ROAD TRANSPORT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (CAR HOONS) BILL 2008
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [4.16 p.m.], on behalf of the Hon. Eric Roozendaal: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard
I am pleased to introduce the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Bill 2008. Some people treat our roads as race tracks. They do not seem to realise, or care, that illegal street racing, burnouts or any sort of hoon behaviour is irresponsible and dangerous. At best, their behaviour disturbs the amenity and peaceful enjoyment of our neighbourhoods. At worst, this selfishness ends in carnage and loss of life—not just their own lives but the lives of innocent motorists and pedestrians. While there are already tough measures in place to deal with hoon behaviour such as illegal street racing, the message does not seem to be getting through to those who view our roads as their personal playgrounds.
This bill introduces tough new penalties for street racing and aggravated burnouts—new penalties that suit the seriousness of the offences and the potential consequences. And, since the callous disregard that these hoon drivers have for other road users seems to be matched only by their love for their cars, this bill will hit them where it hurts. Their cars will be able to be clamped at their property and at their expense for up to three months. This will provide a daily reminder of the consequences of their actions, and it will show their neighbours exactly what they have been up to. And for those who persist in their hoon behaviour, this bill allows the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] to use those vehicles for crash testing and educational programs.
This bill primarily amends the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 and the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999, as well as some other Acts and regulations that are set out in Schedule 3 to the bill. The bill introduces tough new penalties and sanctions that can be brought against drivers convicted of street racing or aggravated burnout offences. A street race is any race between two vehicles on a road or road-related area or any speed trial for which permission has not been granted by the New South Wales Police Force. A street race can be pre-arranged or it can be spontaneous for example, two cars racing away from traffic lights. The bill increases the penalty for street racing to $3,300 for a first offence and to $3,300 or nine months imprisonment, or both, for a second or subsequent offence. This will provide a more effective deterrent to those hoons who persist in committing street racing offences, because a second offence now carries the threat of a jail term.
The bill substantially expands the criteria and increases the penalties for burnouts. A burnout is a sustained loss of wheel traction. It can be accidental, such as when a wheel loses traction on a wet or icy road, or it can be a deliberate attempt by a hoon driver to show off to their mates. This bill distinguishes between simple, possibly unintentional, burnouts and deliberate, thrill-seeking behaviour. The Government does not intend to throw the book at drivers who unintentionally do a burnout. However, even negligent burnouts are dangerous driving behaviour that can lead to an accident. That is why the bill provides for a doubling of the penalty to 10 penalty units—that is, $1,100—for burnouts. The Iemma Government is getting tough on those people who deliberately do long, noisy burnouts down public streets or as part of an illegal street race. These types of burnouts are described as "aggravated burnouts" in the bill.
Currently "aggravated burnouts" are defined as burnouts committed with the knowledge that an inflammable liquid was on the road. This is one type of aggravated burnout, but the definition falls too short and the offence does not capture the worst types of hoon behaviour. The bill provides that "aggravated burnouts" will now include behaviour such as repeated burnouts, long and loud burnouts that disturb community amenity, burnouts that endanger public safety and burnouts that are committed as part of a group activity. All these factors contribute to the severity of the burnout. As such, they should also contribute to the severity of the penalty. The bill increases the penalty for aggravated burnouts to $3,300 for a first offence and $3,300 and up to nine months imprisonment, or both, for a second or subsequent offence.
The bill also introduces tough new penalties for the mates of hoon drivers. Not only will hoon drivers be charged for their reckless behaviour, but also the groups of friends and associates that may gather to watch, or urge others on, or who take photographs or film to glamorise the activity. The bill introduces offences for willingly participating in a group activity involving burnouts; viewing, organising, promoting, or urging any person to participate in any group activity involving burnouts; and photographing or filming a motor vehicle doing burnouts for the purpose of using the photographs or film to promote or organise group activity involving burnouts. The penalties are the same for these people: $3,300 for a first offence and $3,300 or nine months imprisonment, or both, for a second or subsequent offence. This will ensure that all participants in aggravated burnout activities will be charged, not just those driving the vehicle at the time the offence is detected.
The bill will also permit police to immediately suspend the licences of people charged with street racing and aggravated burnout offences at the roadside. In addition, it provides for a 12-month licence disqualification for drivers convicted of an aggravated burnout offence. This is already the case for people convicted of a street racing offence. A number of factors contribute to, or enable, hoon behaviour. One factor is the behaviour of the driver. Hoon driving is inexcusable and dangerous, and this bill introduces tough new penalties to punish it. Another factor is the behaviour of the hoon driver's mates, and we have included this as an aggravating factor in burnouts. A similar offence already exists for street racing. There is a further factor: a vehicle owner who permits their vehicle to be used by a hoon driver.
The Government is aware that for a number of reasons the vehicles used by hoon drivers to commit offences may not necessarily be registered in their own name. Cars may be deliberately registered in someone else's name to avoid higher insurance premiums or to avoid the current confiscation penalties, whereby the owner can plead ignorance and hardship and almost always get to keep the car. That is why this bill distinguishes between drivers who use their own car to commit street racing and aggravated burnout offences and drivers who use someone else's car. In cases where a driver is found guilty of a street racing or aggravated burnout offence committed in their own vehicle, the vehicle can be impounded or clamped for three months for a first offence, and forfeited to the Crown for a second or subsequent offence. A vehicle that is forfeited may be sold or provided to the Roads and Traffic Authority to be used for crash testing.
The Road Transport (General) Act already allows vehicles used in connection with a street racing or burnout offence to be impounded for a first offence and forfeited for a second or subsequent offence. The changes included in the bill are that vehicles may be clamped and they may be used for crash testing. A further change is that the bill restricts the court's discretion to reduce, commute or dispense with a period of confiscation or forfeiture to cases of extreme hardship only. Penalties will not be reduced because of inconvenience. Difficulty in carrying out employment or in travelling to or from a place of employment, business or education will not be considered sufficient to constitute extreme hardship. In cases where a driver is found guilty of a street racing or aggravated burnout offence committed in someone else's vehicle, the bill provides for sanctions to be placed on the registered operator of that vehicle. This is to ensure that hoon drivers who register their vehicles in other people's names, or who share vehicles around amongst themselves, do not avoid confiscation penalties.
If a driver found guilty of a street-racing or aggravated burnout offence is not the registered operator of the vehicle, the Roads and Traffic Authority will issue the registered operator with a suspension warning notice. The warning notice puts the registered operator on notice that additional sanctions will apply if any vehicle owned by them is used in the commission of a further street-racing or aggravated burnout offence within five years of receiving the warning notice. No further action is proposed to be taken against the registered operator at this stage, provided that no further offence is committed in a vehicle owned by them. If, however, a vehicle owned by them is used in a second street-racing or aggravated burnout offence within five years of the suspension warning notice being issued, the Roads and Traffic Authority may suspend the vehicle's registration for up to three months.
