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Thursday, 25 November 2010
Page: 3880

Mr KEENAN (6:33 PM) —It is a great pleasure to speak briefly on the Service and Execution of Process Amendment (Interstate Fine Enforcement) Bill 2010. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Service and Execution of Process Act 1992 to implement a new part 7 to the act dealing with a simplified process of enforcing fines imposed by courts of summary jurisdiction. It should never be forgotten that the Service and Execution of Process Act, although never, so far as I am aware, a subject of acute political controversy, is one of the most fundamental machinery-of-government acts of the Australian parliament. It might not have been the first act but it was certainly one of the first acts passed by the parliament, to establish a machinery for the mutual recognition and enforcement of the orders and decrees of the courts of the various states.

This bill replaces the existing regime for arrest and imprisonment of interstate fine defaulters with the alternative sanctions available in the jurisdictions of the states and territories. As mentioned in the Bills Digest, section 112 of the Service and Execution of Process Act currently enables warrants of apprehension to be issued concerning an offender against whom a fine has been imposed and the liability has not been fully discharged. An enforcement officer may apprehend the offender and must give the offender an opportunity of paying the whole fine to the enforcement officer without delay. If the offender does not pay, the enforcement officer apprehends the person and brings them before a court, together with the warrant.

Under section 115, the court, if it is satisfied that the person is the person on whom the fine was imposed and is not satisfied that the person’s liability to pay the fine has been fully discharged, must order the person to be committed to prison to serve such period of imprisonment as specified in the order or a period of six months whichever is the shorter. Part 7 of the Service and Execution of Process Act provides a scheme for the mutual recognition between states and territories of fines imposed by courts of summary jurisdiction, which allows interstate fines to be enforced through the arrest and imprisonment of fine defaulters.

The bill seeks to implement a decision of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General by replacing that scheme with a simplified mechanism which no longer relies on arrest and imprisonment and instead applies the less punitive sanctions that have been introduced in the various jurisdictions. Under the proposed scheme, a state or territory that is owed a fine may request enforcement in another jurisdiction. The fine is then registered in the jurisdiction in which the defaulter resides. Once registered, the fine can be enforced according to that jurisdiction’s own laws. Any money recovered is remitted to the state or territory that is owed the fine. The new scheme will apply to fines imposed after the bill’s commencement, and also to certain other pre-commencement fines—a measure that is principally targeted at persistent and recalcitrant defaulters.

The bill provides for a quicker, simpler and more efficient method of collecting interstate fines and is therefore entirely consistent with the historic role of the Service and Execution of Process Act to make the service and execution of process between the several states and territories easier and uniform. On behalf of the coalition I am happy to support the bill.