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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 3645

Senator IAN MACDONALD (1:36 PM) —It is with some genuine trepidation that I speak in support of this bill currently before the Senate, the Airports (On-Airport Activities Administration) Validation Bill 2010. For those litigious persons amongst us who may have received a parking ticket at a particular airport in recent times—

Senator Conroy —My airport?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You have received one, have you, Senator Conroy?

Senator Conroy —No; I am interested in whether you have picked my airport.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —No. If you had received one, Senator Conroy, and you had paid it you perhaps could have got it back, because the government has just found out that a lot of the infringement notices that have been issued since 2004 are in fact invalid, and this bill retrospectively validates them. As a former lawyer who may have at some time challenged the, what many complain to me as being, quite outrageous parking arrangements at many airports around Australia, one might be hesitant to support this retrospective validation of parking fines that have been issued.

Senator Conroy interjecting—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I think Senator Conroy is indicating—

Senator Conroy —I withdraw.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —that the Rudd Labor government are about to re-nationalise airports, as they are re-nationalising the telecommunications system in Australia. We know Senator Conroy is very keen on the re-nationalisation of the telecommunications system. This broadband debacle that is being very enthusiastically overseen by Senator Conroy is a clear indication of the socialist input of the Labor Party. We thought socialism went out when the Berlin Wall fell, but have a look in Australia and you will find under the Rudd Labor government that socialism is back in play. It seems from Senator Conroy’s interjections to my speech on this particular matter that he wants to re-nationalise the airports around Australia.

I have to say that whilst it at times annoys me to have to go through the renovations at both the Canberra and Cairns airports—which seem to have been going on for ages—I do have to concede that, under private ownership, those airports are in fact being modernised and made more and more usable by all those hundreds of thousands of Australians who regularly use those airports. So I think we do have a lot to thank the private owners for in upgrading airports.

Notwithstanding that—and notwithstanding Senator Conroy’s attempt to divert me from the important matters at hand—I do want to indicate that there is a valid reason that we should support this retrospective validation of parking infringement notices. Infringement notices—on-the-spot notices, so to speak—could only be handed out by authorised persons and the regulations required the authorised persons list to be updated regularly. The result, of course, of not updating them has been that, as people moved on or as contractors came in and employees of contractors were actually doing this work, a lot of the infringement notices since 2004 would have been invalid. It is suggested that up to 100,000 infringement notices, mainly relating to parking offences, may well be invalid and without legal effect.

However, I point out that if the infringement notices were not valid, the only option to those who enforce parking at airports was that they would have to actually sue them in court, where there would be increased fines and of course a lot of costs for the lawyers involved in prosecuting these offences. So I guess we can say that by validating these infringement notices retrospectively we are saving those who might have received one the prospect—only the prospect, I might say—of having to go to court to either defend or plead guilty to a parking infringement notice. There is also the element that those who paid the invalid infringement notices would have thought that they would have received immunity from other prosecution. If the infringement notices are said not to be valid, then there is some uncertainty about whether that immunity applies, and they might have already paid under an invalid notice and be prosecuted a second time for the parking offence.

Most of us on this side are very hesitant about supporting retrospective legislation—and it does arouse suspicions amongst many Australians—but I think in this particular instance it is probably valid that we should support this bill. The bill is simply an administrative fix aimed at ensuring that the option of paying notice remains in play. It also guarantees that those who have paid infringement notices over the past six years remain immune from prosecution. There are other examples of where this type of action has been taken. I do want to emphasise that the bill is not going to impose new parking fines on the many Australians who park at Commonwealth leased airports; it just provides an administrative solution to the problem of the invalidity of issued infringement notices that were issued because of an administrative mix-up and it guarantees immunity from prosecution for those who have paid the fines associated with those infringement notices. For those reasons, the coalition will be supporting this government initiative.