There will be instances when the Roads and Traffic Authority will be unable to suspend the vehicle's registration—for example, if the vehicle's registration is already suspended or about to expire within 28 days, or if the vehicle is already unregistered. In those cases police may cause the vehicle to be clamped or impounded. If a vehicle belonging to that same registered owner is used in connection with a third offence within five years from the date a suspension warning notice is issued, the vehicle may be forfeited to the Crown. I make no apology for this tough stance. Car owners will not be penalised for the driving offence committed, but rather for failing to adequately supervise the use of their vehicle.
The Hon. DUNCAN GAY
Receipt of a suspension warning notice will not attract a registration sanction. However, it will advise the owner that if they do not keep better custody of their vehicle there will be further penalties. The bill does, however, include provisions to cover instances when a registered operator has taken all reasonable steps to prevent the use of their vehicle without consent or when the confiscation of the vehicle will cause extreme hardship. May I again emphasise, however, that inconvenience does not constitute extreme hardship. If people repeatedly permit their vehicles to be used in a manner that puts the lives of members of our community at risk, I send them this message: Be prepared to be inconvenienced. Vehicles will not be returned because of weak excuses, or because they suddenly have to find alternative means of carrying out their day-to-day life.
The bill also provides police with new powers to wheel-clamp vehicles. Vehicles used in the commission of a street-racing or aggravated burnout offence, and owned by the driver who committed that offence, may be clamped. Wheel clamping will be available as an alternative sanction to impounding. The advantage of clamping is that it will minimise the need for police to maintain holding yards for hoon vehicles. Vehicles may be clamped at the owner's home—often in full view of both them and their neighbours. This will serve as a daily reminder of their crime and act as a deterrent to both them and others.
The bill permits the New South Wales Police Force to appoint a clamping agent. It also allows for a vehicle to be clamped at a road or public place, any place used for the clamping of motor vehicles by a clamping agent, or the home address of the driver or registered operator. Clamping agents will be permitted to charge a fee for wheel clamping. This fee will be determined within regulations relating to the clamping of the vehicle. It will be the responsibility of the registered operator of the vehicle to pay all clamping fees. The bill also introduces a penalty of $2,200 for those who tamper with, damage or remove wheel clamps from a clamped vehicle. Clamping agents will be required to carry identification. They will face a penalty of $2,200 if they cease to be a clamping agent and do not return this identification. Police will retain the option of impounding rather than clamping a vehicle should it be necessary, for example, when there is no suitable place for the vehicle to be clamped on the owner's property. The Government intends to trial the wheel-clamping provisions in the bill for a 12-month period in one metropolitan location and one regional location.
The bill also recommends amendments to the current confiscation provisions to allow police to enforce them more effectively. Currently, police can seize a vehicle only if they can find and have access to it. This is not much use if the vehicle is deliberately hidden or disguised. The bill provides police with a power to demand, from either a driver or the registered operator, that a vehicle be produced for confiscation. Non-compliance with this production notice without reasonable excuse will be an offence with a maximum penalty of $2,200. The Roads and Traffic Authority will also be able to suspend the registration of that vehicle for up to three months. This is a two-faceted penalty: a fine for not complying with a police direction and a vehicle sanction for not producing the vehicle for confiscation.
The hoon activity of a few should not be allowed to disturb the peaceful enjoyment of many; nor should it be allowed to put other road users at risk of serious injury or death. This bill toughens the penalties for street racing and aggravated burnouts to provide more appropriate sanctions and a more effective deterrent. The bill targets the drivers, the vehicles used to commit the offences, the vehicle owners who let hoons use their vehicles, and the participants who actively encourage hoon behaviour. It sends a clear message to the community that hoon behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. I commend the bill to the House.
(Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [4.16 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Bill 2008—although I have to say that the Government could have come up with a better title than "car hoons". The bill relates specifically to street racing and including "car hoons" in the title trivialises an extremely serious matter. Sadly, car hoon driving and street racing have resulted in the deaths of several people in recent years.
Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes:
Duncan, it is the correct word according to the Macquarie Dictionary
The Hon. DUNCAN GAY:
But in the community's perception, it trivialises a very serious matter.
Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes:
It means a road or highway racer.
The Hon. DUNCAN GAY:
I thank Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes for the information, but I adhere to my view that the term trivialises a very serious situation. It is a tabloid media term for an abhorrent act and it is unacceptable. Street racing and other dangerous behaviour continue, despite police crackdowns and public condemnation. All too often motor vehicle accidents and deaths on our roads are linked to street racing. Repeatedly over the years the Opposition has called for the Government to get tough and address the problem. For example, in 2005, the former shadow police minister, Peter Debnam, called on the then Carr Government to get tough on hoons. His call followed an incident involving a crash subsequent to an apparent street race in an industrial estate in Strathfield.
The event that struck a chord with the community was the tragic death of an elderly couple in Western Sydney in July 2007—people who were loved and respected in their community. It is the one incident that is etched on the minds of many people. Many members no doubt remember the couple who lost their lives when two Commodores ploughed into their Toyota Camry. The Commodores were allegedly involved in a street race on the Great Western Highway. At the time of the incident the New South Wales Opposition renewed its calls for tougher laws to control roadway behaviour.
Giving weight to the Opposition's calls for tougher laws was another incident that occurred just two days after the death of the elderly couple to whom I have referred. Two young people with complete and utter disregard for other motorists raced across the Anzac Bridge, pulling in and out of traffic at speeds of more than 160 kilometres an hour. We also had the recent horrific incident in which a 29-year-old P-Plate driver was charged after she allegedly was caught drag racing at speeds of more than 100 kilometres an hour in a 60-kilometres-per-hour zone in her V8 Holden Commodore station wagon, with her two young children in the rear of the car.
As I said at the time of the incident in July 2007—I was the acting shadow minister in this area at the time—other States have much tougher laws to deal with this crime. Those engaging in this antisocial behaviour need to know that the ultimate deterrent is that they will end up in jail. We do not necessarily want to send these young people to jail, but we need to make it clear that there is tough legislation to make them think twice before they engage in this foolish and dangerous behaviour. This bill is about putting in place stronger deterrents which we hope will ultimately save lives and prevent incidents such as those I mentioned earlier reoccurring.
One concern raised by Opposition members in the Legislative Assembly, and echoed in this House, is that it is all well and good to bring in these new laws. The question we would like clarified now is how the Minister will enforce these laws when highway patrols are at a 25-year low. Frankly, there is no better way to slow down speeding drivers than to have a visible highway patrol presence on New South Wales roads. Nothing makes any of us think twice more than seeing a big burly cop sitting in a marked police car on our State roads, and frankly that is happening less and less in New South Wales. I call on the Minister to address the issue of police numbers in order to give this legislation teeth and to allow it to be properly enforced and, hopefully, save lives in the process.
