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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 4920

Mr PERRETT (10:26 AM) —I too rise to speak in support of the Airports (On-Airport Activities Administration) Validation Bill 2010. I commend the member for Wide Bay—who I note was the transport minister back in 2004—for his contribution and I accept the spirit of bipartisan support for this legislation. This bill will address the uncertainty about the validity of parking infringement notices issued at Commonwealth leased airports prior to 25 March this year. It will validate potentially invalid infringement notices as well as other penalties imposed on activities not authorised under the Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations 1997. This legislation applies mainly to parking infringements—that is how most Australians will interact with it—but also applies to some other matters, such as smoking and gambling, at Commonwealth leased airports, including Archerfield Airport in my electorate and Brisbane airport, which is close to my electorate.

Airport regulations state that authorised persons, who must be appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government or the secretary’s delegate, are empowered to issue infringement notices such as parking fines. Authorised persons can also perform certain other actions and exercise certain other powers. For example, they have the power to tell someone to move their car if they are breaking any parking or vehicle movement regulations. Anyone who has visited Brisbane airport or many of the other airports covered by this bill will tell you that on occasions it can be bedlam at those airports. If one taxi does the wrong thing or one drop-off or heartfelt goodbye goes on for too long, it can throw the whole system into chaos—flights can be missed and loved ones left stranded at the other end. It is very important that airports exercise these powers, because if they did not all our airports would become traffic bottlenecks. There is also the security concern associated with having vehicles hanging around for too long in any one place.

However, a recent review of parking infringement notices issued at certain airports found that the appointment of authorised persons had not been kept up to date. Unfortunately, as the member for Wide Bay pointed out, this goes back as far as 2004, long before the election of the Rudd government. In some cases this was an administrative oversight by the department and in other cases an oversight by the airport. Either way, technically and by the letter of the law, some infringement notices issued by persons without a valid authorisation may be invalid and have no legal effect.

Payment of a parking infringement notice provides a person with immunity from prosecution for an alleged offence at the relevant airport. This significantly reduces the potential penalty which a driver may be required to pay for committing the parking offence. A driver may face a penalty five times the amount of the parking infringement notice should the matter be taken to court and the driver is found to have committed the offence indicated by the ticket.

The bill before the House is needed to confirm immunity from prosecution for the relevant offences of persons who received infringement notices and paid the fine. It will also avoid the potential for the Commonwealth to reimburse fines—that is why it is important that we quickly pass this legislation, and I commend those opposite for their support for it. The bill will validate all actions performed and powers exercised under the regulation. The bill provides the necessary legal certainty that each parking infringement notice and relevant other action is valid and legally effective.

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has acted quickly to address this oversight. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has consulted airports and ensured authorised persons are appointed at each airport. The department is undertaking a full review of all processes and procedures relating to its administration of the Airport Parking Infringement Notices Scheme and the regulations more broadly in order to meet the standard required by the government. I am advised that authorisations are now all up to date and all parking infringement notices issued since 25 March this year are valid for all airports.

As I said earlier, my particular focus is on Brisbane airport, which I have the pleasure of travelling through 40 or 50 times a year, and Archerfield Airport, which is in my electorate. It is an interesting place. There is legislation in place providing for the Aviation Noise Ombudsman and in my last newsletter I put out a call to see how people have been affected by noise at Archerfield Airport in my electorate, both the small general aviation planes and also the bigger planes that fly quite low over some parts of my electorate—I see them every morning when I go for a walk.

This bill ensures that the world of airport parking infringements is as it should be. I commend the bill to the House.