Road Legislation Amendment Bill 2013

19 November 2013

I welcome the opportunity to rise to make a contribution to debate on the Road Legislation Amendment Bill 2013, which the opposition does not oppose.
The main purposes of the bill are to repeal and replace the provisions of the Road Safety Act 1986 relating to the demerit point scheme in order to restructure those provisions in a form that is more readable; provide for procedures for dealing with multiple sanctions arising from the rapid accumulation of demerit points; extend the application of the demerit point scheme for drivers who do not hold a Victorian driver licence or learner permit; to make other amendments to the Road Safety Act 1986 relating to licensing, registration and other matters; and to make miscellaneous amendments to the Heavy Vehicle National Law Application Act 2013.
These important measures in the bill will lead to an improvement in the demerit point system as well as closing some loopholes for overseas and unlicensed drivers. It is a worthy course of action to ensure that penalties are clearer to understand for Victorian motorists and that extended demerit point penalties are undertaken consecutively rather than concurrently.
Those who do wrong on our roads should not be able to get away with lesser penalties, because they are putting people's lives at risk. This measure will address the issue of dangerous drivers and the rapid accumulation of demerit points, which has come about thanks to Victoria's improved safety camera system.
This system was rubbished by the current government when it was in opposition. In 2002 the then Leader of the Opposition, Denis Napthine, stated that he believed speeding motorists should not be fined for breaking the law and that leniency should be shown to those who drive over the limit, despite speed being the biggest killer on our roads.
I am happy to see that the Liberal-Nationals coalition government has caught up with the science, the Labor Party and the rest of society on this issue, and that it finally acknowledges that speeding drivers are a menace on our roads.
Safety cameras save Victorian lives. Since 1989 we have seen Victoria's road toll halved. Road safety cameras play an important role in helping authorities catch and punish dangerous drivers on Victorian roads, so it is only right that justice is seen to be served on those who rapidly accumulate points. Therefore I commend the government for this move, which ensures that dangerous drivers cannot have multiple extended demerit point periods and must instead face them consecutively. I commend the government for its change of heart on the issue of dangerous speeding motorists on Victorian roads.
I also commend the government for its aim of closing loopholes for non-licence-holders and holders of licences from overseas and interstate. This is a worthy measure. Just imagine if we continued with the current arrangements. You could have a person with a licence who could accumulate some 12 or 13 points, and yet a few months later they could apply for a Victorian licence and this would not be taken into account. A good thing about the proposed amendments to the legislation is that this loophole will be closed, and that person will be treated in exactly the same way as a Victorian licence-holder. This definitely is a welcome change.
This bill aims to apply the demerit point scheme to non-Victorian licence-holders - interstaters - where previously those motorists, as I said, could just accumulate points without their licence being suspended. It is important to make sure that we get these drivers off the road. There is no question about that.
This is an issue about which everyone in the chamber can agree - if you do the crime, then you pay the penalty. I probably speak for a lot of Victorians, including myself, who over the years have been caught speeding. People complain about having to pay a fine and losing demerit points, but if you do not speed, then you do not pay the fine. Unfortunately, over the years I have been one of those drivers. But we should not be arguing against that, because it is important that we respect the speed limits on our roads. Members are shaking their heads, but I am sure that no-one is innocent. It is important to respect the law.
However, I have some concerns about VicRoads as a result of a recent report about its ability to manage its database. As part of the changes in this bill, VicRoads will be given responsibility for maintaining a database for international and interstate drivers and will have their details on its database.
I am concerned that time and again we have seen major problems come to light over the VicRoads data management system. The Ombudsman was damning in his assessment of the VicRoads data system and said out-of-date data was a major factor in stopping the sheriff's office from doing its job and enforcing fines on people who had done the wrong thing. In fact the Herald Sun reported in August that the sheriff's office had failed to recoup more than $100 million in fines from dangerous drivers thanks to failures within VicRoads data management.
It is clear that to be effective the VicRoads data management system needs to be looked at very carefully. Further investment in that system may be needed to make sure that we have a reliable data system so that these people do not get away with not paying fines and possibly holding valid licences because we cannot get to them. This has to be fixed.
A case in point is the problems experienced by Ms Stewart of Frankston, who faced problems with VicRoads when her car was going to be confiscated by the sheriff after she failed to pay a number of penalty notices from CityLink. In that particular case data management failed a Victorian motorist who did not realise she had failed to pay penalty notices because she had never received any in the post.
Ms Stewart had changed her details with VicRoads five years earlier, but VicRoads had failed to communicate that change to CityLink. As a result penalty notices were being sent to another, incorrect address. Luckily Ms Stewart contacted a Labor member of Parliament who cleared up the mess for her and she was able to keep her car. It is clear from that case that not only is the data management system of VicRoads failing to address those who do wrong but it is also failing those who do not realise they have fines that they need to pay and who never intended to do the wrong thing.
This is a concern for me and for the Labor Party.
We believe that the nuts and bolts of legislation are as important as the aims of the legislation. How will VicRoads adequately manage more and different data when it clearly has problems with its current system? How will VicRoads adequately identify and test all interstate and overseas drivers on Victorian roads? The failure of VicRoads to adequately manage its data raises questions about its ability to keep track of unlicensed and interstate drivers and about how thorough and correct such a system will be.
The point I am making is that improvements are necessary for the VicRoads data management system if the aims of this bill are to be achieved. While Labor Party members do not oppose this bill and understand there are important measures within it, we suggest that the successful implementation of the bill will require an investigation by VicRoads of the improvements to make sure it has a good data management system. With these comments, I commend the bill to the house.