The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO
[4.21 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Bill 2008. Although it nearly chokes me to say this, for once I agree with something the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. I am not a fan of incorporating slang in the title of legislation. The Macquarie Concise Dictionary
contains two definitions of "hoon":
a loutish, aggressive, or surly youth. 2.
a foolish or silly person, especially one who is a show-off.
The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary
describes a "hoon" as a "fool" or a "lout". Some of those who have been involved more recently in some of the serious street racing events that have resulted in death could not have been described as young people. Indeed, they were old enough to know better. Despite my concerns about the title of the bill, I support the content and aims of the bill because I believe that the Government has a responsibility to members of our community and motorists on our roads to do everything we can to deter, detect and punish reckless drivers.
Any form of inappropriate behaviour on our roads is dangerous. The New South Wales Police Force deserves credit for the work it does to protect the people of New South Wales from the callous actions of persons who get behind the wheel and show no regard for the safety of those around them. The Government is increasing the penalties for people caught street racing or committing other forms of dangerous offences. People convicted of street racing or aggravated burnouts will face fines of up to $3,300 for a first offence, and will face jail time of up to nine months if they are involved in a second or subsequent offence. To reinforce this message, the Government is also proposing legislative changes designed to target the pride and joy of these drivers—their cars.
Current legislation enables police to impound vehicles for a period of up to three months for a first street racing or aggravated burnout offence. This legislation will give police the option of wheel clamping the vehicle at the home of the offender instead. The Government is also proposing that vehicles that are forfeited because of repeated breaches of street racing legislation may be released to the Roads and Traffic Authority to be crash tested in the laboratory. The value of this is that the Roads and Traffic Authority will be able to investigate the impact of modifications on vehicle safety during a crash, as often the cars used in street racing have been significantly modified, and it will provide a huge deterrent to people thinking of using their vehicles in these types of illegal activities.
Alternatively, the bill will enable forfeited vehicles to be used for education purposes at the discretion of the Roads and Traffic Authority. The Government makes no apologies for the tough stance it is taking on this type of activity. We are prepared to do what it takes to prevent future injuries and fatalities that too often result from these senseless crimes. The Government is sending its toughest message yet to people who think that, should their vehicle be confiscated, they will simply be able to apply to the courts, allege some inconvenience and have their car returned. The Government is increasing the standard of difficulty that must be demonstrated to the courts from undue hardship to extreme hardship. This means that finding it more difficult to get to work, to a TAFE course or to university will no longer be sufficient grounds to argue for the return of a vehicle that has been confiscated.
When the vehicle being driven is registered to another person, apart from the driver who has been arrested, this legislation will enable police to also hold that person accountable for the car's use. This legislation introduces sanctions against the owners of vehicles that are used in repeat street racing and aggravated burnout offences, even if they are not the person driving. Vehicle owners will be entitled to a warning notice in the first instance. This alerts the owner to the fact that the vehicle is being used improperly, and reminds them that they must take more control over the use of their vehicles to avoid future sanctions. If any vehicle owned by them is used in a second offence within five years, the registration of that vehicle may be suspended for three months or their vehicle may be impounded or clamped. If their vehicle is used again in that five-year period they will forfeit it entirely.
Measures will be put in place to protect families from situations of extreme hardship; however, inconvenience on its own will not be sufficient to have a vehicle returned. Families will also be protected from sanctions if they can demonstrate that they did not consent to the use of the vehicle or that the vehicle was stolen at the time of the offence. However, people who own motor vehicles need to understand that they have a level of responsibility over whom they lend their car to and how it is used. In the same way that a person would not hand their car keys to someone who is obviously intoxicated and let them take it for a drive, if a person has a family member or a friend who has a track record of street racing that person should be well aware that if they give their keys to that person and the vehicle is used for street racing they are also responsible for giving them the keys.
There can be no justification for repeated involvement in street racing or aggravated burnouts, and the police will be cracking down on anyone involved in any way with these activities on our roads. I commend the bill to the House. We must send the message to people that it is not okay to street race or do burnouts. There are opportunities for people who want to test the capacity of their cars. They can go to places such as Eastern Creek, where people can be involved in organised drag activities, where they are not endangering other motorists on the roads. Enough is enough! It is time to stop people from doing things like street racing and aggravated burnouts on public roads, endangering themselves, their passengers and other drivers.
Ms LEE RHIANNON
[4.27 p.m.]: Dangerous driving is a serious problem. The Greens are always concerned about situations where people's lives are being put at risk. However, we have serious concerns about creating bills that double up on existing legislation and that go down the dangerous path of allowing for summary justice to be dished out without proper legal process. We were alerted to this problem when we read the title of the bill. When we see words like "car hoons" in the title of the bill we know that it is written for a headline, not to bring decent outcomes to this State. The Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act already makes any form of unapproved street racing an offence, it already makes performing burnouts an offence, and it already makes adding any fuel to a burnout an offence.
The Road Transport (General) Act already contains sanctions relating to the impounding and forfeiting of motor vehicles used in street racing and burnout offences. Surely members should be asking: Why do we need another law? A cynical person might say that the whole bill, and especially its made-for-headlines title, is an exercise in appearing to be tough on crime. I emphasise that because so often when the Greens make these speeches others want to distort our position. Nobody likes dangerous drivers, and the Greens absolutely do not condone reckless behaviour on our roads. My concern is that further marginalising one sector of the community by creating a different standard of law so that one is no longer innocent until proven guilty, that one's property can be impounded on the spot on the suspicion of a police officer, will not tackle the very real problem of street racing. Creating parallel laws that bypass and leapfrog the justice system is always a concern of the Greens and should be a concern to all members. Our job is to pass laws, not create laws that help the Government get a headline.
When laws apply to easy targets such as so-called car hoons, changes are easily overlooked as a form of summary justice that many in the electorate would approve of or, at least, not object to. But once those powers get entrenched they are very rarely relinquished and can easily be misused. A sad part of the history of this State is the abuse of excessive law and order legislation. The Greens are concerned about the precedent created by removing the need for the police to prove guilt. The presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of our justice system and should not be swept aside. The powers to deal with people who drive dangerously already exist and include the power to seize vehicles once guilt has been proven. I emphasise something that is central to this debate: this law is not needed as the powers are already in legislation.
The following question should be asked: While smashing cars may garner media headlines, will it really help solve the problem? I honestly believe that everybody has a clear intent to deal with the present problem but this legislation will not help. The legislation may even lead to more deadly high-speed car chases as people with very high performance cars attempt to flee police to save their most prized possessions. The Greens also have concerns about the process for challenging on-the-spot police judgements. In the event it is discovered the police have unjustly impounded a vehicle, who will foot the bill for the towage and storage of the car? To whom will people apply to have their vehicle returned if it has been unjustly impounded? The police. So people will have to apply to the very body that may have falsely impounded their car or suspended their licence?
