit points and possible licence suspension. That is absolutely outrageous. I understand the bill is a joint proposal of Roads and Maritime Services and the State Debt Recovery Office in developing these measures. I support the bill.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Stuart Ayres and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lee Evans):
Order! It being before 9.30 p.m. the House will now proceed with the matter of public importance.