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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5478


Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (9:36 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Introduction

The Service and Execution of Process Amendment (Interstate Fine Enforcement) Bill 2010 implements a decision of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to establish a framework that enables states and territories to register interstate court imposed fines that have a cross-border element.

States and territories will be able to enforce interstate fines in accordance with the laws of their own jurisdiction. They will no longer be able to enforce interstate fines by apprehending and imprisoning the fine defaulter.

The measures within this bill provide a cooperative solution to one of the challenges posed by our federal system and are consistent with the federal government’s continuing commitment to resolve legal disputes using appropriate means.

SEPA amendments

Specifically, the bill will repeal part 7 of the Service and Execution of Process Act 1992 (SEPA).

Part 7 sets out the existing scheme for the recognition and enforcement of interstate court-imposed fines. This scheme relies exclusively on apprehension and imprisonment for enforcement.

Currently, states and territories that wish to pursue fine defaulters across borders must do so by issuing warrants of apprehension and imprisonment. These warrants are then transmitted to the jurisdiction where the fine defaulter resides. Upon receipt, that jurisdiction can execute the warrant and apprehend the fine defaulter. If the defaulter does not pay, he or she will be imprisoned to ‘serve out’ the fine.

This reliance in the government’s view on apprehension and imprisonment is no longer appropriate.

All states and territories have introduced alternative, less punitive, sanctions to enforce fines. For example, state and territory laws now allow for fines to be enforced by more targeted measures, including by cancelling drivers licences or by issuing community service orders.

The bill will remove from SEPA any provisions which are inconsistent with state and territory laws that rely on these alternative sanctions.

Under the new scheme, a state will be able to request the registration of a fine in the state in which the fine defaulter resides. Upon registration, that state will be able to enforce the registered fine in the same way as it would enforce a locally imposed fine. When the fine has been paid, the payment will be transferred back to the state or territory which originally imposed the fine.

I understand that, while a number of states and territories have now completely removed their courts’ authority to issue warrants of apprehension and imprisonment in relation to fine defaulters, some jurisdictions still allow the apprehension and imprisonment of a fine defaulter as a measure of last resort.

The bill will confirm that this is no longer an option for enforcing an interstate fine, regardless of whether a state or territory law still permits fines to be ‘served out’ in their own jurisdictions.

The amendments will also impact upon how Commonwealth fines are enforced against offenders who move between jurisdictions, because these fines will be enforced as ‘interstate’ fines in accordance with the new part 7 of SEPA.

Legislating to enable more targeted remedies and allow what are essentially civil matters to continue to be treated within the civil justice system is entirely consistent with the government’s access to justice framework.

In particular, the bill promotes the application of proportionate responses and early intervention as the preferable approach, rather than allowing matters to escalate.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this bill will enable the states and territories to establish a scheme to recognise fines quickly, simply and efficiently and to enforce them in another jurisdiction using the most appropriate means.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Andrews) adjourned.