It is Greens policy to reject the simplistic politics of law and order that seek electoral advantage through exploitation of community fears and insecurities. The Greens reject any laws that weaken fundamental legal rights, such as innocence until guilt is proven. Knee-jerk reactions are not known for their long-term contribution to addressing societal problems. The Greens also highlight the concern raised by the Legislation Review Committee, which noted that the increased penalties in this bill could be regarded as too severe, with the penalties for those who gather to watch others comparable with the penalties proposed for those who actually do burnouts, and those penalties being comparable, and in some cases greater, than the penalty for serious drink-driving.
The committee believed this could constitute an undue trespass on personal rights and liberties, and referred the matter to Parliament. It is worth noting that the Greens are not represented on the Legislation Review Committee; its membership comprises members of the major parties. Despite that, it came down with some really sensible advice on this bill. However, that advice is not articulated by those same people in this Parliament. That is so wrong; there is such a clear double standard. The bill is designed to attract a tabloid heading, and many members sitting on both sides of the Chamber know it is wrong. They have signed off on quite serious criticism of the bill through the Legislation Review Committee but have not expressed that criticism in this place.
The Greens support other initiatives, such as investing more money in education for road users of all ages irrespective of the type of car they drive, as well as affordable, well-run off-street drag-racing competitions such as those run by a number of drag ways and Operation Drag Safe. I concede that such sport is not my cup of tea and that some people would obviously be concerned about such activity, especially having regard to global warming. But it is the chosen sport of a number of people, and for the sake of a quick headline we should not make life tougher for those who choose to engage in such activity and marginalise those with whom we should be working to ensure that their behaviour does not result in the types of horrendous accidents that have been referred to by other members.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER
(Leader of the Opposition) [4.35 p.m.]: I support the comments of the shadow Minister for Roads, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Along with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Amanda Fazio and Ms Lee Rhiannon, I too have an issue with the title of the bill. It is a sensational title, no doubt designed purely to capture some media commentary. I asked a highway patrol police officer what title he thought would be suitable for such legislation. His description of such offenders would not be allowed by law to be used, so the present title is probably the safest option. That aside, I wish to make some observations about some aspects of the bill and its impacts. Predictably, like so many laws that are passed virtually on a daily basis when the House is sitting, if one does not have the resources to support legislation, and if the necessary processes to prevent people from committing such crimes are not put in place beforehand, one is simply creating yet another law that will fail to meet the community's expectation of something being done.
So often the response from this Government is to simply pass another law and create another tougher sentence after the event. Anything the Government does in relation to law and order is after the event. It is never preventative. The Government does not acknowledge the problems with the structure of the New South Wales Police Force that result in people behaving in an unacceptable, and often dangerous, way on the streets. The Government's response is to toughen the sentences that apply to such behaviour rather than focus on the core problem to prevent the recurrence of such activity.
The Government should recognise that it has the mix wrong in relation to the highway patrol, which should be focused on road safety. I do not suggest in every case that increased visibility of the highway patrol will correct all the problems that occur on our streets, but I do suggest that it will start to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of those whom I call spontaneous offenders. The spontaneous offenders are those who pull up at a set of traffic lights and for whatever reason have what I describe as a brain snap, put their foot on the accelerator and try to drag off the vehicle next to them because they do not want to be second on the single lane road. They think they have this God-given right to exceed the speed limit and to get in front of another vehicle by committing a stupid, spontaneous act. They do this because they know that it is unlikely they will be caught in the act by police officers. The same can be said of the driver who drives his vehicle to a corner on a road and proceeds to do what is commonly called a burnout. They cause the wheels of their car to spin, creating what I regard as a form of graffiti in many suburbs—black tyre marks on the road. If the road happens to be wet, scarring the road is not important to them; they believe the squealing noise coming from their tyres will impress their passengers.
Because of the present structure of the highway patrol, the spontaneous driver is confident that they are unlikely to be stopped and arrested by police officers, and that is wrong. Until such time as the Government changes the way in which the highway patrol operates in New South Wales, the mindset of the spontaneous offender will not be changed. The Government should sow the seed of doubt in the minds of such drivers that their stupid act will see them come face to face with a friendly highway patrol officer who will then ensure that they have a lasting reminder of their stupidity.
Then there is the pre-meditated offender. He works collectively, or sometimes individually, with the intention to go out and break the law. We see him quite often involved in illegal street racing, during which and unfortunately sometimes deaths occur. We all know of anecdotal evidence about the Great Western Highway through St Marys, which is often recognised as an illegal street racing strip. It is not the only one. This sort of activity has been going on for many years. In fact, in the early 1980s this was also a problem under Stockton Bridge, north of Newcastle. Those are just two areas, but the list is never-ending. I am told there are certain roads at Camden the conditions of which are such that offenders like to go there to conduct illegal street racing in particular, but also to do burnouts and engage in other stupid activity.
This legislation in my view does not go the full hog in terms of what is potentially available in the suite of measures the Government can use. By that I mean that this bill is limited to some degree to confiscation of vehicles but also deals with wheel clamping. I will come to wheel clamping in a moment. Let us cast our minds back a couple of months to when we heard the hairy-chested talk of crushing motor vehicles. A person was found from some part of the United States—California or somewhere—who swore that crushing vehicles would be most effective and that these hoodlums would not want to see their vehicles crushed. Sure, if a vehicle is illegal—if it has been modified in such a way that it is basically a defective vehicle and should not be on the roads—I can see the value in getting rid of it, because it is of no use to anyone. It is of limited use even for testing in Roads and Traffic Authority test labs. It is a modified vehicle; it is not the same vehicle that any number of us would be driving. Those modifications can limit its effectiveness for use as a test vehicle.
When offenders premeditatedly use their vehicles for this illegal and often dangerous activity, why do we not look at a number of other measures? I have made the following suggestion publicly but unfortunately the Government has not included it in this legislation: why are the vehicles not taken and sold? Why are they not confiscated and the proceeds from the sale of the vehicle injected into other road safety measures? If the problem is of such magnitude that we have to pass legislation to address it in New South Wales, imagine what we could do with the proceeds of confiscated vehicles. We could expedite the lighting of school zones through New South Wales; we could see a much faster rollout of that policy rather than the drip feed we see currently. Why are these vehicles not confiscated and given to police officers to use in undercover operations to infiltrate gangs involved in this premeditated behaviour? Why not use their own vehicles against them? Nothing would be more debilitating and gut wrenching than for these offenders to know that their vehicles were being taken and used against other like-minded offenders throughout New South Wales, or indeed within other jurisdictions. This legislation is very limited in its application and I suspect there will be an opportunity for us to revisit it. In all honesty, we can work a little smarter. I do not think this legislation goes the whole way. To my mind there is nothing in it that will address the problem of the spontaneous offender other than the tough talk, the bravado and the hairy-chested police politics that we see from the State Government.
I turn now to wheel clamping. It sounds great, and we all think, yes, go ahead, clamp their vehicles. Members should imagine living in certain parts of Sydney, perhaps in a residential area consisting of large numbers of blocks of flats or indeed houses very close together. There is nothing in this legislation that dictates that the offender's vehicle must be parked directly outside his home. He has only to pick a spot on the roadway to park the vehicle. A resident could find that a vehicle that had been wheel-clamped occupies his normal parking spot outside his home. One can imagine that someone living in a part of Sydney where there are blocks of flats could find a number of vehicles outside his premises have had their wheels clamped. Again, it would appear the Government in its quest to satisfy its never ending thirst for a headline has not thought through the implications of how this legislation will impact on innocent residents who find a car clamped out the front of their home.
A further consideration is that the Government has said that an owner whose vehicle is clamped will not be able to sell it. I recognise that the owners of such vehicles will not be able to transfer the vehicle's registration. Again, there is nothing in the legislation to prevent someone from stripping his car and selling the parts. If there are one or two cars parked out the front of someone's home that have been wheel-clamped, then over the time that they are clamped—it might be two or three months—I can imagine them being slowly but surely sold off for spare parts. The place will begin to look like Tempe tip. Half-stripped cars will be sold off at various times of the day or night as people come to buy parts. They are not transferring the registration; the registration of the chassis and the identification plates will still remain on the car. The offender will still be well and truly within the law in selling off the parts and the innocent resident will have these rotting hulks out the front of his house that will be slowly stripped over time until the clamping is removed. Then it will be a matter for the local council to move in and get rid of the vehicle. All of this will take place over many months outside some innocent resident's house. Meanwhile, Harry Hoodlum has a nice parking spot outside the front of his house two doors down where all of his hoodlum friends come to park whenever they like. The legislation has been hurried; it has not been thought through in terms of its impact on innocent people who find themselves living in the same street as some of these clowns who deserve to have their vehicles taken off the road.
With regard to defects in these vehicles, some people have said to me, "They won't want to strip their cars." However, many of these cars have been modified and I suspect that in many cases when the vehicles are clamped a police officer will a put a defect notice on them because the exhaust or wheel size has been modified. Their owners might have put any number of features on their cars to make them look or perform faster. One can almost guarantee that as soon as a defect notice is put on a vehicle it will expedite its being stripped and sold off for parts, especially if the owner has little likelihood of getting it through the defect rectification process once the clamping period has expired. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation but I place these problems with the practicalities of the bill on the record. The Government will find itself in a spot of bother and will have to come back here and address the problems in the bill some time in the future.
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ
[4.47 p.m.]: I must be the only person in the Chamber who does agree with the title of this bill. The Oxford English Dictionary
defines "hoon" as Australian and New Zealand slang for a show-off with limited intelligence. As the Leader of the Opposition said of his discussions with police about these people, some of these blokes are not particularly bright.
Sometimes we have to call a spade a spade. The long title of the bill refers to "amending the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 and the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999". That is all very nice, but frankly we want these guys out on the streets to know that this legislation exists. We want them to understand that if they are committing these offences—they know what it is, they call it car hooning; they are hoons—they will be faced with the provisions of this legislation. I think it is appropriate, therefore, that the term "hoon" is used in the title of the bill.
The amendments in this bill will provide police with the legislative backing to crack down on the hoons on New South Wales roads. I fail to understand where Lee Rhiannon was coming from when she said that the bill was not significantly different. As the Leader of the Opposition said in his speech, wheel clamping is part of this bill. The bill provides that a vehicle may be seized from a public place or from private property with the consent of the owner or under a search warrant. If you do not get them while they are on the street and they get back to their homes, you do not have many options. You either have to go and get a search warrant or get their consent to do something with the vehicle.
The provision makes it easier for a police officer—and I am sure most police officers would agree that this is a much better option for them. When they do not have to pursue a vehicle—that is, they know where it is—they can go to the property where the vehicle is parked and they can either wheel clamp it or demand that the vehicle be brought to a specified place within 10 days of being given notice by the police. I think that is a much better use of police time than requiring police to run around getting search warrants. I do not know what we need to do to get through to some of these people that their behaviour is dangerous. Recently I was driving along the M5 at about 1 a.m. when a group of four cars filled with young men—
The Hon. Charlie Lynn:
You have to drive at that time of the morning on the M5 to get movement!
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
Not me. I can get from Bardwell Park to my dad's house at Camden in 40 minutes. When I was a kid it used to take me about three hours to get from Birrong to Camden; it now takes me 40 minutes to travel the same distance.
The Hon. Charlie Lynn:
Not to Camden.
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
Yes, from Bardwell Park to Camden.
The Hon. Charlie Lynn:
You have to walk if you are in a hurry, or pedal a bike.
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
You must be driving on a different road. Recently I was driving along the M5 at about 1 o'clock in the morning when a group of four cars filled with young men boxed me in and slowed my car and following traffic to 60 kilometres an hour. It is quite unnerving being alone in the car at that time of night, boxed in by a number of cars filled with boys. The reason they had slowed the traffic down was so that they could have the whole stretch of road in front of them to drive at 200 kilometres an hour and create as much havoc as possible on the M5.
Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes:
You should have pulled up your car and got out. That would have fixed them.
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
You can't when four cars box you in.
Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes:
You could tackle four at once!
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
I know everyone thinks I am tough, but I'm not that tough. I would not get out of my vehicle to take on four carloads of boys. I have often had cars racing past me, particularly along the M5, usually when I have kids in the car. Many people would have experienced this on the Pacific Highway, the M5 and the F4: cars zooming past at speed. Many hours are spent by police, council officers and local members dealing with the idiots who gather at places such as Hickson Road in The Rocks, Brighton le Sands, Parramatta Road and the Great Western Highway—people who are, quite frankly, not clever enough to know how dangerous their behaviour is.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack:
Are they speeding or are they hooning?
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
Hooning. The following comment, which I found on a V8 car website, I think says it all:
When you have a nice car with lots of power you don't have to drive it like a bloody idiot on our roads. My primary vehicle is a Mitsubishi Pajero with a whopping 60kw at all four wheels. I have been overtaken by some cars overloaded with kids (listening to doof-doof) at about 120kmh in an 80 zone. My girlfriend is a carer for people who have survived serious car accidents (that shouldn't have), and believe me, it is not a pretty sight. If you like the sound of another person having to stick their finger up your [backside] (as you are paralysed because of you or your mate's careless driving) [just so you can go to the bathroom every day] then go ahead, drive like a hoon.
In New South Wales there are over 2,000 offences per year recorded for loss of traction, or burnouts. About 100 street racing and burnout offences per year have been recorded—that is people taking part in an unauthorised race with another vehicle—and 81 per cent of these offences are committed by drivers aged 17 to 25 years. Approximately 24 per cent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and in about 8,000 injury crashes per year are under the age of 26 years. Fatal crashes involving young drivers are more likely to involve speeding and illegal levels of alcohol: 35 per cent of young driver fatal crashes involve speeding and 19 per cent involve alcohol.
The bill places greater responsibility on the owners of vehicles that are being repeatedly used to commit offences. Both measures will contribute significantly to deterring hoon behaviour and to ensuring that both persons and vehicles involved in hoon offences face the full force of the law. I will read another observation that I found on another V8 car web site, which shows how this type of legislation is starting to hit home. It relates to a Western Australian experience:
My friend got his mum's company car impounded for two nights. He was caught smoking his mum's XR6 at a set of lights and an unmarked cop pulled up behind him.
That is why it is always important to have unmarked police cars around. It continues:
To make matters worse, when he was pulled over his dad passed him and noticed the car. He lost his licence for 4 months as well. At least he had a lift home [but he was grounded for a year].
I am pleased that the bill expands the definition of "aggravated burnouts" to include doing things that prolong, sustain, intensify or increase the loss of traction, knowing there is a risk that it will interfere with the amenity of the locality or make it unsafe for any person, or participating or urging others to participate in such activity in a group. Basically, if you are in a car with your mate, behaving like a complete bogan, egging him on or organising cars to line up or filming the activity, ensuring that you destroy the sleep of every man, woman and child—and more importantly those of us who have spent a number of hours getting babies to sleep—then you are also in the frame. Persons caught willingly participating in a group burnout activity, organising or promoting any activity involving burnouts, or photographing or filming the activity to glamorise or encourage it, will face fines of up to $3,300 for their first offence. For their second offence they can go to jail. In practice this means that filming hoon driving for Facebook, Myspace or YouTube, or any other internet site, can attract a sanction.
These tough penalties are aimed at the friends of hoon drivers who are as guilty as those behind the wheel. You may not be behind the wheel, but if you participate, encourage or organise burnouts or street racing, this legislation will enable police to charge you as if you were. Importantly, if you are involved in urging a burnout or found actively participating in it, this legislation gives the police power to immediately suspend your licence. As a result, the mates of hoons will not be able to drive their vehicles away from the scene, as it were, thus avoiding the repetition of such behaviour a little further down the road.
The bill will allow police to immediately suspend at the roadside the licences of persons charged with a street racing offence or an aggravated burnout offence. The bill provides that a driver convicted of an aggravated burnout offence will be automatically disqualified from driving for 12 months, as is currently the case with street racing. This is a strong message from the Government being sent to a small number of people in the community who are responsible for these crimes. If you deliberately flout these rules or encourage others to do the same, you will be caught and you will not escape punishment. Any deliberate involvement in street racing is a crime and the punishment for these crimes is now more severe than ever.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[4.58 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Bill 2008, which will amend the Road Transport (General) Act 2005, the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management Act) 1999 and certain other road transport legislation to make further provisions with respect to drivers, registered operators and motor vehicles involved in street racing, burnout and aggravated burnout offences.
I felt uncomfortable, as did other members, with the use of the term "car hoons" in the title of the bill. The better term would have been "street racing". I acknowledge, however, that in most discussions about this issue the term "hoon" has been used. Recent articles in the Daily Telegraph
carried the following headlines: "Crackdown on Hoons", "Hoons victim's family appeal", "Car 'hoons' a drag for residents", "Hoons blitzed by record car confiscations". The term is becoming very much a part of our language and communication. Yet another report states, "Professor puts a positive spin on hooning around". A whole series of words has been developed from this activity. It may be that the hoons feel a sense of pride about getting mentioned in this bill. If that is so, perhaps we should not include a reference to their name in the bill.
The bill increases penalties for drivers convicted of street racing or aggravated burnout offences to $3,300 in the case of a first offence and $3,300 or imprisonment for nine months in the case of a second or subsequent offence. It will enable police immediately to suspend at the roadside the licences of drivers charged with a street racing offence or with an aggravated burnout offence. A driver convicted of an aggravated burnout offence will automatically be disqualified from driving for 12 months, as is currently the case with street racing. One of my sons who spent many years in the highway patrol shared his concerns with me over the years. We must increase the strength of the highway patrol—cars and police bikes—so that we have sufficient police officers to enforce the legislation.
There has been some discussion by the Government about increasing police numbers, but I encourage it to pursue increasing the strength of the highway patrol. We have general duties police and other police officers, but as this is a specialised area, highway patrol officers, who know how to deal with car hoons, will give them short shrift when they are identified and apprehended. There have been a number of successful police crackdowns, for example, last year's Operation Vikings. Dozens of traffic police targeted car racing and hoodlums in 23 suburbs and 141 people were charged. That included 323 speeding fines and a 20-year-old P-plater who was apprehended for doing 115 kilometres an hour in a 60-kilometre zone on Liverpool Road, south Strathfield. Those are the sorts of problems that occur when inexperienced drivers participate in dangerous and high-speed events.
I am sure that all members are aware of the tragic deaths of Alan and Judith Howle, the parents of seven children. They were killed when their Toyota Camry—which Mrs Howle, aged 70, was driving—was struck at high speed on the Great Western Highway at St Marys by two Holden Commodores alleged to have been drag-racing. The impact flung Mr Howle, aged 71, from the car, killing him instantly. We need stronger legislation but, as other members have said, there must also be enforcement. Last year it was reported that the La Perouse link road was being used by car hoons for drag-racing. There is a gate across that road but apparently it is not locked. Reports suggest that the gate, which enables police to shut down the area when a large number of car enthusiasts gather together, has been locked only twice since its installation in September last year.
Residents have requested police to close the gate but apparently their requests have gone unanswered, leaving the circuit open to hoons to travel down Foreshore Road at Port Botany, snake their way down Bunnerong Road and gather at Anzac Parade loop road at La Perouse. If police take action to lock that gate it would reduce such dangerous activity. There has been an increase in car confiscations across New South Wales. This year police seized 84 vehicles in a two-month period. A Honda CRX and a Mazda RX7 were impounded and the drivers' licences were suspended on the spot. Apparently the drivers of those vehicles were aggressive and gestured with their middle fingers to police and to anyone else who was present. Some of our young drivers are very aggressive.
Professor Rob White, a professor of sociology at the University of Tasmania, appears to be defending car hoons. I do not agree with his views. Apparently he said that sensational media reports had given the impression that hoons were "taking over our streets". He was critical of the fact that hooning had been criminalised. Professor White, in his defence of hoons, claimed:
There is a difference between dangerous driving on the street, which is never acceptable, and the kind of activities car-crazed youths like to engage in.
The trouble is that these youths are engaging in dangerous activities on routes that are being used by members of the community; they are not engaging in these activities on racing tracks. As other members have said, people who use the roads in our State should not have to compete with these hoons. I am pleased that the Government has increased the penalties for aggravated burnout offences to include doing things that prolong, sustain, intensify or increase the loss of traction in a locality where there is an appreciable risk that it will interfere with the amenity of that locality or make it unsafe for any person, and participating or urging others in a group to participate in these things.
This legislation will enable the Roads and Traffic Authority to suspend the registration of a vehicle for a second or subsequent offence if that offence is committed using a vehicle that is registered to the same person within five years after the original suspension warning notice was issued. If a vehicle that is registered to the same person is used to commit a third offence within that five-year period the bill proposes that it be forfeited to the Crown, which I believe is a necessary provision. The Christian Democratic Party is pleased to support the bill.
The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN
[5.06 p.m.]: The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Bill amends several pieces of legislation that deal with street racing, burnout and aggravated burnout offences. As other members have indicated, the bill proposes to increase the penalties for drivers convicted by a court of a street racing offence from $2,200 to a maximum of $3,300 in the case of a first offence, and $3,300 and/or imprisonment for nine months in the case of a second and subsequent offence. In addition, police may immediately suspend at the roadside the licences of drivers charged with a street offence.
Similarly, the bill proposes to increase the penalty for an aggravated burnout offence from $770 to a maximum of $3,300 in the case of a first offence and $3,300 and/or imprisonment for nine months in the case of a second and subsequent offence. I support these penalties as a more accurate reflection of the deliberate nature of the offence and the potentially serious consequences of that behaviour—an issue to which other members have referred. The bill allows for the drivers' licences of persons charged with aggravated burnout offences immediately to be suspended by police at the roadside and a driver convicted of an aggravated burnout offence would automatically be disqualified from driving for 12 months.
The bill also proposes to increase the penalty for a burnout offence from $550 to a maximum of $1,100. I welcome those measures in the bill that will substantially expand the aggravated burnout offence to include a broad range of behaviours that serve to exacerbate the effect and increase the danger of a burnout. I am also extremely supportive of provisions in the bill that will give police the option of wheel clamping a vehicle instead of the current system of impounding a vehicle. New South Wales police will trial wheel clamping in a metropolitan and a regional centre of New South Wales to ascertain the appropriateness of clamping as a long-term alternative to other options currently available to police. The discretion to impound rather than clamp will be retained to ensure that clamping is appropriate at all times.
For the first time the bill will require a person who has been charged for a hoon offence to present his or her vehicle to police for impounding. In the past police have often faced difficulties locating a vehicle for this purpose as registered owners have, on occasions, deliberately hidden the vehicle to avoid sanctions. The onus will now be on the vehicle's owner. The bill proposes to provide a police officer with the power to give the driver or registered operator of the vehicle a notice requiring that the vehicle be produced at a specified place within 10 days. If the vehicle is not produced and there is no reasonable excuse the bill provides for a penalty of $2,200 and the suspension of the vehicle's registration for three months by the Roads and Traffic Authority.
These welcome powers no doubt will assist police in cracking down on persistent hoon offenders. Further, the bill protects the Crown, the Minister, the commissioner, the Roads and Traffic Authority, any police officer or any clamping agent for any damage to or theft of a vehicle caused by or arising from clamping, impounding or crash testing, providing they comply with the existing duty of care provisions. I congratulate the Iemma Government on delivering on its election commitments in giving police the powers and support they need to keep our community safe.
The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK
[5.09 p.m.]: I will be brief in supporting the comments of my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is knowledgeable about these matters. His advice to the House was wise when he took exception to the title of the bill, the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Bill 2008—particularly the use of the word "hoons" which, of course, is a slang term. It is not a term appropriate for incorporation into legislation. Some discussion was held by way of interjection about whether the term was slang. I have sought to clarify that by looking up the term "hoon" in the Macquarie Concise Dictionary
, which defines "hoon" as being an aggressive or surly youth; a foolish or silly person, especially one who is a show-off. I consulted another dictionary to seek further advice about the meaning of the term "hoon". The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary
defines "hoon" as being Australian slang, procurer of prostitutes, a fool or a lout. I am not sure that either definition encapsulates the meaning of the bill or the intention of the Government.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition tried to make the simple point that while the term "hoon" is appropriate in publications such as the Daily Telegraph
, we are debating legislation. Legislative terminology is important because it has legal meaning. Therefore, I totally empathise with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The bill contains no definition for the term "hoon"—a definition that would have been interesting and informative had the Government included it. Indeed, I cannot find the word "burnout" in either dictionary I consulted. However, I acknowledge that the term already is incorporated into the legislation.
I sympathise with the Hon. Lynda Voltz, who spoke about the intimidation she experienced on the road when surrounded by four motor vehicles. The bill is not clear how it addresses that type of behaviour: it deals with penalties relating to other driving offences. The type of behaviour to which the Hon. Lynda Voltz referred also should be the subject of penalties. We should refer to the Minister's second reading speech and not the dictionary to understand the meaning of the word "hoon". Section 40 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 states:
40. Races, attempts on speed records and other speed trials includes the following:
(1) A person must not organise, promote or take part in:
(a) any race between vehicles on a road or road related area.
How is that defined particularly for cars at traffic lights? I am sure many people have been guilty of taking off too quickly at traffic lights or having a competitive urge at a set of traffic lights to beat the other driver. Does that mean one loses one's car or has it impounded? Section 40 continues:
(b) any attempt to break any vehicle speed record on a road or road related area.
How does the Government determine the speed record? Do the police know that? If so, how is it known? For the purposes of charging somebody with an offence, how can it be determined that the person potentially is liable to lose their motor vehicle, have it clamped or suffer that dreadful fate the Leader of the Opposition described earlier? The Opposition does not oppose the bill. However, we find it is problematic; it will be interesting to see how it operates in practice.
Mr IAN COHEN
[5.14 p.m.]: I have listened with interest to the debate on the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Bill 2008. As I have stated on previous occasions during debates, once again this bill seems to miss dealing with certain aspects of the car culture. It is important that I should comment on the bill. However, I will be brief. Ms Lee Rhiannon certainly adequately represented the Greens in this debate. Why do we not just call it the car terrorists bill? I am sure many members of the House would feel it is time such a bill was labelled appropriately.
The Hon. Charlie Lynn:
Just because they drive bombs?
Mr IAN COHEN:
I acknowledge the interjection of the Hon. Charlie Lynn. I have seen him driving a few bombs into Parliament House; I have been accused of being some sort of latent Volvo driver. It is important to recognise the car culture that has developed in this State. Obviously, we have problems, and I do not deny that. Putting accelerant or some sort of inflammable material on the ground and doing burnouts is a recipe for a bomb. It is a terrible thing. I acknowledge that the situation must be controlled. However, I am equally concerned about the advertising of cars. How many advertisements for cars focus on the speed they can achieve? How many advertisements for cars show people driving four-wheel drive vehicles on winding roads in picturesque areas at very dangerous speeds in very dangerous circumstances, which encourage young people to drive dangerously and become car hoons?
How many cars on the road today can travel at speeds way above the speed limit? Why are we not talking about truck hoons also? How many people have speeding trucks on our highways intimidated? Of course, we target the vulnerable young members of the community because this is a good-look attack. The Hon. Lynda Voltz told me earlier that having received adequate training in the army she did not develop the speeding mentality. Again we ignore the need to adequately train and educate young people, and to talk about the issues. Not enough of that is happening. It is too easy to condemn this culture that grows from a system that adulates speed and dangerous driving, and people driving inappropriate vehicles.
Every vehicle sold today is able to travel way over the speed limit. Why? Obviously for the industry to make money, but certainly it is not promoting safety on the roads, nor is it promoting ways to reduce the terrible road carnage. One of the nodes of that is this so-called car hooning. It is interesting to consider also the games kids play on the PlayStation Black Box. What are the most popular games kids play? From a very young age kids play games on computers that involve car racing and radical driving that encourages that type of mentality and culture. Of course, drivers will speed. How many female car hoons are there? Very few I would imagine—it is very much a boyish, immature thing.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack:
Mr IAN COHEN:
Yes, testosterone—young males speeding in cars doing burnouts, impressing their mates and young women. The Little Pinkie advertising campaign was a worthwhile initiative because it put things into perspective. Prior to the commencement of massive cigarette advertising, I had not seen horrendous car industry advertising that was designed to appeal to quite vulnerable people in the community. It would be interesting to make comparisons of death rates between the periods before and after large-scale cigarette advertising. The car industry is still working on the Marlborough man syndrome to sell vehicles and push concepts that are creating conditions for reckless roadway behaviour instead of encouraging people to become better educated and more understanding.
A great deal of emphasis in advertising is placed on breaking speed records on particular roads. It is important for governments to pay close attention to the roles of producers and reckless promoters of the speed and dangerous car culture as well as to so-called car hoon legislation. If we really want to move forward, it is important to look at the other side of the ledger. How many advertisements are there about reliability of vehicles and arriving at a destination alive and safely? How many advertisements concentrate only on comfort instead of extremes—we speak a lot about extremists in this House—promoted by the motor vehicle industry that encourage dangerous acts?
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [5.21 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate. The Road Transport Legislation (Car Hoons) Bill 2008 amends current street racing and burnout provisions with respect to drivers, registered operators of motor vehicles involved in street racing, burnout and aggravated burnout offences. Members who participated in the debate raised a number of issues and I will try to address each in turn. In reply to claims that the New South Wales police currently do not have the resources to respond to offences dealt with in the bill, I inform the House that the police are enforcing laws. On average, police are confiscating approximately 300 cars each year. I am advised that in 2005 police caught 2,620 people who were committing street racing and burnout offences. In 2006, police caught 2,499 people, and up to 1 November 2007, police caught 1,977 offenders.
People may be aware of Operation Taipan, which is a high-profile police operation targeting illegal street racing and burnouts, antisocial driver behaviour, and vehicle as well as general traffic law compliance in the Sydney metropolitan area. Operation Taipan comprises 18 vehicles and 36 police officers. Operation Taipan commenced on 22 August 2007 and is currently scheduled to run until April 2008. From its inception to February 2008, police have confiscated 28 vehicles, laid 597 charges, made 286 arrests, and issued 1,515 speeding infringements, 5,210 traffic infringements and 502 vehicle defect notices, stopped 13,044 vehicles for random breath testing, and charged 102 people with drink-driving offences.
In response to issues raised about extra highway patrol resources that may or may not be needed, I point out that the Iemma Government has committed to the appointment of an additional 50 highway patrol officers in this term of government. This builds on the extra 100 officers who already have been allocated to the highway patrol from the January 2007 New South Wales Police Force intake. Highway patrol officers are very dedicated in the manner in which they carry out their jobs and in the way they currently enforce the laws, and they will continue to do that after this legislation is passed.
In response to claims made by Ms Lee Rhiannon that the Government is doubling up on existing laws, the Government believes her assertions are inaccurate. The bill makes it clear that many of the offences already exist. The Government's position is, and always has been, that the penalties do not match the seriousness of the offence, and it is these penalties with which this bill primarily deals. Ms Rhiannon also raised the appeals process. An appeals process currently exists. People will be able to appeal to the Local Court, but they will need to meet stringent tests to overturn a decision of the police or the Roads and Traffic Authority.
In response to the issue concerning witnesses and people who are subject to the same penalties as are people who commit the offences, I point out that the new penalties are designed to target active participants in hoon activities. A person does not have to be the one who is behind the wheel of the car to be charged with an aggravated burnout offence. If a person is standing on the side of the road cheering on the cars, or sitting in the back seat of the car, urging the driver on, then that person is just as guilty as is the driver. If a person drove a car 10 minutes before police arrive, that person is just as guilty as is the driver. Section 40 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act already includes this provision for street racing: a person must not organise, promote or take part in an illegal street race. A truly innocent bystander has nothing to fear from the new laws.
In relation to crash testing of vehicles, I point out that not all forfeited vehicles will be used for crash testing. The discretion to sell a forfeited vehicle or to use it for crash testing will lie with the Roads and Traffic Authority. Crash testing is a targeted, high-impact strategy that is directed at drivers who have invested time and money in their vehicles and for whom the prospect of having their vehicles smashed would act as a significant deterrent to engaging in hoon activity. Crash testing of selected vehicles also will enable the Roads and Traffic Authority to investigate the impact of vehicle modifications on vehicle safety during an accident.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, the Hon. Michael Gallacher, claimed that the police would inappropriately clamp people's vehicles around the streets of Greater Sydney and throughout New South Wales, but that is incorrect. A vehicle will be able to be clamped, either at the owner's home, a public place, or in the clamping agent's yard. If none of those options are feasible, police will impound the vehicle. Police, who will exercise discretion, will determine the location of wheel clamping. This legislation also places a duty of care on police officers and other clamping agents when doing so.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack, and the Hon. Lynda Voltz by a different method, raised menacing driving. I state for the record that the offence of menacing driving, as described by the Hon. Lynda Voltz, already exists. Section 43 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 already provides significant penalties for that offence. In the case of a first offence, the penalty is 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 18 months, or both. In the case of a second or subsequent offence, the penalty is 50 penalty units or imprisonment for two years, or both. There is another offence, the possibility of menace, with which the bill does not deal. I simply make the point that there is already a significant offence on the statute books related to menace.
In response to Mr Ian Cohen's questioning about why the Government is not cracking down on other road offences, I point out that that is simply not the case: a number of activities have already taken place and the penalties applying to road offences are always under review. The current bill addresses hoon driving and the apparent shamelessness of those who engage in it. It is also about increasing penalties for these particular offences, and the Government makes no apologies for that. I commend the bill to the House and thank honourable members who contributed to the debate.
Question—That this bill be now read a second time—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted to proceed to the third reading of the bill forthwith.
Motion by the Hon. Penny Sharpe agreed to:
Bill read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
That this bill be now read a third time.